Posted by Nadia Aziz on October 29, 2015 in Blog

The second day of AAI’s National Leadership Conference in Dearborn, Michigan focused largely on developing political platforms ahead of the 2016 election. In particular, the domestic policy discussion touched on programs and initiatives that have direct impacts on the lives on Arab Americans.  The topics discussed were profiling, Countering Violent Extremism programs and effectiveness, and hate crimes.

Sakira Cook of the Leadership Conference for Civil and Human Rights discussed how profiling is one of the practices that disproportionately impacts minority communities. Giving context to the Department of Justice’s Guidelines on Profiling, she explained how the much anticipated 2014 revisions to the Guidance, while broadening the category of “racial profiling” to include more minorities, it left gaping loopholes. The revisions to Attorney General Ashcroft’s 2003 Guidelines did not address profiling in the context of Customs and Border Patrol and TSA activities, and does not apply to local law enforcement agencies. Cook stated she was happy to see Senator Bernie Sanders mention profiling in his remarks to the attendees because in order to achieve equality, we must make sure all Americans are protected, and we must end profiling at all levels. Cook called on our next president to close all of the loopholes in the DOJ Guidance on Profiling.

Michael German of the Brennan Center for Justice discussed attempts to strike a balance between national security and protecting civil liberties.  He specifically mentioned Countering Violent Extremism efforts and stated that instead of going after people who are committing acts of violence, CVE programs are going after people who express ideas.  He elaborated saying that these theories that extreme ideas lead to violence and that suppressing extreme ideas suppresses violence have long been disproven. With his background as a former undercover FBI agent, he provided credibility to the argument that CVE program, which largely “turn surveillance upside down,” are ineffective ways to counter violent extremism.  German commented that a program designed to counter violent extremism may actually create more resentment and violence.

Glenn Katon of Muslim Advocates discussed a range of hate crimes that the MASA communities have been faced with, and discussed recent litigation. Stating that while it is a grave allegation, he agrees that “it has never been more dangerous to be a Muslim in America than it is today,” and stated that it is five times more likely to be the victim of a hate crime today than it was in 2001.  While recounting numerous hate crimes that the MASA community has seen in recent years, he stated that not all legal precedent coming out of the legal system is “bad news.” Citing the Hassan v. New York case as being “truly inspiring” he said the Court did not just reverse the decision – they stated that if the allegations of NYPD surveillance of Muslim communities are true that there are serious constitutional violations.

The panel discussion closed with a mention of Title VI discussion by AAI Executive Director Maya Berry and panelist Rania Salem who discussed the harassment and intimidation that many students who advocate for justice in Palestine are confronted with.

Participants engaged in a substantive question and answer session and discussed how what lies beneath many of the exclusionary and discriminatory actions are often the hate sentiments that are created by programs and initiatives like surveillance efforts and CVE programs. Throughout the discussion it was evident that current domestic policies are creating systematic suspicion of Arab Americans and American Muslims. It was clear that as we move towards the 2016 election, the Arab American community must continue to stand against discrimination and for more just domestic policies.