US Attorney-General Eric Holder decried the continued phenomenon of anti-Semitism in America as well as the stigma felt by many Muslim Americans, in an address at an Anti-Defamation League dinner Saturday night.
"The stubborn persistence of anti-Semitism saddens me - for it undeniably still exists. We deny this at our peril," he said. "Whether in a casual joke made in private when the speaker thinks no Jewish person is listening, or in shocking public acts of violence, its heartlessness and ugliness should scald the conscience of every American."
Holder, speaking in Las Vegas, pointed out that religiously motivated attacks are the second most-common category of hate crimes following race-based incidents.
According to Holder, some 7,500 hate crimes take place in America each year, a number that he labeled "completely unacceptable" but at least stagnant since the 1990s. But he noted that that trend has not held for the Muslim community.
"Crimes against Muslims and those perceived to be Muslim have escalated dramatically since September 11th," he said, adding that many Muslims also feel "isolated and discriminated against by law enforcement" in the wake of the attacks.
Holder cited a recent Pew poll finding that nearly 60 percent of US adults say that Muslims are subject to widespread discrimination, more discrimination than any other group aside from lesbians and gays.
To help redress that situation, he stressed his commitment to seeing a hate crimes bill passed, one that the ADL has championed for a decade. He praised the organization's efforts in getting the measure passed, which he promised would come during his tenure.
Holder also referenced the global threats faced by those "who care about peace," particularly the violence in the Middle East and "the threat that a nuclear Iran could pose to Israel and to the world."