(SANTA CLARA, CA, 03/26/2010) – The San Francisco Bay Area office of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR-SFBA) today, with other local Arab and Muslim groups, sent a letter to San Francisco Police Chief George Gascon expressing disappointment and concern about statements he made at a breakfast in support of an earthquake safety bond measure.
It is reported that he made a statement to the effect that, “the Hall of Justice at 850 Bryant St. is susceptible not just to an earthquake, but also to members of the city’s Middle Eastern community parking a van in front of it and blowing it up.”
SEE: Police Chief’s Remarks on Terrorism Anger Arabs (Chronicle)
The letter further asked Chief Gascon to attend a meeting with leaders from the Arab and Muslim community in San Francisco to discuss the negative impacts of his comments, and discuss the community’s requests in moving forward from this incident.
The letter signed by CAIR-SFBA Programs and Outreach Director Zahra Billoo, stated in part:
“Your comments are all the more alarming given the link between Islamophobic rhetoric and anti-Muslim incidents. The reality is that such irresponsible statements a person in your position can lead only to worsening security for San Francisco, as it infuses residents of the city with irrational fears and suspicions toward a particular community and leads that community to live in constant apprehension.”
After the incident, Chief Gascon stated that his comments were only directed at Yemenis and Afghans, rather than all “Arabs” or “Middle-Easterners.” He further cited the attempted Christmas Day bombing incident to support his statements.
The letter states:
“Community members need to be able to turn to your office and leadership for protection and safety. Instead, they will feel even less safe as a result of your comments. If the very people that are charged with protecting them, are making sweeping racist comments about their guilt by association this may undermine their sense of safety and security. Such views and policies will trickle down to individual police officers who may abuse their powers in targeting and harassing this particular community of San Franciscans.
“We are requesting that you meet with representatives of the Arab and Muslim community to discuss the negative impact your stereotypical and offensive remarks will have on the lives of ordinary Arabs and Muslims, and to discuss steps to move forward from this incident.”
CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.
CONTACT: CAIR-San Francisco Bay Area Programs and Outreach Director Zahra Billoo, 626.252.0885, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-488-8787 or 202-744-7726, E-Mail: email@example.com