Posted on April 09, 2019 in Press Releases

WASHINGTON, DC - Today, April 9, 2019, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on "Hate Crimes and the Rise of White Nationalism." Given our work on hate crime prevention and the burgeoning threat of white supremacist violence, the Arab American Institute was encouraged with the announcement of this hearing. Further, we hoped members of the committee would make a clear-eyed, good faith assessment of the evidence at hand.

According to data collected from state and local law enforcement agencies under the federal Hate Crime Statistics Act, 2017 saw the greatest single year increase and first three-year consecutive annual increase of reported hate crime incidents since 2001, when hate crime targeting Arab Americans and American Muslims, and those perceived to be Arab or Muslim, surged in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Contributing to the 17 percent overall increase was a 37 percent surge of anti-Jewish hate crime, an overwhelming number of anti-Black hate crime incidents, a 100 percent increase of anti-Arab hate crime, and the number of anti-Muslim hate crime incidents remaining well above historical averages. Despite these totals, we also know that many hate crimes, including the killing of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, Virginia, at a white supremacist rally and other devastating incidents, were not included in annual statistics.

While state and local reform will promote improved responses to hate crime and more comprehensive hate crime data, Congress can and must strengthen these efforts with effective oversight and legislation. This hearing represented an important first step, but as we feared after receiving word of the minority's chosen witnesses, the vital conversation was upended and derailed. 

AAI Executive Director Maya Berry made the following statement:

“Today’s hearing represents a complete failure of oversight and leadership from the Republican side of the House Judiciary Committee. On a panel which should have included professionals who devote their careers to serving all communities victimized by hate, the minority witnesses included defenders of white supremacy and producers of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bigotry. Instead of a hearing combating hate, it became a platform for it.

As president of the Zionist Organization of America, the minority's first witness, Mort Klein, has made a career of denigrating advocates for Palestinian human rights with unabashed anti-Arab and anti-Muslim rhetoric. At today's hearing, he perpetuated this legacy with shameful comments directed toward student advocates, Representatives Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, and even his fellow witness, Dr. Mohammad Abu-Salha, who in 2015 lost his daughters and son-in-law to a blatant hate crime murder in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Dr. Abu-Salha deserves our unequivocal support, not to be targeted yet again by hate but in a House hearing room.

As for the minority's second witness, Candace Owens is a partisan commentator who, as evidenced throughout her testimony, had no interest in helping the committee address the topic of the hearing and instead sought to further politicize what should be a bipartisan concern.

Neither witness can profess expertise on the issue of hate crime or white nationalism, something that regrettably appears to have been of little concern to those who invited them. The ensuing conversation was not only counterproductive, but damaging. In what can only be described as a complete and utter disgrace, Dr. Abu-Salha was forced to repeatedly defend his faith and background against vile stereotypes and mischaracterizations.

 

This hearing was the first opportunity for Congress to shed light on three years of surging hate crimes and bias-motivated violence in this country, and it was wasted. Today, this hearing reinforced the Trump Administration’s practice of elevating purveyors of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim hate and debasing our most important institutions in the process.

This hearing was harmful and an abdication of leadership. AAI will continue to advocate policies that support, and not subjugate, those increasingly victimized by hate in all its forms.”

Founded in 1985, the Arab American Institute (AAI) is a nonprofit organization committed to the civic and political empowerment of Americans of Arab descent. AAI provides policy, research and public affairs services to support a broad range of community activities. Our report, Underreported, Under Threat: Hate Crime in the United States and the Targeting of Arab Americans 1991-2016, identifies target areas for improvement and provides state-based recommendations. Complete with ratings for each state based on its overall response, this resource guide can be used to empower readers throughout the United States to advocate for a better response to hate crime in their communities. For more information please visit aaiusa.org

 

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