New FBI guidelines may lead to abuses say Muslims
A national Islamic advocacy group said today that new Justice Department guidelines giving FBI agents wide latitude in monitoring the Internet, libraries and religious institutions could lead to abuses similar to those experienced by minority groups in the past. The new guidelines allow opening investigations without first having to offer evidence of potential criminal activity.
The Washington Post paraphrased a senior Justice Department official who said "the impact of the changes will be dramatic in allowing the FBI to open a window on extremist activity in mosques."
In a statement reacting to the new guidelines released today, Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Governmental Affairs Director Jason Erb said:
"All Americans support the investigation of terrorists or those who are suspected of engaging in or planning terrorist acts, and anyone having information about such attacks should immediately contact the FBI. But America must not respond to past intelligence failures by adopting a 'round up the usual suspects' approach to counterterrorism.
"It is one thing to allow FBI agents the reasonable ability to surf the Internet for criminal activity or do research on issues not related to specific criminal cases, and quite another to have agents entering mosques claiming to be Muslims or people of other faiths seeking spiritual guidance.
"Mosques, along with other religious institutions, are open to all Americans and have nothing to hide, but that openness should not be abused by using tactics of deception to spy on a religious minority engaged in lawful activities. We cannot win the war on terrorism by turning the clock back to the days when the FBI infiltrated groups and harassed individuals engaged in Constitutionally-protected political dissent."
Erb added that CAIR has organized public meetings between FBI officials and Muslim communities across the country since the September 11 attacks and would facilitate future direct communication with mosque officials. He said CAIR works regularly with the Justice Department on individual bias-related incidents and on broader issues of anti-Muslim discrimination.
CAIR thanked Rep. John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI), Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, who commented on the new guidelines by saying:
"Threatening the private practice of religion constitutes a war on freedom, not a war on terror. I hope it is clear to all that taking it upon himself to institute new rules to wiretap religious organizations, including places of worship, the Attorney General will do little to help us battle terrorism. Instead, it will simply further alienate the American Muslim community, a crucial ally in our efforts."
There are an estimated seven million Muslims in America and some 1.2 billion worldwide. For background, see CAIR's "The Mosque in America: A National Portrait," at http://www.cair-net.org/mosquereport/, and "Stereotypes and Civil Liberties," at http://www.cair-net.org/civilrights2002/
A national poll released today indicates that "nearly 75 percent of Muslim Americans either know someone who has or have themselves experienced an act of anti-Muslim discrimination, harassment, verbal abuse or physical attack since September 1l." See: "Accounts of Anti-Muslim Discrimination Not Exaggerated," at http://www.usnewswire.com/topnews/first/0530-124.html
Muslims demand suspension of California cops who arrest 11 year old girl
A prominent national Islamic advocacy organization is calling for the suspension of California Highway Patrol
(CHP) officers who the group says assaulted an 11-year-old Muslim girl during a anti-war, pro-Palestinian rally Saturday in San Francisco. (The girl turned 11 in February of this year. She was charged with "battery" of a police officer.)
The Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) says photos and video shot at the protest show that police acted improperly in arresting the girl. SEE: http://www.indybay.org/ (The girl's father is available for media interviews. Contact CAIR's Northern California office at the numbers listed below.)
The 11-year-old was arrested Saturday when police blocked a march across the Golden Gate Bridge, despite the fact that event organizers had a valid permit to cross the bridge. Media reports quoted witnesses who said police over-reacted to a relatively small number of protestors. One passerby told the San Francisco Chronicle: "I don't think these demonstrators presented any threat to anyone. The police are the ones who shut everything down. I would rather see all of these officers looking for terrorists in airports." Witnesses also say police manhandled journalists during the march.
A statement issued today by CAIR Board Chairman Omar Ahmad read in part: "It is unconscionable that police clad in riot gear would pull an 11-year-old child out of a group of peaceful protestors, throw her to the ground, handcuff her, haul her away like a common criminal, and then keep her shackled for hours at a police station. From all accounts, this girl did nothing to provoke arrest. The officers involved in this incident
should be suspended pending an immediate and thorough investigation."
Just last week, a Georgetown University Campus Police officer was suspended after allegedly assaulting a Muslim man, his wife and their 4-month-old child as they were leaving their space in a Washington, D.C., parking garage.
Georgetown University cop allegedly assaults Muslim family
A prominent American Muslim advocacy group is calling on Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., to investigate an incident yesterday in which a Muslim family says they were assaulted by a campus police officer.
According to the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the incident took place in the Georgetown University Hospital Parking Garage. According to the complaint, a Muslim man, his wife and
their 4-month-old child were leaving their space in the parking garage (their child had just been seen at the hospital) when the car driven by the officer, who was in uniform, blocked them.
When the Muslim driver motioned to the officer to move so that he could exit the space, the officer allegedly exited his car, ran to the Muslim driver's car, and began slamming the car door on the driver who was
partially out of the door. (The officer apparently did not want to move his car forward so as not to lose access to the space that the Muslim driver was exiting.)
When the Muslim driver demanded to know what the officer was doing and why, he allegedly said: "I know you Muslims. You hate us and you hate Jesus." (Muslims revere Jesus as a Prophet of God.) Referring to the Muslim driver's wife, who was wearing an Islamic head scarf, he said: "You're Muslim, he's Muslim, you hate [derogatory term for African-Americans]."
At that point, the Muslim driver called 911 and Washington, D.C., police arrived. Fearing retaliation from the officer, and despite receiving scratches and muscle strains during the assault, the Muslim driver did not file charges at that time.
CAIR is demanding an immediate investigation of the incident and disciplinary action against the officer, up to and including termination. The Islamic advocacy group says the officer may be open to federal hate crimes charges.
U.S. politicians "pledge allegiance" to Israel say Muslims
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) today condemned planned congressional resolutions in support of Israel's brutal invasion of Palestinian territory that the Islamic advocacy group said amounted to American elected officials "pledging allegiance" to a foreign government.
Despite President Bush's assertion that such a move would negatively-impact American foreign policy interests, Democratic and Republican congressional leaders say they would today go ahead with votes on the pro-Israel resolutions.
Yesterday, White House spokesman Ari Fliescher said the president is concerned that "no foreign policy can survive 535 different secretaries of state."
Associated Press reports that the administration urged that if introduced, the resolutions should at least make reference to the need to "alleviate the occupation of the suffering Palestinian people."
A statement by CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad read in part:
"It is truly disturbing to see American elected officials falling over themselves in an unseemly attempt to 'pledge allegiance' to a foreign government and its domestic lobby. Perhaps these same politicians should be
reminded that they were elected by American, not Israeli voters.
"At a time when the president and secretary of state are trying to encourage peace and stability in the Middle East, our elected representatives are undercutting that effort by engaging in crass political
maneuvering that promotes their own prospects of re-election over America's national and security interests.
"Americans should not offer unconditional support to a brutal invasion that even the Israelis admit involved killings of noncombatants, looting by soldiers, denial of relief supplies to entire population centers, and the
use of Palestinian civilians as human shields in military operations."
Awad added that the one-sided congressional resolutions send a false message to the Muslim and Arab world that the American people do not support justice, human rights or a peaceful resolution to the Middle East
conflict. He cited a recent USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll in which 71 percent of respondents said the U.S. government should not take either side in the Mideast conflict and asked voters to make their representatives aware of that fact.
The most strongly-worded congressional resolution is being sponsored by House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), who just last week announced at the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee that: "As long as I'm in Congress, I'll use every tool at my disposal to ensure that
the Republican conference in the House of Representatives continues to preserve and strengthen America's alliance with the state of Israel."
Last night on the MSNBC cable news network, House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-TX) went further than even right-wing Israeli politicians by calling for the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people from the
These statements, and the rush to introduce the non-binding resolutions, are viewed by many political observers as an effort by both major parties to out-bid each other in appealing to Jewish voters and campaign contributors.
Anti-Muslim incidents up three-fold in past year
A report released today by a prominent Islamic advocacy group indicates that reports of anti-Muslim incidents in the United States increased three-fold over the previous year. (Up from 366 validated reports in 2001 to 1125 this year.) The only national study of its kind also shows that almost 60,000 American Muslims have been negatively impacted by U.S. government policies since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations' (CAIR) seventh annual study, titled "Stereotypes and Civil Liberties," outlines 1516 reports of denial of religious accommodation, harassment, discrimination, bias, threat, assault, and even several murders. That figure represents more than 2,200 individuals targeted because of actual or perceived religion and ethnicity. The majority of violent incidents occurred in the period immediately following the September 11 attacks. If post 9-11 backlash incidents are eliminated from the count, the remaining reports (525) still show a 43 percent increase over the 2001 study.
CAIR's report covers the period from March 2001, to March 2002. It is available online here.
In addition to the direct acts of discrimination and violence, the report shows that the civil rights of almost 60,000 American Muslims were negatively impacted by government policies instituted following the 9-11
attacks. Those affected include some 1,200 Muslims who were detained nationwide, mostly on immigration charges, but who were treated as if they were terrorists, 5,000 legal visa-holders who were asked to submit to "voluntary" interrogations and an estimated 50,000 individuals who donated to American Muslim relief agencies shut down by the government.
"Muslims, like all Americans, support policies that result in genuine increases in security. Unfortunately, many of the government actions prompted by 9-11, particularly those based on ethnic and religious
profiling or stereotypes, merely create a false sense of security and preclude effective initiatives," said CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad.
"Now is the time for the judiciary to step in and reaffirm the constitutionally-protected rights that all Americans hold dear," said Awad. Awad added that Muslims were among the victims of the September 11 attacks, they died rescuing other victims and they died in the anti-Muslim hysteria that followed the attacks.
CAIR issued its first civil rights report, called "A Rush to Judgment," within a month of the 1995 attack on the Murrah Federal Building. There are an estimated seven million Muslims in the United States.
Report on American Muslim civil rights to be released
On Tuesday, April 30, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Washington-based Islamic advocacy group, will hold a news conference in the nation's capital to release its seventh annual report on
the status of Muslim civil rights in the United States, titled "Stereotypes and Civil Liberties."
The report, the only national study of its kind, details incidents and experiences of anti-Muslim violence, stereotyping, discrimination, and harassment during the past year. It also outlines the Islamophobic backlash
that occurred following the September 11 terrorist attacks and examines the impact anti-terrorism policies prompted by the attacks have had on American Muslim civil liberties.
Policies examined by the report include passenger profiling, post-9/11 detentions, the closure of Muslim relief organizations, the use of secret evidence, so-called "voluntary" interviews of legal visa-holders, and the recent raids on Muslim homes and institutions in Virginia and Georgia.
"There is a growing sense of apprehension in the Islamic community about what are viewed as unconstitutional policies targeting ordinary Muslims. American Muslims have been thrust to the forefront of the civil rights movement in this country," said CAIR Research Director Dr. Mohamed Nimer.
CAIR began documenting anti-Muslim incidents following the 1995 attack on the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. There are an estimated 7 million Muslims in this country and some 1.2 billion worldwide.
Tuesday, April 30, 2002, 10:30 a.m. (Eastern)
CAIR's Capitol Hill Headquarters
453 New Jersey Avenue, S.E.
Washington, D.C. 20003
Payment, apology for store incident
Two Muslim women detained after being accused of stealing merchandise have received an apology and a payment from a clothing store in a Meriden mall.
May Department Stores Co., the parent of the Lord & Taylor outlet in the Westfield Shoppingtown mall, agreed to apologize and offer a cash settlement. "Settlements of $3,700 were reached with two customers who claimed they were falsely arrested and accused of shoplifting," May Co. officials said in a prepared statement.
The women filed a discrimination complaint after they were detained, but never charged with a crime in the September 2000 incident.
The two shoppers, who were dressed in traditional Islamic garb, were stopped as they left a fitting room, according to Hodan Hassan, a spokeswoman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which represents
A store security guard checked their merchandise and sales receipts and determined they had taken nothing.
However, another guard insisted they were guilty of shoplifting and tried to remove the head coverings that the Islamic faith requires of all women believers, said Hassan.
"This happened in front of many people and it was very embarrassing for the two women," Hassan said.
Meriden police officers arrived a short time later and the women were allowed to go. No charges were filed, Hassan added.
Department store chain settles Muslim discrimination complaint
A national department store chain has settled a discrimination complaint by two Muslim shoppers in Connecticut who say they were falsely accused of shoplifting because of their Islamic attire.
May Department Stores Company, the parent company of the Meriden, Conn., Lord & Taylor store in which the incident took place, reached the settlement with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Washington-based Islamic advocacy group. That settlement includes an apology and monetary compensation.
In September 2000, the two female shoppers were accused of shoplifting after exiting a ladies' fitting room. The Muslim women said that even after store security realized they had not stolen any merchandise, a security guard continued to accuse them of theft and attempted to remove the religiously-mandated headscarf of one of the women.
"Although many companies have clear non-discrimination guidelines, the real test for any policy comes when an incident such as this takes place. May Department Stores passed that test by demonstrating that they value Muslim customers," said CAIR Civil Rights Manager Joshua Salaam.
The May Department Stores Company currently operates 436 department stores
in 44 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.
Israel rally seeks to "spin" brutal occupation say Muslims
A Washington-based Islamic advocacy group said today this afternoon's rally in support of Israel on Capitol Hill is a desperate attempt to put positive spin on that state's brutal occupation of another people and to distract attention from recent atrocities committed by Israeli forces in the Occupied Territories.
A statement by Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), read in part: (Awad and other CAIR representatives are available for interviews on this issue.)
"Those who offer blind support for Israel's brutal policies do a disservice to our nation's interests worldwide and violate the values of freedom and justice that all Americans hold dear. No amount of public relations 'spin' will convince ordinary Americans that complicity in Israel's denial of Palestinian rights is anything but a strategic liability that serves to isolate the United States and harm the ongoing war on terrorism. In fact, a
recent survey indicated that 60 percent of Americans believe the United States should cut off or reduce aid to Israel if it refuses to heed President Bush's call for withdrawal of Israeli troops from Palestinian territories. (Time/CNN Poll, 4/12/2002)
"Rally organizers claim they are standing up for 'democratic values,' yet would deny Palestinians the right to choose their leaders. They call for an end to incitement and hate-filled rhetoric, while at the same time
demonizing an entire culture and faith in a vain attempt to avoid discussion of the real source of the conflict, the occupation. They ask others to condemn attacks on civilians, but ignore or even deny atrocities
committed by Israeli forces in places like Jenin and Nablus.
"Just today, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights condemned Israel for 'mass killings' of Palestinians. There is no moral equivalence between the war on terrorism and Israel's unjust and ultimately self-defeating war on Palestinian Muslims and Christians."
Awad reiterated Muslim condemnation of terrorism and support for President Bush's demand that Israel withdraw from the cities it has invaded, end settlement activity and cease its "daily humiliation" of Palestinian Muslims and Christians. He also said that spontaneous rallies in support of Palestinian rights drew hundreds of thousands worldwide.
U.S. Muslims say "War Crimes" committed in Jenin
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) today condemned what it called "war crimes" by Israeli occupation forces in the Palestinian refugee camp in Jenin. According to media reports, the Israelis are preparing to raze the camp using bulldozers. The Washington-based Islamic advocacy group asked that President Bush stop the destruction of Jenin in order to prevent civilian deaths and to keep evidence of atrocities from being destroyed.
CNN's Rula Amin reported this morning: "…bulldozers now are knocking down houses there. And we have been hearing earlier in the day confirmed by units of officers in the field that the residents were asked through the loudspeakers by the Israeli army to leave their houses and to gather in locations on the outskirts of the camp. There is a lot of concern among the residents that what's happening is that Israeli bulldozers are bulldozing the houses. They are flattening the camp."
The French news agency Agence France Presse (AFP) reports that the Israeli army expelled some 800 women and children from the Jenin refugee camp on Wednesday. AFP quoted UNICEF officials who said, "The women and children were forced out on the streets of Jenin, where they have no protection, food or clothing." The Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights and the Environment cites eyewitness reports that Israeli forces are now digging what may be mass graves in the camp. Israel is refusing to allow aid groups or the media into Jenin.
Even Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres termed the army's actions in Jenin a "massacre."
"These war crimes, carried out using American-taxpayer-funded weapons, are being driven by blood lust and a thirst for revenge. We call on President Bush to stop this state-sponsored terror against innocent Palestinian civilians," said CAIR Board Chairman Omar Ahmad.
Ahmad added that Israel's actions recall the destruction of more than 400 Palestinian towns and villages since 1948 and the 1982 massacre at the Sabra and Shatila Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon. He reiterated Muslim support for President Bush's demand that Israel withdraw from the cities it has invaded, end settlement activity and cease its daily humiliation of Palestinian Muslims and Christians.