U.S. to Expand Rules Limiting Use of Profiling by Federal Agents

January 16, 2014

 

The Justice Department will significantly expand its definition of racial profiling to prohibit federal agents from considering religion, national origin, gender and sexual orientation in their investigations, a government official said Wednesday.

The move addresses a decade of criticism from civil rights groups that say federal authorities have in particular singled out Muslims in counterterrorism investigations and Latinos for immigration investigations.

The Bush administration banned profiling in 2003, but with two caveats: It did not apply to national security cases, and it covered only race, not religion, ancestry or other factors.
Since taking office, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. has been under pressure from Democrats in Congress to eliminate those provisions. “These exceptions are a license to profile American Muslims and Hispanic-Americans,” Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, said in 2012.

It is not clear whether Mr. Holder also intends to make the rules apply to national security investigations, which would further respond to complaints from Muslim groups.

“Adding religion and national origin is huge,” said Linda Sarsour, advocacy director for the National Network for Arab American Communities. “But if they don’t close the national security loophole, then it’s really irrelevant.” Ms. Sarsour said she also hoped that Mr. Holder would declare that surveillance, not just traffic stops and arrests, was prohibited based on religion.

While the rules directly control only federal law enforcement activities, their indirect effect is much broader, said Fahd Ahmed, the legal director of the Queens-based South Asian immigrant advocacy group Desis Rising Up and Moving. For instance, he said, immigration bills in Congress have copied the Justice Department profiling language. And civil rights groups can use the rules to pressure state and local agencies to change their policies. “Federal guidelines definitely have an impact,” Mr. Ahmed said. “Local organizers can say, ‘These policies are not in line with what’s coming from the federal level.’ ”
NY Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/16/us/politics/us-to-expand-rules-limiting-use-of-profiling-by-federal-agents.html?_r=0

Spying on Muslims

The New York City Police Department’s indefensible program of spying on law-abiding Muslims in their neighborhoods and houses of worship has turned out to be even more aggressive than earlier reports had shown.

According to a recent Associated Press report by Adam Goldman and Matt Apuzzo, the surveillance operation designated at least a dozen mosques as terrorist organizations. The designation was used to justify open-ended “terrorism enterprise investigations,” circumventing court-imposed limitations on police investigations of constitutionally protected activities. The report is based largely on leaked police documents and interviews; though most of the documents date back a few years, recent court filings suggest such activities are continuing.

 

In a move reminiscent of discredited police efforts in the 1960s and 1970s to spy on black activists and antiwar protesters, attempts were made to plant informants on the boards of mosques and a prominent Arab-American group in Brooklyn that helps new immigrants.

 

Jets’ Aboushi Faces Aspersions for Being Palestinian

On the night of June 29, two months after he was drafted by the Jets, Oday Aboushi stood before more than 700 people at the El Bireh Society convention in Arlington, Va., and discussed his journey to the N.F.L.

Aboushi shared what it was like growing up in Brooklyn and Staten Island as one of 10 children. He spoke about graduating from the University of Virginia in three and a half years. He discussed his 2009 visit to refugee camps in the West Bank, how that trip inspired him even more to succeed and to represent his community.

“It was the classic American success story,” said Sarab Al-Jijakli, the president of the Network of Arab-American Professionals, who was in the audience that night.

Aboushi’s appearance at the convention, a three-day gathering of Palestinian-Americans that was described by another attendee as a “cultural networking event,” produced an outcry from some online who charged Aboushi with being a Muslim extremist. An article on the Web site FrontPage Mag suggested that he had terrorist ties. A column on Yahoo Sports, since removed, said he held anti-Semitic views. An employee of MLB.com on Twitter compared Aboushi to Aaron Hernandez, the former New England Patriots tight end charged with murder, before later apologizing.

Waves of support for Aboushi started rolling in on Thursday, and on Friday, the Anti-Defamation League released a statement condemning the attacks on his character and applauding him for taking pride in his culture. The Jets also backed Aboushi, an offensive lineman they selected in the fifth round.

In a statement, Aboushi said he was upset that his reputation had been tarnished by people who did not know him, but that he was proud of his Palestinian heritage and to have been born and raised in the United States.

McDonald’s drops halal food from U.S. menu

DETROIT — There have been only two McDonald’s restaurants in the U.S. that have offered halal food. Both were in east Dearborn, Mich., which has a sizable population of Arab-American Muslims.

But after a contentious lawsuit that accused the restaurant chain of selling non-halal items advertised as halal, McDonald’s has yanked its Halal Chicken McNuggets and Halal McChicken sandwiches off the menu. The move brings to an end a unique product that made the two McDonald’s restaurants popular with Muslims.

“Those items have been discontinued as a result of our continued efforts to focus on our national core menu,” a spokesman for McDonald’s said Friday.

At one of the two restaurants, the Ford Road location, a sign in Arabic and English on its drive-through menu informs customers that halal items are no longer available. The decision to discontinue the products after a 12-year run drew a mixed reaction in Dearborn: Some were disappointed, while others said it was a good move because McDonald’s had problems before with selling halal food.

The removal of the halal items, which was done last month, comes after a lawsuit filed in 2011 alleging that the fast-food restaurant was selling non-halal chicken it claimed was halal. Halal is the Muslim equivalent of kosher, requiring that meat be prepared according to Islamic guidelines, such as reciting a prayer while the animal is cut. In some cases, employees at the Ford Road location were mistakenly giving non-halal products to customers who asked for halal ones.

First VW, Now Coke: Soda Company’s Super Bowl Ad Being Called Racist By Arab-American Groups

arab_cokeSuper Bowl advertisers have been releasing their commercials earlier and earlier, mostly in an attempt to build social media buzz before the big game. But as advertisers this year are learning, with this new opportunity comes a great deal of risk.

Coca-Cola is running into similar charges of using racial stereotypes from Arab-American groups who are objecting to that company’s use of an Arab man with camels.

But the Arab-American objections to the ad go beyond that simple cliché. In the ad, three groups set off in a race towards a huge bottle of Coke. There is even an interactive element for viewers, who can vote on whether they want the cowboys, bikers or showgirls to reach the bottle first. They cannot, however vote for the Arab man.

Imam Ali Siddiqui, president of the Muslim Institute for Interfaith Studies told NBC News, “The Coke commercial for the Super Ball is racist, portraying Arabs as backward and foolish Camel Jockeys, and they have no chance to win in the world.”

The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee is also up in arms. “What message is Coke sending with this?” asked Abed Ayoub, the group’s director of legal and policy affairs. “By not including the Arab in the race, it is clear that the Arab is held to a different standard when compared to the other characters in the commercial.”

Ayoub is intending to reach out to CBS and Coke about changing the ad, which already has close to 1 million views on YouTube and an elaborate, interactive website. “I want to know why this happened and how can we fix this if possible before Sunday,”

 

A century on, Arabs in US struggle to separate myth from truth, tell their family stories

I am a third-generation Arab-American, and I am on a journey to learn more about the journey of my “jiddo,” the Arabic word for grandfather. I am sorting through family stories, passed down, that have a way of changing in the retelling. Folk tales are compelling, but I am trying to anchor my story to facts before the channels to history close entirely, in hopes they might offer insight about how I got here.

 

My quest mirrors those of so many Arab-Americans. They’re looking back and trying to unearth their stories, separating myth from truth and — just as important — hoping to show their neighbors that, in the story of America, they are not a “them” but an “us.”

 

Maybe the Titanic tale is true. It’s remotely possible, since Hussien Karoub came to the United States in the same year, 1912. My family hasn’t confirmed that through records, but by anecdotes like a radio interview from the early 1960s, when he said he came to Detroit in 1915 to make cars after spending three years making hats in Danbury, Conn.

 

For many Arabs, a version of the story is true. U.S.-bound Middle Easterners were on the Titanic and other ships traversing the Atlantic. In lower Manhattan, an already thriving Syrian community awaited and would be instrumental in identifying and memorializing the dead and helping survivors meet the new world.

 

Creator of new Muslim ‘Green Lantern’ super hero, brings some of his past to the comic page

DETROIT — When DC Comics decided to blow up its fabled universe and create a brave, diverse future, Geoff Johns drew from the past for a new character: his own background as an Arab-American.

The company’s chief creative officer and writer of the relaunched “Green Lantern” series dreamed up Simon Baz, DC’s most prominent Arab-American superhero and the first to wear a Green Lantern ring. The character and creator share Lebanese ancestry and hail from the Detroit area, which boasts one of the largest and oldest Arab communities in the United States.

“I thought a lot about it — I thought back to what was familiar to me,” Johns, 39, told The Associated Press by phone last week from Los Angeles, where he now lives. “This is such a personal story.”

Baz is not the first Arab or Muslim character to grace — or menace, as has historically been the case — the comic world. Marvel Comics has Dust, a young Afghan woman whose mutant ability to manipulate sand and dust has been part of the popular X-Men books. DC Comics in late 2010 introduced Nightrunner, a young Muslim hero of Algerian descent reared in Paris. He is part of the global network of crime fighters set up by Batman alter-ego Bruce Wayne.

New poll finds Americans evenly divided in views of Muslims

Americans are almost evenly divided in how they view Muslims, according to a survey released Thursday (Aug. 23) by the Arab American Institute in Washington.

But the online survey, which also gauged views on Mormons, Jews, Catholics, evangelicals, Buddhists and Hindus also found a striking generational gap and significant differences between political groups.

“The American Divide: How We View Arabs And Muslims,” found that 41 percent of Americans had unfavorable views of Muslims, compared to 40 percent who held favorable views.

That’s an improvement from 2010, when another Arab American Institute survey found that 55 percent of Americans viewed Muslims unfavorably, compared to 35 percent with favorable views. The latest poll surveyed 1,052 people between August 15-16.

Professor Jack Levin, co-director of the Center on Violence and Conflict at Northeastern University, attributed the spike in anti-Muslim sentiment in 2010 to protests against a proposed Islamic center near Ground Zero. “That effect has been fading over time,” Levin said.

The report, which had a margin of error of 3.1 percent, also found that 42 percent of Americans thought Muslims could do a good job in government, while 32 percent said they could not because their loyalty was suspect.

Nearly six in 10 Americans said they don’t know a Muslim compared to three in 10 who said they did, while the rest were unsure. People who knew Muslims were more likely to have favorable views of them.

Muslim Cab Drivers Claim Employer Barred Them From Praying

Eight Muslim cab drivers in Orlando, Fla., claim their employer prohibited them from praying during work hours, and even assaulted and fired one of them for doing so. Now they’re filing complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleging that they were discriminated against on the basis of their religion and national origin.

The eight Arab-American employees worked for Star Taxi, a member of the Transtar Transportation Group, which provides taxi, luxury SUV and limousine services in the Orlando area. They allege that various supervisors told them that they would be fired if they were caught praying at any of the company’s service stations, even though employees of other faiths regularly prayed and read religious material.

F.B.I. Chided for Training That Was Critical of Islam

Arab-American and Muslim groups deplored on Friday the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s use of training material that characterized the prophet Muhammad as a “cult leader” and linked Muslims’ religious devotion to a potential for violence.

The FBI said Thursday a lecture at the bureau’s training academy that was critical of Islam has been discontinued. The bureau employee who gave the lecture contended, among other things, that the more devout a Muslim is, the more likely he is to be violent.

A federal law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity about the internal FBI training issue, says the lecture was given for just three days last April.

The online publication Wired.com first reported on the instruction given to agents.

The law enforcement official said the bureau should have kept a closer watch on the content of the lecture before it took place. The official said that as soon as the instructor’s views were identified, the FBI stopped any further such lectures.