American Muslim & Arab Organizations Issue Statement on Homeland Security Committee Report
AMERICAN MUSLIM & ARAB-AMERICAN ORGANIZATIONS: SENATE HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE REPORT LACKS SUBSTANTIVE ANALYSIS, CONTRADICTS OWN RECOMMENDATIONS
Muslim Advocates, MPAC, CAIR and ADC Issue Joint Letter Expressing Strong Reservations on Latest Government Report on “Homegrown Terrorism” and Request Meeting with Committee
(Washington, DC - 5/14/08) - Four of the country’s leading Arab-American and Muslim-American advocacy organizations today issued a rare joint letter expressing strong reservations about a recently released Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee report on “homegrown terrorism.” The report, issued jointly by Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and ranking member Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), claims that the threat posed by violent extremists now comes “increasingly from within” the U.S.
The report heavily relied upon a widely criticized and deeply flawed New York Police Department study on domestic radicalization that claimed that typical “signatures” of radicalization include wearing traditional clothing, growing a beard, or giving up cigarettes, drinking, and gambling. The advocacy groups also expressed dismay with the fact that the Committee, while citing the value of increasing outreach to American Muslim and Arab-American communities, heard testimony from only one witness from the American Muslim community.
“We agree with the testimony of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff that the best defense against any domestic threat is to reach out to all Americans, including American Muslims, and to honor our nation’s guarantee of equality for all regardless of faith or ethnic background,” said Farhana Khera, executive director of Muslim Advocates. “Unfortunately, the Committee’s report undermines its own recommendations. While it appropriately observes the value of outreach and engagement with American Muslims as vital to securing the freedom and safety of our nation, it undermines this very aim by falsely characterizing Muslims in America as susceptible to radicalization.’”
The letter calls for continued dialogue between the government and groups representing the American Muslim and Arab-American communities. It specifically urges the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee to invite representatives of the American Muslim community to future hearings about that community.
“The Committee’s report only reaffirms the need for American Muslims to continue engaging with our government as we strive to ensure the safety and security of all Americans,” said Safiya Ghori, government relations director for the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC). “So far, any potential terrorist threat involving Muslims has failed to materialize here in the United States due in large part to the deep cultural and societal integration of Muslims in America. We hope that this report doesn’t contribute to an atmosphere of mistrust, which would prove counterproductive to the goal of engaging the American Muslim community in the fight against terror.”
The letter also drew sharp contrasts between integration and radicalization levels in the U.S. as opposed to Europe.
“Numerous terrorism experts have observed that the U.S. simply does not have the ‘domestic radicalization’ problem that we’ve seen in the United Kingdom and other parts of Europe,” said Corey Saylor, national legislative director with the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR). “Inaccurately labeling American Muslims as a suspect class, as this report comes very close to doing, will do nothing to aid our collective security. We really expected more in the form of recommendations from this committee.”
The signatories expressed deep concern with the Committee’s decision to base their analysis, in part, on a controversial and widely disputed report on “domestic radicalization” from the New York Police Department.
“Perhaps most disturbing is the fact that the report relies upon a now-discredited 2007 report by the New York Police Department that recommends particular scrutiny of American Muslims and Arab-Americans,” said Kareem Shora, executive director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC). “The N.Y.P.D. report, and its shoddy analysis, are widely regarded as unreliable by counter-terrorism experts and federal law enforcement officials who have privately rejected the report’s contents and methodology. We’re stunned that the Committee based its own conclusions on so flawed a study.”
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Muslim Advocates promotes equality, liberty, and justice for all through legal advocacy, policy engagement, and civic education, and by serving as a legal resource to promote the full and meaningful participation of Muslims in American public life.
Founded in 1988, the Muslim Public Affairs Council is an American institution which informs and shapes public opinion and policy by serving as a trusted resource to decision makers in government, media and policy institutions. MPAC is also committed to developing leaders with the purpose of enhancing the political and civic participation of Muslim Americans.
CAIR, America’s largest Islamic civil liberties group, has 35 offices and chapters nationwide and in Canada. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.
The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), which is non sectarian and non partisan, is the largest Arab-American civil rights organization in the United States. It was founded in 1980, by former Senator James Abourezk to protect the civil rights of people of Arab descent in the United States and to promote the cultural heritage of the Arabs. ADC has 38 chapters nationwide with chapters in every major city in the country, and members in all 50 states.