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USCCR Reaffirms Commitment to Arab-American, Muslim Civil Rights

Today the United States Commission on Civil Rights (USCCR) issued the following statement reaffirming its commitment to protecting the rights of Arab Americans and Muslims. The statement comes in the wake of comments at a public hearing by Commissioner Peter Kirsanow which raised the possibility of the internment of Arab Americans in the event of future terrorist acts. ADC and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR) have asked President Bush to remove him from his position on the USCCR. ADC‘s action alert can be read online at https://www.adc.org/index.php?id=410.
ADC urges all its members and supporters to respond to the alert and ask the President to remove Peter Kirsanow from the USCCR.
ADC and LCCR‘s statement can also be read online at https://www.adc.org/index.php?id=406.
TEXT OF STATEMENT FROM USCCR:
Civil Rights Commission Reaffirms Commitment to Protecting Rights of Arab Americans and Muslims
The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights today strongly reiterated its commitment to protecting the rights of Arab Americans and Muslims. “Whatever views may have been expressed recently by any member of the Commission to the contrary, the agency has been in the forefront of demonstrating that combating terrorism should never become a war against Arab Americans or Muslims, or any group based on religion or national origin,” stated Commission Chairperson Mary Frances Berry.
“Maintaining a secure homeland does not justify discrimination against Arab Americans and others today, any more than World War II justified the internment of innocent Japanese Americans over a half century ago,” stated Chairperson Berry. “Although individual Commissioners are entitled to their own views, the Commission is charged with the vital mission of serving as a vigilant watchdog of the civil rights of all Americans.
Berry noted that the Commission convened its July meeting in Detroit to learn first hand from its Midwestern State Advisory Committees (SAC) about the post 9/11 civil rights problems faced by Arab Americans and Muslims in their respective states. The Commission was particularly eager to learn about developments in the Detroit area, home to the largest Arab American community in the United States. In this regard, the Commission and its SACs have launched many initiatives including the following:
*Established a dedicated complaint hotline immediately after 9/11 to receive calls from individuals who believed they were the victims of civil rights abuses as part of the backlash against individuals of Arab, Muslim and South Asian communities.
*Issued a directive at its September 2001 meeting requesting staff and state advisory committees to monitor and investigate hate crimes against Arab Americans and Muslims. The Commission also issued a statement calling upon the public to “resist the temptation to unfairly target the members of any ethnic or religious group.
*Created a dedicated website link to Commission and SAC reports and findings on post 9/11 civil rights issues relating to Arab Americans and Muslims.
*Conducted a briefing in October 2001 on post 9/11 issues such as civil rights and civil liberties challenges faced by various groups, particularly the Arab American community.
*Appearance by the Commission Chair in a nationally distributed public service announcement that urged tolerance; scores of broadcast and print media appearances also reiterated the importance of protecting the civil rights of Muslims and Arab Americans.
*The Illinois and Maryland/Virginia/Washington, D.C. advisory committees conducted public forums addressing the civil rights concerns of Arab Americans and Muslim communities. SACs in Alabama, California, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Wyoming sponsored similar public initiatives.
The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is an independent, bipartisan fact-
finding agency. Its members include Chairperson Mary Frances Berry, Vice Chairperson Cruz Reynoso and Commissioners Jennifer C. Braceras, Christopher Edley, Jr., Peter Kirsanow, Elsie M. Meeks and Abigail Thernstrom. Les Jin is Staff Director.