Muslims condemn attack on Sikh family in New York
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) today condemned an attack on a Sikh family in New York that was apparently motivated by religious or ethnic bias. The Washington-based Islamic civil rights and advocacy group said preventing bias-motivated attacks must be a "top priority" for American political and religious leaders.
According to media reports, three men attacked the family - a married couple and a relative - when they were returning to their Queens, N.Y., home on Sunday evening. The victims, who are immigrants from India, were allegedly punched, spit on and told "bin Laden family, go back to your country." One of the victims wore a Sikh turban, a religious head covering that has in the past prompted attacks by perpetrators who believe it is part of Islamic attire.
SEE: 3 Indians Attacked on Street and the Police Call It Bias
"Bigots and hate-mongers know no boundaries between people of different faiths or ethnicities," said CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad. "Preventing and prosecuting bias-motivated crimes must be a top priority for our nation's political and religious leaders."
Awad noted that a Sikh man who may have been mistaken for an Arab was shot recently in Phoenix, Ariz. Just after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, another Sikh man in Arizona was murdered apparently because the killer mistakenly believed the victim was of Middle Eastern origin.
Since the beginning of this year, CAIR has received reports of physical assaults against Muslims or those perceived to be Muslim in California, Georgia, New Jersey, South Carolina and other states. One incident in Yorba Linda, Calif., left a Muslim teenager badly beaten by a group that allegedly included white supremacists. In Illinois, an explosive device destroyed a Muslim family's van. And just last month, a New Bedford, Mass., pizza delivery man was kidnapped, beaten and stabbed, apparently because his attackers thought he was Muslim. Two weeks ago, two Pakistani students were shot to death in the same county as the cross-burning. FBI investigators are looking into the incident to determine if bias was a motive.
Just last week, two teenagers were arrested for allegedly burning a cross outside a Maryland Islamic school and mosque. In response to that attack, a Sikh American group issued a news release to show solidarity with the American Muslim community.
Hate crime report forms are available for download at: http://www.cair-net.org/ireport/Incident_Report.doc, or by calling 202-488-8787. CAIR, America's largest Islamic civil liberties group, is headquartered in Washington, D.C., and has 16 regional offices nationwide and in Canada.
CAIR joins first legal challenge to Patriot Act
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) today joined five other advocacy and community groups in mounting a constitutional challenge to the section of the USA Patriot Act that vastly expands the FBI's power to spy on ordinary people living in the United States. The lawsuit, litigated by the ACLU, names Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller as the defendants.
At a news conference this morning in Detroit, Mich., representatives of the ACLU and the plaintiffs outlined why they believe Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act is unconstitutional.
Anti-Muslim incidents up 15 percent in past year
A report released today by a prominent national Islamic civil rights and advocacy group indicates that anti-Muslim incidents in the United States increased by 15 percent over the previous year. (Numbers rose from 525 confirmed incidents in the 2002 report to 602 in this year's study.) The Council on American-Islamic Relations' (CAIR) report - the only annual study of its kind - details incidents and experiences of anti-Muslim violence, discrimination and harassment during the past year.
CAIR's report covers the period from January 1, 2002, to December 31, 2002. Excerpts and an order form for the complete report are available online at: http://www.cair-net.org/asp/crr2003.asp
In addition to the direct acts of discrimination and violence, the report looks at the impact of post-9/11 government polices, usually related to the USA Patriot Act, that have had a negative impact on American Muslim civil liberties. Those government actions featured in the report include the March 2002 raids on Muslim families and businesses in Virginia and Georgia, the Special Registration program for Muslim visa-holders, and the "voluntary" interviews conducted with thousands of Iraqi-Americans. The report also outlined the increase in Islamophobic rhetoric by evangelical leaders such as Franklin Graham, Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson.
The largest number of incidents were reported by Muslims in California, Florida, Virginia, New York, Ohio, Michigan, Texas, and Maryland. Along with religious and ethnic profiling, workplace discrimination was one of the largest categories of complaints.
"More than any other year, the daily experiences of Muslims in schools, the workplace, airports, and in encounters with the courts, police and other government agencies included incidents in which they were singled out because of actual or perceived religious and ethnic identity," said CAIR Research Director Dr. Mohamed Nimer, the report's author. Nimer said anti-Muslim sentiment related to the 9/11 terror attacks was cited in a number of cases.
"While this report indicates that government policies are part of the problem, the government can also be part of the solution by refusing to succumb to the siren song of religious and ethnic profiling," said CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad.
Awad noted CAIR offices around the country have been working in close cooperation with the FBI and other law enforcement agencies through town hall meetings, sensitivity training sessions and even joint-news conferences on security-related issues. He also said Muslims must become more involved in political and social activities at the local level through voter registration, coalition building and community service.
CAIR began documenting anti-Muslim incidents following the 1995 attack on the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. The council is America's largest Islamic civil liberties group, with 16 regional offices nationwide and in Canada.
Florida Muslims relieved by sentencing of terrorist
The Florida office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-FL) today expressed relief that a terrorist convicted of plotting to bomb some 50 Islamic institutions in that state was given the maximum sentence of 12½ years by a Tampa judge.
Robert Goldstein, 38, pleaded guilty in April to conspiracy to violate civil rights, attempting to damage religious property and possession of bombs. Goldstein, who is Jewish, said he wanted to retaliate against Arabs and Muslims for the 9/11 terror attacks. His ex-wife was sentenced last week to three years in prison after pleading guilty to possessing explosives.
Under sentencing guidelines, Goldstein could have received as little as 10 years in prison, but the judge said the seriousness of the offense justified the maximum sentence.
"Florida's Muslim community is pleased to see this disturbing episode come to an end," said CAIR-FL Executive Director Altaf Ali. "We have been assured by the Assistant U.S. Attorney that all suspects in this plot are now behind bars."
Ali urged Florida Muslims to go about their normal routines, but also cautioned the community to not let down its guard. He said that in recent months, his group has received several complaints of harassment and discrimination against Florida Muslims.
"We commend the members of Florida's law enforcement community for their professional work in averting what could have been a deadly attack. We also thank the judge in this case for handing Goldstein the maximum sentence allowed under the law," said CAIR-FL Communications Director Ahmed Bedier.
Bedier reminded Muslims to download the "Muslim Community Safety Kit" from CAIR-FL's website: www.cair-florida.org
CAIR is America's largest Islamic civil liberties group. It is headquartered in Washington, D.C., and has 16 regional offices nationwide and in Canada. Since its founding in 1994, CAIR has defended the civil and religious rights of all Americans.