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CAIR, CAIR-Georgia Call on 5th Democratic Debate Moderators to Address Muslim Issues

(ATLANTA, GA, 11/19/19) – The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, and its Georgia chapter (CAIR-Georgia) today sent a letter encouraging the moderators of the upcoming Democratic presidential debate in Atlanta to ask the candidates about how they would address the civil and human rights concerns of the local and national American Muslim community.

The fifth Democratic debate will be held at the Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta, Georgia and moderated by MSNBC and The Washington Post staff Rachel MaddowAndrea MitchellKristen Welker and Ashley Parker.

In an open letter emailed to debate moderators, CAIR asked debate moderators to question the candidates about how they will address:

  • the discriminatory Muslim Ban
  • the national epidemic of police shootings of unarmed African-Americans
  • the unconstitutional so-called terrorism watchlist
  • racial and religious profiling by federal law enforcement
  • America’s ballooning federal debt, and the impact of usury on average Americans
  • ending U.S. military aid to foreign countries that violate human rights
  • sanctioning China, India, and Burma for their oppressive treatment and human rights violations of Muslims.


Linked here and copied below is the letter sent to debate moderators:

November 19, 2019

RE: Request for 5th Democratic Debate Moderators to Raise Muslim American Issues

Dear Ms. Maddow, Ms. Mitchell, Ms. Parker & Ms. Welker:

On behalf of Georgia’s Muslim community, we thank MSNBC and The Washington Post for agreeing to serve as moderators of this week’s Democratic presidential debate in Atlanta. Given Georgia’s rich history of civil rights activism, as well as its significant population of African Americans, Muslims, Latinos and other minority groups, we hope that you will ask questions that reflect the critical concerns of our communities.

To that end, we write to specifically request that you use the fifth Democratic presidential debate as an opportunity to ask the candidates about how they would address the civil and human rights concerns of the American Muslim voters.

Despite the fact that American Muslim voters played a major role in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary, made history by winning numerous elections in our own right in 2016 and 2018, and currently occupy significant attention in our political discourse, the 2020 Democratic presidential primary debates have so far ignored major issues of importance to American Muslim voters.

Here is a list of topics that we hope you will address with some or all of the Democratic presidential candidates during the debate on Nov. 20th:

  1. The Muslim Ban

How will each candidate address President Trump’s so-called travel ban? If candidates repeal the Muslim Ban by executive order, how will they repair the damage it has already caused by unjustly separating family members, depriving students of educational opportunities, and blocking skilled workers from accepting jobs, in the United States?

  1. The “Terrorism Watchlist”

In September, a federal court judge ruled that the so-called “terrorism watchlist” is unconstitutional in its current form because of the lack of evidence to justify placing people on the list, the lack of notice to those listed, and the lack of a real opportunity for those listed to challenge their placement. The watchlist, which was created by George W. Bush’s administration and has continued the administration of President Donald Trump, largely impacts American Muslims. Will candidates end the watchlist? If not, how will candidates address constitutional complaints against the watchlist?

  1. Racial and Religious Profiling by Law Enforcement

President Trump continues to endorse the unconstitutional practice of stop-and-frisk, a practice that statistically amounts to racial discrimination and harassment against African Americans and Latinos and does not practically stop or decrease crime. Current DOJ guidelines prohibiting law enforcement racial and religious profiling also have loopholes that allow DHS to use religion, national origin, and other characteristics to profile at airports and the U.S. border, as well as in certain national security contexts.

This legal discrimination has resulted in the continued profiling of Muslims and Latinos by federal law enforcement. How will each candidate reform current federal law enforcement practices and guidelines to protect all communities from racial and religious profiling?

  1. Holding Police Officers Accountable for Police Brutality

In March 2015, African-American U.S. Air Force veteran Anthony Hill was fatally shot by a police officer in Chamblee, Georgia, near Atlanta, while naked, unarmed, and suffering from an episode related to PTSD and bipolar disorder. While a jury convicted the officer of multiple offenses in that case, most officers responsible for shooting unarmed minorities escape charges. Last year, Shukri Ali Said, a Somali-American Muslims woman who suffered from mental illness, was shot and killed by Johns Creek Police Department officers. The officers responsible have refused to cooperate with investigators from the Fulton County District Attorney’s office and are back on duty.

According to a study published by the National Academy of Science of the United States, “Over the life course, about 1 in every 1,000 black men can expect to be killed by police,” and “African American men and women, American Indian/Alaska Native men and women, and Latino men face higher lifetime risk of being killed by police than do their white peers.”1

How will each candidate respond to the national epidemic of police shootings of unarmed African-Americans and other minorities, and how will the candidates ensure that the Justice Department holds officers accountable when local prosecutors fail to do so?

  1. Out-Of-Control Federal Debt

As of this year, the federal government’s debt has topped 21 trillion dollars. Meanwhile, banks, investment firms, and insurance companies buy, sell, trade, insure, package, and repackage nearly indecipherable collections of loans, some of them dangerously unstable. Many individual Americans rely on interest-based debt, from credit cards to pay-day loans, to make ends meet. The average American has credit card debt of $16,061. The average student loan borrower has $37,000 in interest-based debt. 

Forced to sacrifice large chunks of income to satisfy interest payments on debt that keeps growing, many Americans look rich, but live poor. If disaster strikes, they risk financial ruin, as happened in 2008. For these and other reasons, various civilizations, societies, and religions considered interest-based debt to be patently immoral. Ancient religious figures such as Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad, may peace be upon them, condemned charging any interest on debt as usurious and sinful. So did Guathma Buddha, various Catholic popes, and philosophers, including Plato and Aristotle. 

As president, what would candidates do to address our nation’s ballooning federal debt, and what would the candidates do to address the burdens that various forms of interest-based debt create for average Americans?

  1. Ending Foreign Aid Handouts to Human Rights Violators

The United States continues to send billions in military aid to foreign governments that violate human rights. In doing so, our government is flouting federal law, which conditions aid to certain countries on the status democracy. We are also giving a “green light” to further human rights violations. In recent years, U.S. weapons and munitions have been used by Egypt, Israel, and Saudi Arabia with disastrous consequences for civilian populations. Will each candidate pledge to stop providing military aid to Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and other governments accused of violating human rights? 

  1. Sanctions on Countries Engaged in Ethnic Cleansing

Muslims in China, India and Burma routinely face state-sanctioned oppression, arrest, detention in concentration camps, mob violence, and in the case of Burma, genocide. Will each candidate sanction China, India, and Burma for their unprecedented campaigns of oppression against Muslim minority communities in their countries? 

Thank you for considering these issues. We hope that NBC will make time during the November 20 presidential debate in Atlanta to address some of these issues of importance to the American people, including American Muslims.


Edward Ahmed Mitchell   

Executive Director    

Council on-American Islamic Relations 

Georgia Chapter    


Robert McCaw

Government Affairs Director

Council on American-Islamic Relations

National Office

1 Frank Edwards, Hedwig Lee, and Michael Esposito, “Risk of being killed by police use of force in the United States by age, race-ethnicity, and sex,” Proceeding of the National Academy of Science of the United States of America, August 20, 2019. 


CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance understanding of Islam, protect civil rights, promote justice, and empower American Muslims.

La misión de CAIR es proteger las libertades civiles, mejorar la comprensión del Islam, promover la justicia, y empoderar a los musulmanes en los Estados Unidos.


CONTACT: CAIR National Deputy Director Edward Ahmed Mitchell, 404-285-9530,


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