CC ISSUE: APR 2012 Last updated: Apr 23, 2012
Hearing on Ending Racial Profiling In America
Statement Submitted by the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago
Janaan Hashim, Esq
Statement Submitted by the
Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago
Hearing on Ending Racial Profiling In America, U.S. SENATE COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY SUBCOMMITTEE ON THE CONSTITUTION, CIVIL RIGHTS AND HUMAN RIGHTS U.S. SENATE
APRIL 17, 2012
This Statement is respectfully submitted by the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago (hereinafter, the “Council” or “CIOGC”) to the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights with respect to its forthcoming hearing entitled, “Ending Racial Profiling in America.” The Council strongly urges the Committee to prohibit racial profiling as a policing tactic and, instead, redirect federal, state, and local law enforcement efforts toward observing criminal behavior in apprehending offenders rather than using race, ethnic and religious appearance. Such redirection will provide a safer and healthier America on various fronts that honors the principles of liberty, equality and justice.
I. Background of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago
The Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago (www.ciogc.org) is a federation of over 50 mosques, Islamic schools and other Muslim organizations throughout the state of Illinois. The Council's member organizations collectively represent over 400,000 Muslims. The Council works to coordinate the activities of our member organizations as well as provide education, training, networking and advocacy to and on behalf of our member organizations and the Muslim community. It also works closely with governmental and law enforcement agencies at the local, state and federal levels. A high priority is also placed on our community’s youth and on civic engagement.
II. Racial ProfilingCauses Law Enforcement to Create an Entire Category of Law-Abiding Citizens as Suspects of Criminal Acts Based on Appearance Rather Than Criminal Behavior.
It is undisputed that issues of racism, racial conflict, and explicit discrimination in American law enforcement have scarred our country’s history since its discovery. Indeed, the U.S. Supreme Court acknowledged police departments’ tactics to detain, search and question people as a means to subjugate and control minority populations.
The U.S. Supreme Court has held that racial profiling passes Constitutional muster so long as it is executed within certain parameters that, in the Council’s position, do not ensure that race is not the primary driving force behind a pretextual stop of one’s movement. Despite the High Court’s position and unfounded popular opinion that racial targeting will lead toward apprehending criminals, society cannot escape the fact that racial profiling carries characteristics antithetical to those of our democracy; characteristics of inequality, marginalization of a community, judging the target group by looks rather than behavior, and infringing on these innocent individuals’ movement simply because of those appearances.
As such, a growing number of states have followed the lead of U.S. Representative John Conyers’ 1997 proposed bill in the U.S. Congress to collect data on traffic stops so as to be used to determine how widespread the use of racial profiling may be. Despite its failure, other pieces of legislation have emerged, including the current End Racial Profiling Act of 2011 (S. 1670/H.R. 3618) which the Council supports.
It is the Council’s position that such legislation is sorely needed so as to rectify a cancerous growth of injustice being committed against an expanding number of targeted communities including African Americans, Latinos, and the newest victim to overt acts of bigotry and discrimination, Muslims and those of Arab and South Asian descent.
III. While the American Muslim Community Contributes Positively to Society, Racial Profiling Tactics Encroach Upon First Amendment Freedoms and Undermine a Much Needed Partnership Between Community and Law Enforcement.
The current social climate has created a challenging atmosphere in which American Muslims find themselves. Living for over ten years under what has developed into a virtual internment camp for a majority of American Muslims has certainly taken its toll. In essence, it has become increasingly difficult to live a life free of continuous harassment, intimidation, heckling, marginalization and humiliation in our country, while wanting to simply exert our First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion, speech, assembly, and association.
Specifically, a significant, and sometimes only, driving force used by law enforcement officials as its basis for investigation includes race, rather the prescribed race plus other factors as the Whren Court mandates. While the New York City Police Department was exposed of its surreptitious collection of dossiers on ordinary American citizens simply because of their faith or nation of origin, the Council shares with this Committee its own concerns. Through our eyes you will see spies being sent into mosques to observe what is being said and who is attending our houses of worship; informants making attempts to entrap gullible victims; citizens being asked for the passports during domestic flights or even driver’s license renewal; police whose questions include inquiries relating to faith when no suspicion of wrong-doing involving religion has occurred – other than being Muslim. Such dragnet style of police work must end with these resources turning toward observing suspect criminal behavior rather than lawful behavior by Muslims.
Interestingly, despite the burgeoning growth of Islamophobia and Muslims being singled out as “bad” simply because of appearance, attire, name, ethnicity, etc., studies show that the Muslim segment of society is a peaceful one. A 2010 Rand Corporation report on the potential home-grown threat of Muslim terrorists states, “The volume of domestic terrorist activity was much greater in the 1970s than it is today.” Furthermore, a World Public Opinion survey reports that while 51 percent of Americans believe “bombings and other types of attacks intentionally aimed at civilians are sometimes justified,” 81 percent of Muslim disagree completely and state that violence against civilians is never justified, with only 13 percent agreeing with the general American opinion.
Nevertheless, the Council’s greatest concern rests on Muslim youth in America. Statistics indicate that perpetual, hostile treatment of American Muslims and negative attitudes toward the words relating to Islam, Muslims, Arabs and South Asians is creating a tremendous strain on the younger generation of American Muslims.
1. 28% of New York City Muslim students report being stopped by police due to racial profiling; 
2. 26% of young Muslims are becoming angrier than their peers;
3. 7% of Muslim youth in New York City public schools say they or a member of their family have been assaulted because of their faith;
4. 29% say they sometimes use a non-Muslim sounding name over their given name; and,
5. 75% of American Muslims say they or a Muslim they know has experienced discrimination.
This, in America of the 21st Century.
Additionally, despite the hateful propaganda that homegrown Muslim terrorists and sleeping Islamic terrorist cells were waiting orders to awaken, reality via tangible evidence indicates a very different homegrown Islamic community and landscape.
A study published two months ago found that 20 Muslim Americans (of the 5-7 million) were charged (not convicted) in violent plots or attacks in 2011, down from 26 in 2010 and a prior spike of 47 in 2009. This is compared to 14,000 murders in the United States last year in which not a single one resulted from Islamic extremism. The remaining 5 million American Muslims are contributors to society and a valuable part of the colorful American fabric.
In sum, while negative and hostile attitudes toward Muslims and Islam escalate toward higher heights, the American Muslim is quite the opposite of that stereotype. And yet this segment of society faces increased law enforcement scrutiny and heightened acts of racial profiling. This must end.
It is the Council’s position that so long as law enforcement treats the community at-large as suspects, then the community will begin to fear law enforcement and view police as its enemies rather than partners.
The Council believes that law enforcement must utilize its precious human and financial resources to where they are most effective: observing suspicious criminal behavior as opposed to race, religious, or ethnic appearance.
In doing so, police efforts to apprehend actual criminals will increase because officers would turn their attention away from innocent Muslims, Arabs, and South Asians and toward criminal activity itself. Police would thereby prevent their enforcement activities “from spreading too broadly and indiscriminately.”
The Muslim community has proven itself a reliable partner in helping in the fight against criminal acts, be they acts of small consequences or horendous ones. It is noteworthy that 40 percent of all terrorism related cases since 9/11 were reported by Muslim Americans to law enforcement authorities. This healthy cooperation must remain strong, and can only do so when the community carries a sense of belonging and acceptance. This can only be achieved when being Muslim is not being criminal.
The Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago respectfully requests that this Committee upholds the democratic principals upon which our country was founded and end racial, ethnic and religious bias in policing tactics.
Council representatives meet regularly with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and other agencies in Chicago roundtable meetings organized by the office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties of DHS. These meetings serve to strengthen the relationship between federal law enforcement and the Muslim community and improve coordination – with the express purpose of keeping our communities safe from extremism and protecting civil liberties. These regularly held meetings are clear examples of the level of cooperation between different Muslim American organizations and law enforcement agencies at the local and national levels.
Representatives of the Council also participated in several meetings organized by DHS in Washington D.C, where more than 20 national and regional Muslim organizations were invited for discussion on fighting violent extremism. Candid and open feedback was provided by Muslim leaders about different DHS initiatives, and that has, in the Council’s view, helped develop better policies, as well as improve their implementation at the community level.
The Council also places high priority on our community’s youth and on civic engagement. We believe that engaging youth at the civic level helps promote a balanced and strong American identity that prevents alienation and radicalization. We also provide sensitivity training to public schools, leadership development programs, writing workshops, teacher trainings and other community-based activities.
For purposes of this statement, racial profiling is defined as “police use of racial or ethnic appearance as one factor, among others, to determine who to stop, question, and search.” and also includes profiling based on religious appearance and garb. “U.S. Experiences With Racial and Ethnic Profiling: History, Current Issues and the Future,” David Harris, Critical Criminology Vol.14, p. 213, (2006).
Examples include: (1) ethnic cleansing efforts of American Indians; (2) “slave patrols” in the pre-Civil War era; (3) 1960s riots across the country due, in large part, to reaction to police detentions of African American drivers by police officers; and, (4) the seemingly failed War on Drugs from 1980 to present during which, 80% of all Americans wanted the use of such tactic to end. Id. 213 - 214.
Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968).
See seminal case, Whren v. U.S., 517 U.S. 806 (1996).
Traffic Stops Statistics Act passed unanimously in the House of Rep. (U.S. House of Representative, H.R. 118 1997) but did not survive the Senate during that same session of Congress. By the summer of 2005, 29 states had passed some form of legislation relating to racial profiling, eg, prohibiting it outright or collecting data for studies.” Ibid. Harris, at 220.
Id. at 219.
Whren v. U.S., 517 U.S. 806 (1996).
See, e.g, “What’s the CIA Doing At NYPD? Depends Whom You Ask,” Apuzzo & Goldman, Associated Press, October 17, 2011, available Here.
“Would-Be Warriors Incidents of Jihadist Terrorist Radicalization in the United States Since September 11, 2001,” Brian Michael Jenkins, 2010, RAND Corp., available Here.
 “Muslim Public Opinion on US Policy, Attacks on Civilians and al Qaeda,” Steven Kull, April 24, 2007, World Public Opinion.org, available Here.
For proper perspective, there are 100,000 Muslim students in New York City public schools, thus, 7,000 Muslim students or their family members have been physically assaulted. “Religiosity, Education and Civic Belonging: Muslim Youth in New York City Public Schools,” Louis Cristillom, Teachers College Columbia University, April 30, 2008, available Here, This study was performed in conjunction with the University of Maryland.
 In a 2009 Gallup Poll, 26% of Muslims between the ages of 18 and 29 are more likely to report feeling anger as compared to 18% of the general population and 14% of Protestants. “Muslim Americans: A National Portrait An In-Depth Analysis of America’s Most Diverse Religious Community,” Dalia Mogahed, Gallup, Inc., 2009, available Here.
“Muslim-American Terrorism Since 9/11: An Accounting,” Charles Kurzman, Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security, Feb. 8, 2012, available Here.
Ibid. Harris at 223.
Abdul Malik Mujahid, Chair, Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions, “Muslims Are More Peaceful Than Their Neighbors,” Abdul Malik Mujahid, The Huffington Post, Sept. 2011, available Here.