The Condition of Arab Americans Post 9/11
Washington, D.C., Nov. 20 — Following the appalling attacks on New York and Washington, D.C. on Sept. 11, the Arab-American community experienced an unprecedented backlash in the form of hate crimes, various forms of discrimination, and serious civil liberties concerns. This fact sheet from the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) is intended to outline in the broadest terms the experiences and concerns of the Arab-American community during the past 9 weeks.
• ADC has confirmed 520 violent incidents directed against Arab Americans, or those perceived to be such, since Sept. 11. These are defined as acts of physical violence or direct threats of specific acts of violence. These incidents range from simple assault and battery, to arson, aggravated assault, and at least 6 murders. These acts have been random, spontaneous, and without geographical concentration. Reports have been declining in recent weeks.
• Airline Racism – ADC has confirmed 27 cases in which persons perceived to be Arab have been expelled from aircraft after or during boarding on the grounds that passengers or crew do not like the way they look. The Department of Transportation has affirmed that this is “not only immoral but illegal.” ADC continues to receive such cases.
• Employment Discrimination – ADC has received several hundred cases of employment discrimination against Arab Americans since Sept. 11, including numerous terminations.
• Law Enforcement Profiling – ADC has received numerous cases involving Arab Americans being searched and questioned by police for no apparent reason.
• Tensions in Schools – ADC is aware of significant tensions in schools in some parts of the country where Arab American students have had problems with other students, and in a few cases teachers and administrators as well.
Civil Liberties Concerns:
Serious concerns about civil liberties in the United States, especially for Arab Americans and immigrants from the Arab and Muslim worlds, have been raised by the USA Patriot Act, a number of new Administration policies, and aspects of the investigation into the crimes of Sept. 11.
With regard to the USA Patriot Act, there are three principle areas of concern:
• The Act provides the government with sweeping new powers to detain non-citizens indefinitely with little or no process at the discretion of the Attorney General.
• The law also permits the government to conduct searches, seizures and surveillance with reduced standards of cause and levels of judicial review, although these elements will expire in four years unless re-approved by Congress.
• The law contains elements that could be construed as embodying guilt by association, in effect criminalizing many kinds of otherwise lawful contacts with groups that engage in any form of politically motivated violence, sabotage or vandalism.
These provisions of the USA Patriot Act raise serious concerns regarding civil rights and liberties, especially as regards due process, and undermine the separation of powers and system of checks and balances between the branches of the Federal Government. The Act is only part of an increasingly alarming series of measures that could lay the groundwork for an all-out assault on civil liberties in the United States. Others include:
• A presidential directive allowing the government to try non-citizens accused of terrorism-related charges in military tribunals rather than civilian courts, bypassing all legal and constitution rights.
• Rules allowing the government to eavesdrop on attorney-client communications for certain detainees, rendering assistance of counsel ineffective and interfering with a suspect’s ability to mount an effective defense.
• A plan for authorities to interview 5,000 young Arab men based solely on their gender, age, national origin and time of entry into the United States. This smacks of racial profiling.
• Procedures for increased scrutiny of visa applications based on gender, age and national origin, also aimed at young Arab men. These last two measures suggest that the government is stigmatizing young Arab men as potentially dangerous by definition.
• The government is attempting to use foreign student advisors in colleges and universities to investigate international students, and turn these advisors into arm of law enforcement.
• ADC considers the government’s refusal to cooperate with a Freedom of Information Act request from the ACLU, ADC and 20 other organizations, for the basic facts about the ongoing investigation into the Sept. 11 attacks, the largest criminal investigation in U.S. history, to be part of this pattern. ADC and the other organizations making the request are appealing the government’s refusal to provide this information.
These serious civil liberties concerns should be alarming to all Americans, but there can be little doubt that it is the Arab-American and Muslim communities who are facing the gravest threats to their rights and that these communities will bear the brunt of any major diminution of civil liberties in the United States. ADC has received a number of complaints regarding the investigation, involving arbitrary and extended detention, denial of counsel and prisoners being held incommunicado.