A report by a leading Islamic lobby group accuses the U.S. Justice Department of targeting Arabs and Muslims amid a rise in “Islamophobic” rhetoric, violence, discrimination and harassment in the United States.
The Washington, D.C.-based Council on American-Islamic Relations said “the Department of Justice has continued to take actions in the name of combating terrorism, when in fact they have targeted broadly Arabs and Muslims in this country.”
The report released today, titled “Guilt by Association,” commended the Bush administration for reaching out to Muslims in the days after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, but the report said “since that initial period of support a number of government policies have singled out Muslim individuals and organizations.”
That charge is unfounded, Justice Department spokesman Jorge Martinez told WorldNetDaily.
“We have never used race or religion as a criterion, and to say that is irresponsible by people who don’t understand, or who don’t have access to the intelligence criteria we use,” he said.
Martinez emphasized that “in the days after Sept. 11, it became clear to the U.S. government that we had to radically improve our border control and security.”
“The bottom line is we are doing everything we can within the boundaries of the Constitution to protect the American people,” he said.
Mohamed Nimer, CAIR’s research director, contended a government approach of “guilt by association” has “created a sense of siege in the American Muslim community.”
“Along with an increase in the number of bias-related incidents and experiences, we have also witnessed the negative results produced by government policies that target ordinary Americans based on religion, ethnicity or national origin,” he said.
Martinez insisted the opposite is true.
He argued the DOJ has opened 500 cases of alleged incidents of “backlash crimes” and has made 13 federal prosecutions, with a 100 percent conviction rate, against people who harmed individuals who appeared to be Middle Eastern or Muslim.
That includes, he pointed out, threats against James Zogby of the Arab American Institute, which led to a conviction.
“To throw out charges of such a serious nature without substantiating facts is irresponsible,” he said.
CAIR cited among its examples the Sept. 11 probe in 2002 that required special registration for students and visitors from Muslim-majority countries and the cases brought against three U.S.-based Muslim charities.
Martinez, noting visitors from 162 countries were required to register, said the department’s actions were based not on race or religion but on intelligence data.
“All these measures are based on intelligence-based criteria that tells us about the terrorist threat to the national security of this country,” he said.
Last month, a federal appeals court ruled the Treasury Department had “ample” evidence to shut down Texas-based Holy Land Foundation, which is accused of funding the Hamas terrorist organization.
CAIR itself has been linked to Hamas. The group is a spin-off of the Islamic Association For Palestine, or IAF, identified as a “front group” for Hamas, according to two former heads of the FBI’s counterterrorism section. Former chief Oliver Revell has called the IAF “a front organization for Hamas that engages in propaganda for Islamic militants.”
The probe against the Holy Land Foundation actually began before Sept. 11, 2001.
In March 1996, then-U.S. Rep. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., called for a federal investigation into allegations of Holy Land’s financial ties with Hamas. At that time, Schumer, now a U.S. senator, also sponsored legislation to outlaw domestic fund raising for foreign terrorist organizations.
In December, a three-judge panel of the 7th U.S. Court of Appeals ruled the Treasury Department had appropriately moved against Illinois-based Global Relief Foundation. The Syrian-born director of another Illinois-based charity that has been shut down, Benevolence International Foundation, pleaded guilty in February to racketeering charges but did not admit any connection to Osama bin Laden or al-Qaida.
On the increase?
CAIR said it has seen a 15 percent rise in reports of discrimination over the past year, counting 602 incidents turned in to its office. It began documenting anti-Muslim incidents following the 1995 attack on the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.
In Florida last year, for example, CAIR said, a man rammed his truck into the Islamic Center of Tallahassee and in Massachusetts, a school bus belonging to the Islamic Academy of Peace was torched.
The Muslim group said when compared to the year preceding Sept. 11, this year’s reports show a 64 percent increase.
Martinez said, on the contrary, he sees an improving situation, based on reported “backlash” incidents.
“I think you saw a spike in these types of cases post-Sept. 11, but that spike has gone down dramatically,” he said. “It doesn’t mean it won’t happen again, but I can assure you, the Department of Justice is 100-percent committed to seeking to investigation and prosecute any forms of discrimination.”
Some of those incidents in 2002, CAIR said, were of “police profiling” of Muslims who were questioned going about their daily activities, such as walking on public roads. Along with religious and ethnic profiling, the group said, workplace discrimination was one of the largest categories of complaints.
“The fallout from September 11 continues to impact Muslim daily life, whether at schools, in the workplace or in general public encounters,” CAIR said in a summary of its report. “Mistreatment at the hand of federal government personnel continues to be reported in substantial numbers. FBI agents and other local law enforcement authorities have sometimes responded to hearsay reports, and conducted questionable raids and interrogations.”
CAIR said today’s report outlines “the increase in Islamophobic rhetoric by evangelical leaders such as Franklin Graham, Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson.”
Earlier this year, a local CAIR leader used the report of a mob attack in Yorba Linda, Calif., to tie such rhetoric to violence but did not explain how the connection was made.
In the Feb. 22 incident, 20 young assailants with knives and baseball bats brutally beat an 18-year-old Arab man as they shouted obscenities and religious epithets.
“We believe this recent increase in attacks on American Muslims is a direct result of the barrage of pro-war and anti-Islam rhetoric coming from right-wing and evangelical leaders,” said Hussam Ayloush, director of CAIR’s Los Angeles chapter.
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