COMMITTEE ON HUMAN RELATIONS
CHICAGO CITY COUNCIL
June 19, 2017
PROPOSAL TO ESTABLISH AN ILLINOIS COMMISSION ON DISCRIMINATION AND HATE CRIMES
“You can’t place a Travel Ban on Hate”
AMERICAN MIDDLE EAST VOTERS ALLIANCE- Political Action Committee
The American Middle East Voters Alliance, the first Arab-American political action committee in Illinois, urges the City Council Committee on Human Relations to approve the resolution proposed by Ald. Pat Dowell to request the Governor of Illinois to establish a Commission on Discrimination and Hate Crimes. We feel that there is a direct link between the hate rhetoric abounding this nation and the hate crimes which result from it.
A commission addressing bigotry and hate crimes could study the relationship between rhetoric and violence and make advise and alert the Governor, the General Assembly, and law enforcement of any concerns for public safety and protection of minorities in Illinois.
No one should underestimate the tragedy which troubled all Americans with the attack upon our Congressional leaders on June 14, 2017. When hate speech becomes common in a civilized society, no wall or no travel ban can protect us from ourselves.
Studies have shown that the emergence of hateful rhetoric in last year’s American elections coincided with a rise in hate crimes against Muslim women, Indian, Asian, transgender, brown and black persons, as well as mosques, synagogues, schools and Churches.
Some may find irony in the fact that our societal tolerance of hate speech may have been the very cause of an attack upon those who were in a position to put a stop to it, or even encouraged it. Let us hope that our leaders and the media will look inward to find that the threat of violence lies within us all.
This presentation may be helpful in support of the resolution. It includes (1) an overview of the demographics of our community in Chicago; (2) some historical background on hate crimes affecting Arab-Americans and Muslims since 1990; (3) some empirical data from in recent years from the FBI, Zogby Polling, and the Southern Poverty Law Center on hate related incidents; (4) an illustration of the nexus between hate speech and hate crimes in America in recent months; and (5) government’s responsibilities and duties.
Demographics of Arab-Americans and Muslims
According to the Economist and the Washington Post, there are 3.5 million Arab-Americans in the United States mostly concentrated in industrial states such as New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois and Michigan. Although there are 7 million Muslims in the United States, all Arab-Americans are not Muslim. Indeed, many are Catholic, Orthodox and Protestants who can trace a continuous line of Christian faith back to the first converts to Christianity. Estimates of Arab-Americans and American Muslims in the
Northern Illinois area range from 250,000 to 400,000. Thirty-six percent of Americans of Arabic ancestry have college degrees.
Among notable Arab-Americans are Dr. Michael DeBakey, the Houston heart surgeon who perfected the artificial heart; Farouk El Baz, the NASA scientist who trained lunar astronauts; consumer advocate Ralph
Nader; former Senators Spencer Abraham, George Mitchell (majority leader), James Abdnor, James Abourezk, John Sinunu; and former Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood. Also, there are Nobel Prize winners Ahmed Zewail (Physics) and Elias Corey (Chemistry), as well as Candy Lightner, the founder of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Finally, we have Colonel James Jabara, the first “jet ace” in the Korean War; Four Star General George Joulwan; former Commander of NATO; the first school teacher in space, Christa McAuliffe who perished on the space shuttle “Challenger”; and Michael Monsour, a Navy Seal who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor by President Bush for his military service to the United States.
Arab-Americans and Muslims Americans are proud of their contributions to the United States.
III. The Role of the Arab-American Bar Association concerning
“The Riots of 1992”, The Anti-Terrorism Act, and The 9/11 Backlash
There was a civil disturbance in Chicago, which followed the 1992 world championship of the Chicago Bulls. After the completion of a telecast depicting a Chicago sports victory, wide scale civil disturbances erupted on the west and south sides of Chicago. One hundred and thirty-nine Arab-American owned business properties were targeted by rioters, looters, vandals and arsonists, which caused over $14 million in losses. The Arab-American Bar Association presented the City of Chicago with a detailed “White Paper” which laid out pre-constructed strategies to avert future violence. That plan was partly adopted by the City of Chicago and the City of Portland, Oregon.
In the aftermath of the Oklahoma bombing in 1996 by a domestic terrorist, there was a backlash against Arab-Americans and Muslims in the United States, which culminated in the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ( Pub. L. No. 104-132, 110 Stat. 1214). The Arab-American Bar Association authored a brief to the American Bar Association voicing our concern over a law targeting Arab-Americans and Muslims after a bombing having nothing to do with that population.
In the aftermath of 9/11, there was a massive backlash against Muslims and Arab Americans. In response to this, on September 26, 2001, the Arab-American Bar Association held an internationally telecasted news conference two weeks after the 9/11 terrorist attacks upon the United States. We addressed the massive post 9/11 backlash against Arab-Americans and Muslims. At that time, we issued a “Preliminary Report on Hate Crimes Against Arabs and Muslims in the United States”, which was reissued, modified and updated in 2002 and 2003. The report was presented to the United States Commission on Civil Rights and several law schools, legal associations, and community groups. One important element of the Report addressed the “hate speech” abounding the civil unrest targeting our community in the aftermath of 9/11, including statements by Sen. Saxby Chamblis, columnist Ann Coulter, and evangelist Franklin Graham.
Fact: Hate Rhetoric causes Hate Crimes, and
“you can’t place a Travel Ban on Hate”
Aside from the obvious reaction to the recent reports of terrorism in the United States and Europe, we have seen a plethora of negative rhetoric targeting Arab-Americans and American Muslims by some major political candidates, as chronicled by media giants CNN, FOX News and MSNBC. Some of these leading politicians advocate:
(1) barring immigration of persons to the United States based upon religion and ethnicity;
(2) disqualifying American Muslims from holding high governmental offices based upon religion;
(3) requiring American Muslims to “register” with the government;
(4) use of widespread surveillance of places of worship; and
(5) “patrolling and securing their [Muslim] neighborhoods”.
Some journalists, including Robert Reich, former Sec. of Labor and contributor to the NY Times, suggest that the upsurge of hate crimes against Arab-Americans and Muslims Americans is fueled by hate speech:
Perpetrators of hate crimes often take their cues from what they hear in
the media. And the recent inclination of some politicians to use
inflammatory rhetoric is contributing to a climate of hate and fear…
Some candidates are also fomenting animus toward Muslims.
But by virtue of their standing as presidential candidates, their words carry
In the sampling dozens of incidents in the past year, there were attacks upon Arab-Americans, Muslims Americans, and those mistaken for them in 15 states, including Arizona, California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Nebraska, New Jersey, Nevada, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas and Washington.
Most attacks involve places of worship, residences, community centers, and businesses. Weapons of choice were baseball bats, guns, firebombs, rocks, eggs, Molotov Cocktails, fake grenade, machetes, feces, and animal parts. Many incidents coincided with the defacement of property with racial epitaphs, swastikas, as well as armed demonstrations, burglaries and ransackings.
Attacks targeted women and girls wearing hijabs (headscarfs), children, and entire families. Some persons were attacked when overheard speaking Arabic. Ironically, some non-Arab/Muslims were attacked, including Sikhs and an Asian monk accused of being part of “ISIS”.
Notable recent attacks include the murders of a Syrian and two Jordanian (Palestinian) dental students at Chapel Hill, North Carolina last year. Just last August, an American citizen of Lebanese ancestry was murdered in Tulsa, Oklahoma, by a neighbor who reportedly called him a “Dirty Arab” and “filthy Lebanese”. Last week, a Saudi exchange student was beaten to death in Menominee, Wisconsin, where the University of Wisconsin has a campus.
After the Presidential Election of November 8, 2016, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported over 700 instances of hate based harassment and intimidation against minorities, including African Americans, Jews, Asians, Hispanics, Arabs, and Muslims. Over 300 incidents involved discriminatory acts perpetrated against immigrants and Muslims. According to CAIR, at least 100 anti-Muslim incidents have taken place during that same period. CNN documented a few of these instances:
For example, in one last week, four mosques in California and one in Georgia have received letters threatening that Donald Trump “is going to do to you Muslims what Hitler did to the Jews.” The letters were signed by “Americans for a better way”.
In Astoria, Queens, on November 17, an Arab-American Uber driver recorded a video of another driver shouting at him that “Trump is president” and “they’ll deport you soon.”
At a Smith’s supermarket in Albuquerque, N.M., on November 23, a woman began shouting Islamophobic abuse at a shopper wearing a hijab. Employees removed the shouting woman from the store, but she waited in the parking lot for the woman in the hijab to emerge. Eventually, employees escorted the woman in the hijab to her carAt Collins Hill High School in Gwinnett County, Ga., swastikas, racist slurs, the name “Trump” and the message “build a wall” were spray-painted on school buildings and sidewalks. The vandalism was discovered on November 22.
Also on November 22, employees at Wilbur Cross High School in New Haven, Conn., found swastikas and references to Mr. Trump spray-painted on the school’s athletic complex.
In Bangor, Me., on November 18, an African-American man was punched and pushed to the ground. Afterward, according to reports from two passersby, his attacker said he should watch out, because Mr. Trump could deport him.
In Denver, on November 16, a transgender woman discovered that her car had been vandalized with slurs, a swastika and the word “die.” She had previously written the messages “#NotMyPresident” and “Love Trumps Hate” on the windows.
Adam Yauch Park in Brooklyn was vandalized with swastikas and the words “Go Trump” on November 18. The park was named for a member of the band the Beastie Boys who died of cancer in 2012.
On November 17, a New York subway rider noticed a swastika drawn inside a B train car. Riders have also seen swastikas on the 1 train.
From 2014 to 2015, anti-Muslim crimes in the US rose by two-thirds, according to the FBI’s latest annual hate crime report. That is more than the increase of hate violence against all of the other minorities put together. The Southern Poverty Law Center said such crimes have risen to the highest level since the 9/11 terror attacks.
A Zogby Poll released on December 21, 2015, reported that “favorable attitudes toward Arab-Americans and American Muslims have declined since … 2010 from 49% to 40% for Arab-Americans; and 48% to 33% for American Muslims.” Zogby found that 51% of Democrats oppose [profiling of Arab-Americans and American Muslims] by law enforcement while 60% of Republicans find its use justifiable.
Also, the poll showed that a “growing percentage of Americans say they lack confidence in fellow Americans from these communities to perform their duties if appointed to serve in government.”
This polling coincides with the recent terrorist attacks and the murder of innocent civilians in the United States, Europe, Syria, Iraq and throughout the Middle East (both Christian and Muslims victims).
The Government’s Responsibilities and Duties to Combat Hate Speech
In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, there was significant nonpartisan opposition to the pervasive hate speech and hate violence targeting Arab-Americans and American Muslims by top political leaders such as then President George W. Bush, and former Presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, George H. Bush, Sr., and William Clinton. By contrast, when President Barrack Obama publically criticized the current upsurge of hate speech and hate violence in the United States, he was vilified by some who erroneously marginalized him as “a Muslim”.
Most states have laws prohibiting “Hate Crimes”. However, there is much debate on whether the First Amendment of the Constitution protects “Hate Speech”, which foreeseably might or could incite violence. Article 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as adopted by the United Nations in 1966 as part of its International Bill of Human Rights, prohibits “any propaganda for war as well as any advocacy of national or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence by law”.
However, the United States Constitution and most states resoundingly protect freedom of expression embodied in the First Amendment. Exceptions to this involve laws prohibiting lewd, profane, libelous and insulting words, which by their very intentional utterance will incite imminent violence. Brandenburg v. Ohio, 395 U.S. 444 (1969; See also R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul, 505 U.S. 377 (1992) and Snyder v. Phelps, 562 U.S. 443 (2011)
A commission addressing bigotry and hate crimes could study the relationship between rhetoric and violence and advise and alert the Governor, the General Assembly, and law enforcement of any concerns for public safety and protection of minorities in Illinois.
Respectfully submitted on June 15, 2017