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CAIR study 2008: American Muslims remain target of civil rights abuse

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While the eyes of ordinary Americans were focused on the Capitol Hill to helplessly watch the unfolding drama of what many called "the Great Robbery at the Wall Street,"  the Council on American-Islamic Relations' (CAIR), a prominent national advocacy group published Wednesday its annual study on the civil rights violations of the seven-million strong American-Muslim Community.

The CAIR study affirms that, seven years after 9/11, the community remains target of workplace bias, discrimination, profiling and hate crime.

The CAIR study, called "Without Fear of Discrimination," enlists 2,652 incidents and experiences of anti-Muslim violence, discrimination and harassment in 2007 which is the highest number of civil rights cases ever recorded in the Washington-based group's report. There is a steady rise in civil rights violation cases over the last three years. In 2006, 2,467 were reported while in 2005, the number of such cases was 1,972. 

It is likely that significantly more such incidents occurred than are recorded with CAIR because of either lack of knowledge about reporting procedures or fear.

According to the study, discrimination in the workplace against those already employed increased by 18 percent, with 384 cases reported in 2006 and 452 cases reported in 2007. There was also a 34 percent increase in reports of discrimination against those seeking employment.

Tellingly, cases involving denial of religious accommodation in the workplace jumped eight percent. One of the most recent cases of religious accommodation for Muslim workers happens this month at JBS Swift & Co. meatpacking plants in Colorado and Nebraska. The company sacked more than 100 Muslim workers when they pressed for their breaks to coincide with sunset so they could pray.

Another case of discrimination, also this month, involved allegations of a new "English-only" policy for Somali Muslim workers at a Macy's department store in Minnesota. Eight Somali employees of Macy's were threatened with dismissal for speaking their native language at work. Federal and state laws prohibit employers from establishing English-only rules in the workplace. The Macy's workers say that's exactly what happened.

The CAIR study said that consistent with previous years, an individual's ethnicity/religion or a "Muslim name" remained the primary Islamic factors that triggered discrimination. These two factors are linked to 63 percent of the total cases reported to civil right group during the 2007 calendar year.

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Reports of passenger profiling jumped from 32 in 2006 to 141 in 2007, a 340 percent increase. In a typical "Flying While You are Muslim" incident a Minnesota Muslim was detained in November last by two U.S. Immigration and Customs officials and harassed by their supervisor as she re-entered the U.S. after a 10-day trip to a conference in Istanbul, Turkey.  She reported that as she passed through the customs area, she was questioned about her heritage, including questions about her parents' place of birth. The supervisor also asked if any items in her carry-on luggage had religious significance.

However, some categories in the CAIR report showed a decrease in the number of incidents of anti-Muslim hate crimes which went down by 19 percent. Incidents at schools or involving the police also decreased 31 percent and 42 percent respectively. Marked decreases in cases involving due process issues (45 percent), physical violence (24 percent), denials of service or access (48 percent), and verbal harassment (35 percent) were also recorded.

CAIR said the decrease in reports of hate crimes and reports of discrimination by police and in schools during 2007 allows "a note of cautious optimism." CAIR believes that "some government agencies appear to be benefiting from an emphasis on cultural proficiency for employees who may deal with Muslims."

Not surprisingly, the CAIR study contains a special section on "Anti-Muslim Remarks and Acts on the Presidential Campaign Trail."

The CAIR urged the elected representatives, public officials and candidates for elected offices should clearly condemn anti-Islam bias in our society. "Elected officials should also ensure that their respective parties similarly condemn such bias. Political strategists should avoid exploiting Islamophobic fears to gain votes."

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Last week, CAIR filed a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) over the distribution of some 28 million anti-Muslim DVDs in presidential election swing states. A shadowy non-profit group, the Clarion Fund, founded by Israeli-Canadian Rabbi Raphael Shore, paid millions of dollars to get the DVD out.

The CAIR called for legislation to ban racial, religious or ethnic profiling. "American Muslims and other people of conscience should advocate for legislation clearly prohibiting discriminatory practices like racial and religious profiling.  If clear policies are created and fair treatment is institutionalized through legislation, the community would hopefully experience less discrimination due to the criminal implications of discriminatory practices."

CAIR began documenting anti-Muslim incidents following the 1995 attack on the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

 

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Author and journalist. Author of Islamic Pakistan: Illusions & Reality; Islam in the Post-Cold War Era; Islam & Modernism; Islam & Muslims in the Post-9/11 America. Currently working as free lance journalist. Executive Editor of American (more...)
 

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