Policy Conference Recap and Recommendations

Washington, DC | www.adc.org | September 9, 2011 – Yesterday ADC held its policy conference, 10 Years After 9/11, at the ADC Heritage Center. Speakers included Hon. John Conyers, White House Representative D. Paul Monteiro, ACLU Director Laura Murphy, EEOC General Counsel David Lopez, government officials from the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), as well as activists, and academic experts. The conference was at capacity, with audience members of various professions and backgrounds engaging the speakers in dialogue on issues of concern throughout the day. 

At the start of the conference, ADC released its newest publication, “Arab and Muslim Americans Civil Rights and Identity: A Selection of Scholarly Writings a Decade After 9/11.” The publication, marking ten years after 9/11, seeks to offer insight into the many dimensions of what Arabs and Muslims in America have faced throughout the past decade. It brings together scholars from around the country, who present the legal and social challenges with which members of these communities have been confronted. In particular, the writings explore how Arab and Muslim Americans were impacted in relation to their civil rights and civil liberties, as well as their image in the public eye and their own sense of identity. 

Panel discussions covered a number of areas, namely, counterterrorism and the damaging effects of racial profiling, the rise of employment discrimination in recent years, the vital importance of mobilizing and coalition building, the disturbing government practice of recruiting informants among the community and the surveillance of religious gatherings, as well as some of the progress made in government, such as the termination of the National Security Entry Exit Registration System (NSEERS) and increase in government dialogue with the community, and others.

The perceived dichotomy between equal respect for civil rights and liberties and national security interests was reaffirmed to be completely false, and the need to ensure that, in protecting itself, America does not lose the very principles upon which it is based was reiterated.

As the day progressed and the conversations developed, speakers and participants alike found certain themes and truths emerging from the analysis shared. Throughout the afternoon policy recommendations focusing on moving the community forward were made.  These recommendations include:

  • Building Coalitions:  One of the major underlying themes of the conference was the importance of coalition building. Rep. John Conyers urged the Arab American community to strengthen relationships with other minority communities, such as the African-American community and the Hispanic American community. Though coalition efforts have brought the community several strides forward in being able to address issues of mutual concern, more needs to be done for the community to be truly mobilized, and consequently have an even stronger voice through representative organizations. Moving forward, ADC will focus efforts on opening more avenues of dialogue and bolstering these relationships.

  • Engaging Government Agencies: Open communication between the community and government is essential, but cooperation with law enforcement must also go hand in hand with holding government accountable for its policies and actions. Furthermore, the community expects concrete changes and abolishment of post 9/11 policies and practices still impacting the community, such as data mapping, adverse immigration policies, racial profiling, and insidious surveillance practices. Finally, without persistent monitoring of government actions and policies and assertive stances on the equal rights of members of the community, civil rights and liberties violations are all too likely to take place under the pretext of national security interests.

  • Defining our Narrative: A dynamic conversation about what it means to be American highlighted the fact that being American and being Arab are not mutually exclusive. The time has come for the Arab American community to define their own narrative and not succumb to the “model minority” paradigm, in which they feel obliged to continuously assert their patriotism and American identity, in an effort to be accepted in their own country. The Arab American culture and experience is a legitimate part of the mosaic that makes up America. Arab Americans need to recognize this and be proud of their identity and understand that they are “Fully Arab and Truly American.”

  • Mobilizing from Within: The Arab American community has matured and has a deeper understanding of civic engagement and the American political system. The Arab American community must unite and combine resources and efforts to increase their capacity to strengthen the community’s voice in the political sphere.  In addition the time has come for the community to be engaged in issues and matters impacting their lives as Americans.  It is vital that the Arab American community also addresses issues outside the realm of national security and post 9/11-matters, such as the economy, education, and healthc