239 House members vote to cut funds for secret evidence cases

239 House members vote to cut funds for secret evidence cases

Alhamdulillah. On Thursday, June 22, the full House of Representatives voted to cut funds used to jail those detained through the use of secret evidence. The amendment to a government appropriations bill was sponsored by Rep. Tom Campbell (R-CA). (Reps. David Bonior [D-MI], Ray LaHood [R-IL] and Mark Sanford [R-SC] co-sponsored the amendment.) It eliminated $173,480 in U.S. Justice Department expenses, the estimated taxpayer cost of detaining people based on secret evidence.

Campbell's amendment passed 239-173 following a one-hour debate in which House members voiced strong opposition to secret evidence. Following the vote, Campbell was quoted as saying: "It was the dream I had wished for, that members of Congress would stand up and say, 'That's [secret evidence] not right."

The California Republican, along with House Minority Whip David Bonior of Michigan, also introduced legislation to ban the use of secret evidence entirely. The Secret Evidence Repeal Act (H.R.2121) has more than 100 congressional sponsors. (Go to http://thomas.loc.gov. Search for bill number H.R. 2121.) The Judiciary Committee recently held a hearing on H.R.2121. Backers hope to take the bill to the full House before the August recess.

The only organizational opposition to H.R.2121 has come from the American Jewish Committee (AJC) and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). The AJC issued a statement voicing "deep regret" over Thursday night's successful vote on the Campbell amendment.

EEOC says UPS discriminated against Muslim employee in Illinois

EEOC says UPS discriminated against Muslim employee in Illinois

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has issued a "determination" charging that Atlanta-based United Parcel Service (UPS) discriminated against a Muslim employee in Illinois who asked to wear a beard for religious reasons.

The EEOC determination found that UPS (www.ups.com), the world's largest express carrier and package delivery company with annual revenues of more than $27 billion, may have violated of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 when it refused to promote a Muslim employee to a driver's position because of the beard. It recommended a resolution of the incident that could include an end to the discrimination, restoration of back pay and benefits as well as compensatory or punitive damages.

According to the EEOC charge form, the Muslim worker was denied the position after meeting all company requirements. He had even filled out a request for a driver's uniform and was asked to select a driving shift. It was only at that point that UPS supervisors told the worker he could not drive a truck while wearing a beard.

(The driver's position offers better pay and benefits, and is less strenuous, than other jobs at UPS. Title VII requires an employer to accommodate the religious practices of a worker unless the company can demonstrate an "undue hardship" resulting from the accommodation.)

The EEOC determination also said there is reasonable cause to believe that UPS "discriminated against a class of employees...on the basis of their religion." The charging party is one of many Muslim employees who work at UPS facilities worldwide.

"We need your help to let UPS know that this case is important to all of us. Please take action today," said CAIR Board Chairman Omar Ahmad. Ahmad added that CAIR has received a number of similar complaints from other Muslim UPS employees. The company has refused all of these requests for religious accommodation.

AOL settles with Muslim shopper following community pressure

AOL settles with Muslim shopper following community pressure

Alhamdulillah (praise be to Allah), America Online (AOL) and its business partner Cendant Corporation have reached a settlement with a Muslim shopper in Chicago, Ill., who received a racist slur on a catalog from a Cendant-owned company that does business through AOL. "Sand nigger" was printed under the obviously-Muslim name of the catalog recipient.

The settlement, the terms of which are not being released, came after hundreds of Muslims contacted both corporations to express their concerns about the incident. Financial compensation, a letter of apology and sensitivity training for Cendant employees had been demanded by the recipient of the catalog. CAIR issued an Action Alert on this issue when the parties failed to reach agreement after months of discussions.

The Muslim shopper who received the offensive mailing label is a member of AOL. Through AOL, she became a member of AOL Netmarket (AOL Keyword: Netmarket). When the shopper and a friend, who was the recipient of a gift from the catalog, received order confirmations, both found "sand nigger" printed under their names. (AOL is listed as the "Service Name" on the confirmation receipt.)

After seeing the offensive term, the Muslim shopper filed a complaint with Chicago's Commission on Human Relations in December of last year. Respondents named in the complaint included AOL, AOL/Netmarket and Cendant.

"We thank everyone who contacted AOL and Cendant to make sure that this incident was resolved to the satisfaction of the Muslim shopper," said CAIR Board Chairman Omar Ahmad. Ahmad added this case points to the fact that corporations must sensitize their employees to issues of religious and ethnic diversity in American society.

Hertz employees in Atlanta called "cockroaches"

Hertz employees in Atlanta called "cockroaches"

Twelve Muslim employees who were fired from a Hertz rental car facility at Hartsfield International Airport in Atlanta, Ga., say they have been subjected to verbal abuse and were denied religious accommodation for Islamic attire. (Hertz is the world's leading vehicle renting company. It operates a fleet of 525,000 vehicles from 6,500 locations.)

The workers report that one supervisor called them names such as "trash people" and "cockroaches." At other times, when having lunch, that same supervisor allegedly called the women "goats" and "animals" because they ate their lunches with their hands, a custom practiced by many Muslims worldwide. They were eventually fired for not complying with the company's policy of prohibiting loose fitting clothing and long dresses. That policy states that female employees must wear "knee length skirts or trousers."

The fired workers are Somali immigrant Muslims whose religious beliefs require them to dress modestly and prohibit them from wearing tight or revealing clothing. The women requested, and were initially denied, accommodation for their beliefs. (Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 requires employers to reasonably accommodate the religious practices of their employees unless an "undue hardship" would prevent them from doing so.)

In a letter to CAIR, Hertz wrote: "Please know that The Hertz Corporation treats any allegations of harassment or discrimination very seriously. We have already commenced an investigation into these allegations and will take whatever remedial action is necessary."

A public statement issued by Hertz's New Jersey headquarters also announced that the company would allow the Muslim employees to return to work while wearing modest clothing.

"Hertz needs to hear from you. The company is not doing enough to address the humiliation and emotional distress suffered by these women," said CAIR board Chairman Omar Ahmad. Ahmad added that Hertz should institute company-wide religious sensitivity training for its managers.

CAIR offers a booklet called "An Employer's Guide to Islamic Religious Practices" to help corporate managers gain a better understanding of Islam and Muslims in the workplace.

Lix Claiborne recalls jeans with verses from Quran on back pocket

Lix Claiborne recalls jeans with verses from Quran on back pocket

Alhamdulillah, CAIR announced today that Liz Claiborne Inc. (NYSE: LIZ) is recalling a line of DKNY jeans deemed offensive by Muslims because verses from the Quran (Sura Ya Sin) were incorporated in its design. In a settlement with CAIR, the company also agreed to:

  1. offer an apology to Muslims worldwide,
  2. institute changes to its design process,
  3. conduct sensitivity training to prevent a similar incident from occurring in the future, and 4) dispose of the recalled jeans as recommended by Islamic scholars and consultants.

CAIR asked for the recall after receiving complaints about the jeans from members of the American Muslim community. Muslims were particularly offended that the Quranic verses (36:65-67) were printed on the back pocket of the jeans. That would mean that those who wore the jeans would be sitting on the verses.A delegation from CAIR met recently with Liz Claiborne officials in New York City to discuss the incident. At that meeting, company representatives explained the origins of the offensive design. They told CAIR that it reflected a trend in uses of Asian, Indian and Middle Eastern imagery. The design used on the jeans was purchased from an outside source that misinformed the company that the text, apparently taken from a photograph of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, had been rendered "nonsensical."

A statement of apology issued by Liz Claiborne read in part: "We…offer our sincere apology to the Muslim community worldwide for this unfortunate mistake…We are profoundly sorry that any of our products reflected insensitivity toward the Muslim faith, as this was certainly never our intent."

"Liz Claiborne officials demonstrated their regret through the swift and sensitive way in which they reacted to this unfortunate and apparently unintentional incident," said CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad. CAIR Board Chairman Omar Ahmad added: "This case proves that any corporation dealing in the international marketplace will increase its chances of success if it is sensitive to diverse religions and cultures. We thank the members of the Muslim community who contacted CAIR about this product."

The jeans, sold only in the United States, were shipped to stores in February as part of the launch of the DKNY Jeans junior line. (Liz Claiborne holds the license from Donna Karan International to manufacture and distribute DKNY Jeans. Donna Karan, DKNY and Liz Claiborne have retail outlets in Muslim majority countries such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Indonesia, and Lebanon.) In 1994, designer Karl Lagerfeld apologized to Muslims worldwide for a low-cut dress in his Chanel collection that was printed with a passage from the Quran. The dresses were later destroyed. A similar incident in 1997 involved the recall of a pair of Nike shoes that used a design resembling the Arabic word for "Allah," or God.

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