Source: The Herald Tribune
On October 19, 2005 The Herald Tribune reported, "With the war in Iraq growing bloodier and terrorists attacking in Europe and Asia, the growing population of Muslim residents [in Southwest Florida] worry they will be stereotyped as terrorists. Anonymous callers have threatened the Islamic Society of Sarasota and Bradenton. Passers-by often stare or comment at women in head scarves. Many residents fear reporting anti-Muslim incidents, which have multiplied throughout the state in the past year, said Ahmed Bedier, director of the Central Florida Council on American Islamic Relations. He spoke about people's misconceptions of Islam on Tuesday at a forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Manatee County... About 45,000 Muslims live in the Tampa Bay area, and the Sarasota-Bradenton area is home to growing numbers of South Asian Muslims, Bedier said. Most Muslims here oppose extremism and acts of terror, but nonetheless face hatred and discrimination, he said. The Florida Council works like a Muslim anti-defamation league, monitoring hate crimes and fighting stereotypes, Bedier said. The group recorded 106 anti-Muslim incidents and 19 full-blown hate crimes in Florida in 2004. There were only three hate crimes against Muslims the year before, he said."