WASHINGTON, Nov. 29, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation's largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, is calling on the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the Thanksgiving Day shooting of a Muslim taxi driver in Pittsburgh, Penn., as a hate crime similar to a growing number of attacks targeting the nation's Muslim community following the recent terror attacks in Paris.
CAIR said the 38-year-old driver, who is of Moroccan heritage, picked up a man early Thursday, and that during the trip, the passenger reportedly began asking the driver about his background, including asking whether he was a "Pakistani guy." The passenger also allegedly asked the driver about the terror group ISIS and reportedly mocked the Prophet Muhammad.
When the taxi arrived at the man's home, he went into the house reportedly because he told the driver he forgot his wallet inside. In a few minutes, the man allegedly emerged from the house carrying a rifle.
When the Muslim driver saw the weapon, he sped away, only to hear gunshots, one of which shattered the back window of his taxi and struck him in the upper back.
The Muslim driver, who remains hospitalized in stable condition, was able to flag down a passing car and have someone call the police. The bullet remains lodged in his back.
CAIR has been in contact with the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police to ask that the alleged bias motive for the shooting be investigated. The FBI has also been made aware of the case.
SEE: Muslim Taxi Driver Shot on Thanksgiving in Hazelwood Calls Attack a Hate Crime
"Because of the reported bias statements made by the alleged shooter, and because of the recent spike in anti-Muslim hate crimes nationwide in the wake of the Paris terror attacks, we urge the U.S. Department of Justice to add its resources to the case and to help bring the perpetrator to justice," said CAIR-Pittsburgh Program Director Alia Schindler. "Federal officials need to send a clear message that attacks on American Muslims, or on any minority group, will not be tolerated and that the perpetrators will face the full force of the law."
On Friday, CAIR called on state and federal law enforcement authorities to step up protection for a Kentucky mosque that received an emailed death threat.
Video: CAIR Calls for Protection of Kentucky Mosque Targeted by Terror Threat
That same day, CAIR cited an FBI alert to New York police about an Arizona anti-Islam extremist who is reportedly traveling to that state to "confront" Muslims.
SEE: FBI Warns NY Police About Anti-Islam Arizona Man Who May Be Headed to State to Confront Muslim Group (NY Daily News)
Earlier last week, CAIR released an initial report on the unprecedented backlash and discrimination targeting the nation's Muslim community since the November 13 terror attacks in Paris.
CAIR notes that it has received more reports about acts of Islamophobic discrimination, intimidation, threats, and violence targeting American Muslims (or those perceived to be Muslim) and Islamic institutions in the past week-and-a-half than during any other limited period of time since the 9/11 terror attacks.
CAIR attributes this spike in anti-Muslim incidents to the Paris attacks and to the mainstreaming of Islamophobia by political candidates and lawmakers in the run-up to the 2016 general election.
Of particular concern is the extreme anti-Muslim rhetoric and falsehoods being espoused by leading Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump and Ben Carson.
Another contributing factor to this marked rise in Islamophobic hostility is state governors and lawmakers playing on public fears and spreading misinformation about the federal government's ability to screen Syrian refugees being resettled into the United States.
SEE: CAIR Reports Unprecedented Backlash Against American Muslims After Paris Attacks
CAIR offers community leaders free copies of its booklet, "Best Practices for Mosque and Community Safety," which was published in response to past threats to and attacks on American mosques. The booklet may be requested through CAIR's website: http://www.cair.com/mosque-safety-guide.html
The Washington-based Muslim civil rights group is also asking Muslim community members to report any bias incidents to police and to CAIR's Civil Rights Department at 202-742-6420 or by filing a report at: http://www.cair.com/civil-rights/report-an-incident/view/form.html
CAIR is America's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.
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CONTACT: CAIR-Pittsburgh Program Director Alia Schindler, 412-606-3601, firstname.lastname@example.org; CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-744-7726, email@example.com; CAIR Communications Coordinator Nabeelah Naeem, 202-341-4171, firstname.lastname@example.org
SOURCE Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)