WASHINGTON (JTA) — The Muslim-Jewish Advisory Council has urged Congress to pass legislation aimed at strengthening efforts to combat hate crimes.
The Protecting Affiliated Institutions Act, which has bipartisan sponsors, was introduced in both the Senate and the House on Tuesday. The Muslim-Jewish Advisory Council, which works to curb hate crimes within religious communities and to promote “the contributions of religious minorities in the United States,” has lobbied on behalf of the legislation.
The legislation would enhance the Church Arson Prevention Act of 1996, which made attacks against houses of worship a federal crime. The new bill expands this resolution to include other religiously affiliated institutions, such as schools and community centers. It would also broaden the the purview to include threats, and would make damaging protected property a felony, rather than a misdemeanor.
“Burning down a mosque or vandalizing a Jewish cemetery is intolerable. Now is the time to take action against hate crimes in our country,” Council Co-Chair Stanley Bergman said.
In a letter sent to members of Congress, the Council emphasized the severity of hate crimes toward both Muslim and Jewish groups. “There was a 67 percent increase in hate crimes against Muslim Americans in 2015, according to FBI data, while Jews remain the targets of the most hate crimes based on religion,” the letter stated.