Muslim Leaders Invited to State Department Discussion

By Curtiss, Richard | Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, September 3, 1999 | Go to article overview
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Muslim Leaders Invited to State Department Discussion


Curtiss, Richard, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs


MUSLIM LEADERS INVITED TO STATE DEPARTMENT DISCUSSION

Ambassador at Large for Religious Freedom Robert A. Seiple chaired a June 22 meeting at the Department of State between American Muslim leaders and representatives of several U.S. government agencies to discuss issues concerned with Muslim civil rights.

Muslim groups represented were the American Muslim Alliance (AMA), American Muslim Council (AMC), the Council for American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) -- all represented in the American Muslim Political Coordination Council -- American Muslims for Jerusalem, the Islamic Institute, the North American Council for Muslim Women (NACMW), the Islamic Supreme Council of America, and others including Arab-American groups with Muslim members.

Government officials included Harold Hongju Koh, assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor, and representatives of the Department of Justice, the White House and the Federal Aviation Administration.

CAIR executive director Nihad Awad expressed concern about the use of secret evidence by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) in deportation hearings, eying it "unconscionable that those facing deportation are not allowed to see the evidence that is being used against them." Calling it "a clear violation of the Constitution and of basic human rights," Awad said "the Muslim community feels that it is under siege." He added that "people are afraid to go to mosques that are under surveillance" and charged that "many people have been approached by the FBI and asked to work with them to monitor what goes on in those mosques."

The CAIR director stated that, "The Clinton administration at the political level has been very open to the Muslim community. But at a lower level the opposite has been the case. Frankly, we believe that the law enforcement operations nave become an extension of the pro-Israel community," Awad said.

Former American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) legal director Houeida Saad, now an attorney in private practice, provided several examples of discriminatory treatment of Muslims, both American citizens and aliens, by federal authorities. Other Muslim leaders attending the meeting suggested that airport security profiling targets Muslim and Arab Americans. In response, a government representative said that "the Department of Justice civil rights division has reviewed all aspects of security profiling and is convinced that no such [religious and ethnic] profiling exists. "That said," the representative added, "all ethnic groups are going to be affected. Be advised that the people who are selected for additional security are selected quite at random."

Khaled Suffuri of the Islamic Institute and Abdurahman Alamoudi of the American Muslim Foundation took issue with the statement, citing apparent evidence of specific ethnic or religious profiling. Hesham Reda of MPAC said that to date secret evidence has been used almost exclusively against Arabs and Muslims.

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