Justice Department Joins with Arab Americans to Combat Hate Crimes
Washington, D.C. — Leaders from the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) and the Arab American Institute (AAI) expressed concern over the more than 200 incidents of abuse directed against community members during a meeting today with Ralph Boyd, Assistant Attorney General and head of the Civil Rights Division. The incidents range from verbal threats and vicious emails to physical attacks and destruction of property.
In response Justice Department officials expressed their commitment to work with the Arab American community to combat discrimination against Arab and Muslim Americans. The meeting followed intensive efforts over the last 48 hours by community leaders to mobilize public figures to speak out against intolerance and bigotry directed against Arab Americans.
Shortly after today’s meeting, Attorney General John Ashcroft said, “Since Tuesday, the Justice Department has received reports of violence and threats of violence against Arab Americans and other Americans of Middle Eastern and South Asian descent. We must not descend to the level of those who perpetrated Tuesday’s violence by targeting individuals based on race, religion or national origin. Such reports of violence and threats are in direct opposition to the very principles and laws for which the United States of America stands, and such reports of violence and threats of violence will not be tolerated.”
In a letter presented to Mr. Boyd at today’s meeting, AAI & ADC asked Attorney General John Ashcroft to:
* Discourage acts of vengeance directed against Arab or Muslim Americans; * Meet with community leaders to discuss efforts to combat intolerance and discrimination; and * Conduct an outreach effort to encourage Arab Americans to report hate crime incidents.
The leaders also presented the Justice Department with a complete record of the threats and hate mail that had been received by their organizations over the last 48 hours. The Department of Justice’s investigative unit accepted those reports for further examination.
Mr. Boyd, who was joined at the meeting by members of the FBI, made it clear that the Department of Justice condemns attacks against Arab and Muslim Americans, and that it will investigate and prosecute hate crimes and harassment of these groups. He said that he did not want to see the tragedies in New York and Washington compounded by hate crimes directed against Arab and Muslim Americans.
DC Police Chief Charles Ramsey has pledged his full cooperation and provided police details for both AAI and ADC.
Earlier in the day, President George W. Bush set the tone by noting that, “…we must be mindful that as we … seek to win the war, that we treat Arab-Americans and Muslims with the respect they deserve.”
“The Arab American community welcomes President Bush’s statements and the efforts by the Justice Department. It is important that at this critical time when we are all mourning the loss of so many Americans, that our government has made it clear that Arab-Americans will be protected.” said AAI Chairman George Salem .
“The level of support we have received has been a great comfort at this time. The impact of the statements of the President, Attorney General and FBI make us feel more secure about the safety of our community in the coming days,” said ADC President Ziad Asali.
AAI President James Zogby noted, “While America has suffered an unimaginable blow and we are in the midst of a national tragedy, it is significant to note that we have been overwhelmed by the expressions of support. The Justice Department made it clear that they will protect our rights and the U.S. Senate has already passed a resolution denouncing discrimination against Arab Americans.”