Earlier today, CAIR and other civil rights groups, along with members of Congress, took part in a Capitol Hill news conference welcoming theintroduction of legislation, the "Benjamin Franklin True Patriot Act," designed to correct some of the most contentious provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act. Participants included Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio; Ron Paul, Republican; and Gregory Nojeim, ACLU Washington Legislative Office.
At the press conference, CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad said:
"Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak out in support of Congressman Kucinich's Benjamin Franklin True Patriot Act.
"In the days following the horrific attack on our country on September 11, 2001, CAIR was inundated with reports of civil rights abuses. It was a frightening time to be a Muslim. Congress passed the USA PATRIOT Act in hopes of providing the Department of Justice with the appropriate tools to track down the perpetrators of the attack on our country.
"Unfortunately, the Patriot Act went too far in that it abridged many of the freedoms we as Americans should never take for granted. Under the auspices of the Patriot Act, Muslims, Arabs-Americans and others were detained without meaningful judicial review.
"The frenzied days following 9/11 are now over and it is time for Congress to act sensibly by repealing the provisions of the Patriot Act that have infringed on our civil liberties. As a civil rights organization, we have always spoken out in support of legislation that promotes democratic ideals. The Benjamin Franklin True Patriot Act is important and timely. It should be supported by all those who love freedom.
"We urge Muslims and all Americans to call their elected representatives and ask them to cosponsor this bill."
WASHINGTON - Attorney General John Ashcroft is running a dead heat with A. Mitchell Palmer, attorney general in the Wilson administration, for the distinction of being the worst in that job in the history of the United States.
One of the duties of the attorney general as head of the Justice Department is to protect the Constitution. Both Mr. Ashcroft and Palmer found that the Constitution, especially the Bill of Rights, got in their way more than it protected anything. It has gotten in Ashcroft's way in his pursuit of terrorists after Sept. 11, especially those who dress differently and practice a different religion. Palmer's crusade was the pursuit of communists, in the aftermath of World War I. He especially went after people with what to him were funny names from Eastern Europe. He tended to equate liberals with communists.
Ashcroft's vehicle is the USA Patriot Act, which Congress, abdicating its own duties of vigilance, passed with a whoop and a holler in the days after Sept. 11. Even the name of this odious legislation is offensive. It implies that the purpose of the act is to promote patriotism and that those not cooperating with it are somehow less patriotic...
Brooklyn, New York - A federal lawsuit was filed in the Eastern District of New York by Scott, Mason-Kinsey, and Hart LLP on behalf of two Muslim employees of the New York City Transit Authority. Deirdre Small and Malikah Alkebulan, who are presently employed as bus operators for the Transit Authority, allege that their employer has violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution as well as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by engaging in a continuous pattern of religious and gender discrimination dating back to March of 2002. Mrs. Small and Mrs. Alkebulan have been suspended from their duties because they refuse to remove or cover their traditional Muslim headdress ("khimar") with baseball caps while driving passengers.
Regarding the lawsuit, attorney Armani B. Scott stated" the MTA has refused to acknowledge our clients Muslim beliefs. This blatant discrimination is a dangerous and illegal overreaction which feeds into the worst fears of Americans in our post- 9/11 society." Attorney Lonnie Hart, Jr. added, "The MTA's position that our clients wear baseball hats to cover their khimars is not only an affront to Islam but has no legal or moral basis. The MTA has failed to cite any legitimate reason for their discriminatory practices."
The federal suit alleges that Mrs. Small and Mrs. Alkebulan have been singled out for discrimination because of their religion and gender. Similarly situated male Muslim bus drivers are currently operating Transit Authority buses while wearing traditional Muslim headdress ("kufi") without reprisal.
For more information contact: Lonnie Hart, Jr. or Armani B. Scott
Scott, Mason-Kinsey & Hart LLP
55 Washington Street Suite 655
Brooklyn, New York, 11201
(718) 852-7000 (p)
(718) 852-3302 (f)