US Justice Department Joins Arab American Campaign to Combat Hate Crimes

Published September 14th, 2001 - 02:00 GMT

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 Thursday 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, said a press release by the ADC. 

More attacks are expected during and after Muslim Friday prayers in the US, but the community leaders has urged the Muslims not to cancel the sermons, and contacted local police to ensure protection for the worshippers.  

In response the Justice Department issued a statement warning that such attacks are against the law and that the concerned authorities would take action against perpetrators.  

The press release said that the 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 the 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 the 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." 



Meanwhile, AFP said that Arab countries stepped up calls for Washington on Thursday not to launch an anti-Arab crusade after the terror attacks in the United States, for which early suspicions point at Islamic militants. 

The Palestinian leadership, meanwhile, has been scrambling to limit the damage from scenes of jubilation among some Palestinians on the very day the world was stunned by the suicide plane bombings in New York and Washington. 

Lebanon's Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, who has good relations with the United States, said Washington had every right to seek revenge against the perpetrators for the attacks that claimed thousands of innocent lives. 

But he stressed that any retaliation should hit the right targets. 

"If the evidence is clear, then everybody will support (US military action) because nobody can accept what happened Tuesday," he said in an interview on CNN television. 

In Egypt, another friend of the United States, Foreign Minister Ahmad Maher also cautioned the United States against jumping the gun. 

"We cannot anticipate the results of the investigation and make accusations without proof," Maher told reporters. "We must wait for the results of the inquiry and punish the authors of the attacks." 

Syria reasserted its own line, drawing a distinction between terrorism and "legitimate Arab resistance" against Israeli occupation. 

"We as Arabs, Muslims and Christians, are not terrorists," the Damascus government paper Ath-Thawra said. "It is Zionism and Zionist organisations in the western world who are making these false accusations against us." 

The official media warned that a global war on terrorism must not be waged at the expense of the Arabs. 

President Bashar al-Assad, in a message of condolences, called for "world cooperation to eradicate terrorism in all its forms and protect the most basic human rights, including the right to live in peace and security." 

In official Syrian-speak, "terrorism in all its forms" includes Israel's repression in the Palestinian territories. 

And Arab League chief Amr Moussa said he has asked US Secretary of Sate Colin Powell to ensure no harm comes to Arabs and Muslims living in the United States. 

Mussa also asked Powell not to jump to conclusions in a way that could lead to "dangerous repercussions." 

Palestinian President Yasser Arafat gave blood on Tuesday for victims of the tragedy in the United States and has called for a minute's silence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. 

But Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on Wednesday stepped up the verbal offensive against his foe in the year-old Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation that has claimed more than 800 lives. 

"Everyone has their bin Laden ... and ours is called Yasser Arafat," he told Powell in a telephone call, referring to suspected Arab terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden who is the No. 1 suspect for the US attacks – 

© 2001 Al Bawaba (

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