Civil Rights Concerns in the Metropolitan Washington, D.C., Area in the Aftermath of the September 11, 2001, Tragedies

Chapter 6

Fears and Concerns of Affected, At-Risk Communities

Panel Four heard from representatives of groups specifically targeted by the post-September 11 backlash: Arabs, South Asians, Muslims (including African American Muslims and Muslim women), and Sikhs. They described the impact of the backlash on their communities, citing not only hate violence and discrimination but also police harassment and civil liberties violations. The panelists also offered suggestions for how local and federal agencies could best respond to the types of incidents that have occurred.

The upsurge in hate crimes and discrimination against the affected groups during 2001 has been well documented in published reports. In its annual survey of hate crimes reported by state and local law enforcement agencies, the FBI counted 481 attacks against people of Middle Eastern descent, Muslims, and South Asian Sikhs during 2001, up from just 28 in 2000.[1] Surveys conducted by several advocacy and human rights groups noted similar patterns. The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) confirmed more than 700 violent incidents targeting members of the affected groups during the first nine weeks after the September 11 attacks, and 165 more incidents during the first nine months of 2002.[2] The FBI and ADC both found that while violent crimes have tapered off in 2002, job and housing discrimination remain persistent problems. ADC received more than 80 complaints of discrimination in air travel and more than 800 complaints of employment discrimination during the 13 months following the attacks.

In the weeks following September 11, there were four murders across the country that were confirmed as hate related, and at least seven more suspected hate crime murders.[3] On September 15 in Mesa, Arizona, an Indian Sikh, Balbir Singh Sodhi, was shot and killed while planting flowers outside his gas station. Prosecutors have accused Frank Roque of going on a shooting rampage in which he first killed Sodhi, then fired on the home of an Afghan family, and finally shot at a Lebanese American gas station clerk. During his arrest Roque yelled statements such as “I am a patriot!” and “I stand for America all the way!” In the Dallas area, a white supremacist, Mark Anthony Stroman, killed two people: Waqar Hasan, a Pakistani Muslim, shot in the face on September 15 while cooking hamburgers in his grocery store; and Vasudev Patel, an Indian American, shot in the chest on October 4 while working with his wife behind the counter of a gas station they owned. Stroman told a Dallas radio station he killed Hasan and Patel to seek revenge for the World Trade Center attacks, “to retaliate on local Arab Americans or whatever you want to call them.”[4] And on September 19 in Lincoln Park, Michigan, Ali Almansoop, a U.S. citizen originally from Yemen, was shot in the back while fleeing his attacker, who threatened, “I’m going to kill you for what happened in New York and D.C.”

In the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, a number of physical assaults were reported. For example, in Falls Church, Virginia, on September 14, 2001, a motorist pulled alongside a delivery truck and asked the deliveryman his ethnicity. When the deliveryman responded “Afghan,” the attacker threatened and pursued him. When the delivery truck pulled into a parking lot, the attacker approached the van and began punching the driver. Witnesses screamed for the attacker to stop, and one woman threw herself in between the two men. “Why are you telling me to leave? Why didn’t you tell him to leave? This is my country. You should tell him to leave,” the attacker shouted.[5]

Some assaults and hate speech specifically targeted Muslim women, easily visible because of their headscarves. For example, on September 11, 2001, in Columbia, Maryland, a motorist stuck his head out of his car window and yelled to the next car at a Muslim woman wearing a hijab, “You better hide.”[6] On September 28 in Falls Church, Virginia, an unknown attacker struck a Muslim woman in the head with a baseball bat. She struggled to get to the local mosque to take refuge. Although mosque officials urged her to contact the police, she refused, citing her uncertain immigration status.[7]

Local cases also included many attacks and threats against mosques and Islamic centers. In the days following September 11, hate messages were left on the answering machine of a mosque in Manassas, Virginia; the Dar Al Hijra Islamic Center in Falls Church, Virginia, received threats; and the Islamic Center in Washington, D.C., received bomb threats, forcing the closure of Massachusetts Avenue NW, where the center is located. In Sterling, Virginia, on September 12, local Muslim residents gathered at their worship center to go by chartered bus to a Red Cross center to donate blood. At their worship center, they found their hallway spray painted in thick black letters, several feet tall, spelling out “Die Pigs” and “Muslims Burn Forever.”[8]

Businesses and homes owned by people from the affected groups were targeted. In Rockville, Maryland, a rug company owned by a Palestinian immigrant was set on fire. An Afghan restaurant in Washington, D.C., was struck by vandals who broke the front window and wrote threatening graffiti on the storefront, including a message saying, “You guys destroy my country, we have to destroy you.”[9] In Alexandria, Virginia, windows were broken at an Islamic bookstore. The owner found two bricks on the premises with notes that said, “You come to this country and kill. You must die as well,” and “Arab murderers.” A local businessman donated his time and resources to repair the windows.[10] And on September 27, 2001, in Fairfax, Virginia, a large swastika was burned into the front lawn of a Middle Eastern family’s home.[11]

Many cases of employment discrimination were reported in the local area after September 11. To cite just a few examples, on September 15 an Arab American was fired from his position as a strategy consultant with an Arlington, Virginia, firm. The company claimed that his termination was due to a reduction in the workforce. However, before September 11 he had been the first person placed on a consultancy team because his performance had been exceptional, and he was more qualified than his colleagues who remained on the team. In Washington, D.C., an Afghan janitor at a restaurant faced harassment from the restaurant’s chef, who nicknamed him “Taliban” and spoke to him in offensive tones. The janitor was stripped of his working hours and finally was fired for allegedly arguing with the restaurant’s manager. In Gaithersburg, Maryland, an Arab American construction worker faced constant threats with vulgar language at work. A co-worker acted as though he would attack him with a metal pipe. When he reported the threats and hostility, his supervisor responded with, “Well, don’t you think they have a right to be angry?”

Incidents of discrimination in air travel occurred at the three area airports. In some cases, individuals were denied boarding or removed from aircraft after they had already passed through security screening. An Arab American traveler at Baltimore/Washington International Airport on October 31, 2001, was boarding a flight after having passed through regular security screening. While in the gateway leading to the plane, he looked at a woman next to him and politely insisted, “Go ahead ma’am,” giving her permission to walk in front of him. She responded with a dirty look and did not move. Shortly thereafter he turned to see her talking to a security agent. The agent approached the Arab American traveler minutes later in the plane and directed him to get off the flight. He was told that the woman had reported that he had been “acting strange.” He was then scheduled for a later flight. Complaints were also received of travelers being required to remove religiously mandated head coverings—Muslim women’s scarves and Sikh turbans—at screening checkpoints even though the metal detector did not sound.

In one typical example, on December 18, 2001, at Baltimore/Washington International Airport a 17‑year‑old Muslim high school student from Virginia was passing through security when she was stopped by an airport security guard. “Hey, you need to take that off,” the guard called out, referring to her hijab. “Why do I have to take off my head cover?” the girl asked, when suddenly nearby military personnel approached her. The sight of the guards in camouflage and carrying combat rifles intimidated the teenager and she quickly took off her scarf. A Muslim airport employee informed the guard that it was wrong to force the student to remove her headscarf in public.[12]

Another type of discrimination involved harassment of individuals by police on the basis of their appearance. On October 8, 2001, in Alexandria, Virginia, an Arab American motorist and his two Arab passengers were stopped by two city police officers who asked about the verse of the Quran hanging from the car’s rearview mirror. One of the officers inquired about documents and photocopies in the backseat. After asking for everyone’s identification cards, he was granted permission to search the car. He took one passenger’s identification card and the driver’s license, returned to his car, and drove off without explanation. The Arab American motorist called 911. About 10 minutes later the officer returned and said that he had received a call and had to leave. According to the driver, the officer did not have his siren or lights on when he drove away.

Referencing many of these same types of incidents, the panelists at the forum made several major points:

Johari Abdul-Malik
Muslim chaplain, Howard University

According to some estimates, African Americans make up about a third of all Muslims in the United States, and 84 percent of new converts to Islam. The majority of African American Muslims in this country are Sunni Muslims; a small minority belong to the Nation of Islam.[13]

African American Muslims are punished in two ways: on one hand they’re perceived as disloyal Americans because they had the audacity to select a “foreign” religion, and on the other hand they’re mistaken for foreigners because of their name or appearance, especially in the case of women who wear headscarves. American Muslim women are seen from afar and the evaluation is, well, they’re brown, they’re wearing some foreign-type dress that looks Islamic, and therefore this person is not a citizen. An American Muslim woman will go to work and someone will yell to her, “Why don’t you go back home?” And she says, “I’m from Herndon.”

Since September 11, we are getting reports of discrimination against Muslims in the workplace. In some cases, when Arab American Muslims face workplace discrimination they will go to an African American Muslim co-worker and ask him or her to speak up on their behalf. Then the African American Muslim also becomes the target of workplace discrimination. We are also getting reports of Muslims being discriminated against in housing applications and in hiring. Children are being taunted in public schools—“Osama bin Laden, why don’t you go back to where you came from?”—even though most were born here. Muslims are heckled in public, or warned of the risk they run by wearing head coverings. Hate crimes have affected all segments of the Muslim community.

We are getting reports now of Muslims being discriminated against in housing applications and in hiring. Applicants are asked, “Are you a Muslim?”—and then don’t get a call back. One young man in the information technology field told me he had a great résumé but never got calls back. So he changed his name from Khalid to Ted and was hired in a week.

The community is very much concerned about the detentions and the working links between the INS and the FBI. We have been encouraging our community to cooperate with law enforcement, but when they do, it turns to coercion based on immigration status. Agents ask, “You’re African American, you go to such-and-such a mosque, do you know so-and-so?” And you know the outcome is going to be that the INS and FBI walk in together, and that a person who was going to cooperate is now coerced to cooperate because one of his friends or relatives is out of status.

 Prominent Islamic institutions in Northern Virginia were the victims first of vandalism, then of raids by law enforcement agents. So far there have been no indictments and no arrests. These are upstanding members of our communities.[14]

Kareem W. Shora
Legal advisor, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee

Since September 11, the Arab American community has experienced an unprecedented backlash in the form of hate crimes, various forms of discrimination, and serious civil liberties concerns. The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee  has compiled reports of more than 600 violent incidents directed against Arab Americans and people perceived to be Arab, including Sikhs, South Asians, and Latinos.[15] These incidents include acts of physical violence such as vandalism, arson, beatings, and assault with weapons; also included are threats of violence, such as bomb threats and hostile phone calls.[16]

 Airline racism is a major issue. ADC has confirmed more than 60 cases in which passengers who were perceived to be Arab have been expelled from planes because passengers or crew members do not like the way they look or don’t feel safe with them on board. Federal agencies, specifically the U.S. Department of Transportation and the FAA, have done a good job of communicating the official view that this is unacceptable, but there is a lack of enforcement and these incidents are still happening. We’re getting words, but not actions.

Workplace and employment discrimination have grown tremendously since September 11, and ADC has confirmed 230 such incidents. All were reported to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which has done an outstanding job of responding to the Arab American community and indeed has probably been the federal agency most responsive to our concerns. For example, they have created a special code—Code “Z”—to address complaints that may be related to the backlash against Arabs and Muslims. Virginia is one of the top six states in terms of the number of reported employment discrimination cases since September 11.

Another concern is law enforcement profiling. ADC has received dozens of reports of Arab Americans or those mistaken for Arab Americans being searched and questioned by local police for no apparent reason. In one typical example, an Arab American motorist was stopped and searched by Alexandria, Virginia, police solely because he had a small version of the Quran hanging from his rearview mirror. This and many other incidents were reported to the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, which has created a special task force.

Other problems include violent harassment in schools and universities (45 cases confirmed) and denial of service, such as in restaurants (23 cases confirmed).

The major area of concern now, however, is threats to civil liberties. Arab Americans are becoming afraid of the federal government, mainly because of actions by the Justice Department. The community was shaken by the March 20 raids in Northern Virginia carried out by a task force of the U.S. Treasury Department and other law enforcement and customs officials. ADC objects to the secrecy and the way in which these raids were conducted. The people targeted were stable and respected members of the community. Agents could have knocked on their doors and been invited in. Instead the agents smashed down doors, yelling and screaming, handcuffed people, and seized personal property, much of which has not been returned. And nobody has been charged with any crime.

We are also very concerned about the interviews being conducted by the Justice Department using U.S. attorneys’ offices as well as FBI field offices. The attorney general said these would be voluntary interviews of 5,000 Arab men with nonimmigrant visas, but many U.S. citizens, including some born here, have also been summoned for questioning. The answers given in the interviews are being compiled in a federal database. This creates fear and hostility toward the federal government. When you do this to a community that you’re looking for help from, you’re basically not going to get that help.

While the government makes statements against racial profiling, rumors fly through the Arab American community about the latest detentions. People are getting conflicting messages from the government. For example, the DOJ Civil Rights Division is doing a good job of outreach, but other elements within DOJ, including the leadership, send a very different message.

There is a lot of negativity in the media. Self-proclaimed terrorism experts go on TV, claiming to be experts on Arabs and Islam, when in fact they’ve never been to any Arab country and just spout stereotypes. They get Ph.Ds in psychology and political science and decide to write a book on terrorism, and all of a sudden they’re on CNN and MSNBC giving you their opinions every night on prime time. It is no help whatsoever. If you want experts, you should talk to people from within the community. If you want to understand Islam, talk to an imam. If you want to understand something about Arab culture, talk to an Arab American. They’ll tell you both the positives and the negatives rather than the stereotypical rhetoric that’s on TV almost every night.[17]

Rajwant Singh
President, Sikh Council on Religion and Education

Americans have little information about the Sikh religion. The religion was founded on the principles of equality of all persons regardless of gender, race, religion, caste, or social status. Sikhs are identified by their distinctive dress, which includes uncut hair, beard, turban, and a small ceremonial sword, or kirpan. To a Sikh, the turban protects the uncut hair and is a symbol of his spiritual identity and commitment to spiritual discipline as required by the founders of the faith. Sikhs have been part of this country since the beginning of the last century and contribute to American society in many different fields.

The Sikh community has faced severe problems in the aftermath of the September 11 tragedies.[18] Our very distinctive appearance has made us the targets of hate, as Americans wrongly assume we are associated with terrorists. Hate crimes and incidents against Sikhs have increased dramatically since September 11. More than 300 hate crimes and incidents against Sikhs have been reported since that date, ranging from verbal abuse to physical assault and even murder. A Sikh gas station owner was shot and killed on September 15, 2001, in Mesa, Arizona, by someone who said he looked like Osama bin Laden.[19] Other examples include a child hit with a bottle of flammable material in California, an arson attempt on a Sikh worship place in Cleveland, vandalism of worship places in California and homes in Virginia and Colorado, an assault with a baseball bat on an elderly man in New York, arson against a Sikh-owned convenience store in New York, an assault on a middle school student, and many others. Sikhs have had garbage and eggs thrown at them, have had guns shown to them, and have been shoved and pushed.

The Sikh community is enduring profiling at an unprecedented level, with people singled out for searches and questioning by federal, state, and local law enforcement and by airport screeners. These include turban searches. On September 12, 2001, Sher Singh of Leesburg, Virginia, was taken off an Amtrak train by police in Providence, Rhode Island, searched, and taken into custody because he carried a kirpan, a ceremonial knife less than four inches long. His picture with handcuffs was shown repeatedly by the national and international media, even after the charges were dropped, as a suspect that had been apprehended. We believe this publicity contributed to the subsequent murder of the Sikh in Mesa, Arizona.

Young Sikhs in schools and colleges have endured verbal and physical assaults. We also face increasing hostility in the workplace, with Sikh employees being required to cut their hair and remove their turbans in order to keep their jobs. For example, a few weeks after September 11 a Sikh American working for a shipping service delivered a package to a business as part of his job. A person who saw the Sikh leaving the building called the local police, saying that a person with a turban who looked Arab had delivered a suspicious package to the business. The police evacuated the building, fearing that a bomb was in the package. After hearing of the incident, the Sikh courier’s manager said that there had been customer complaints about his appearance and asked him to remove his turban and cut his beard. In fear of losing his livelihood, the Sikh American reluctantly complied. He trimmed his beard and replaced his turban with a baseball cap. He was fired anyway and has since had difficulty finding a job. We have talked to the family and the gentleman. He is severely depressed because of this incident.

These problems stem from ignorance of our culture. Ninety-nine percent of the people in this country who wear turbans are Sikhs, yet we are seen as somehow related to Osama bin Laden. We have advised our people not to shave their beards or remove their turbans. Rather, we are trying to educate outsiders about us, a tremendous task.

Our community believes that laws against hate crimes should be enforced. There should be legislation to regulate airport searches, including turban searches, with fines for arbitrary actions by airport security personnel. The government should create fact sheets on groups affected by the backlash after September 11 and increase outreach to these communities. Efforts are needed to raise awareness of the Sikh community and other affected communities, including images of Sikhs as Americans in the media. Training should be provided to federal, state, and local agencies to raise awareness of who Sikhs are, and steps should be taken to incorporate cultural awareness in curricula and inform teachers and school administrators about the affected communities. And finally, we should hold events that encourage members of different religious and ethnic communities to learn about each other.[20]

Sharifa Alkhateeb
President, North American Council for Muslim Women

We share the nation’s sorrow over the tragic events of September 11 and wish to see the perpetrators brought to justice.

Many hate crimes after September 11 were directed specifically at Muslim women, and forced them to make very uncomfortable decisions about their freedom of movement, speech, and dress, for fear of their safety in public and even in their own homes. Most Muslim women in America felt very intimidated and frightened in the early weeks after the attacks, and continue to feel so today. Many Muslim women continue to receive hate messages by mail and e-mail, such as the widely circulated statement, “Put a match to every scarf-head.” Even today, women are being subjected to cursing, spitting, screaming, staring menacingly, being poked or punched, teasing, name-calling, being pushed, cars following them and sometimes bumping their cars, strangers giving them the finger or yelling at them to go back home. I have personally experienced almost all of these. One such incident was in downtown Washington, D.C., on M Street: a man rolled down his window and screamed curses at me, for no reason at all. Muslim children in public schools were also subjected to all the behaviors mentioned above; in a few instances, the person taunting them was their own teacher or their principal.

After September 11, some religious and community leaders advised Muslim women to remove their head coverings or even stay at home. Some did for a while, and some also withdrew their children from school. Many good non-Muslim neighbors helped by offering to escort Muslim women when they needed to go out. Some non-Muslim women even put on headscarves on designated days to show solidarity with Muslim women.

The media in this country took an extremely negative attitude toward anyone Muslim and anything “Islamic,” with one anti-Arab, anti-Muslim barrage or diatribe after another. This has resulted in Muslim women feeling judged by all to be guilty of something at all times. The number one fear of Muslim women in America today is being treated unfairly by those who do not know them. If they wear a head covering, they fear some stranger pulling it off or doing them some bodily harm.

These fears were made more concrete as a result of the recent raids here in the Herndon, Virginia, area. Agents appeared at homes, businesses, and schools shouting and banging on doors, armed with machine guns and bulletproof vests. They showed identification to some and to others they did not; in some cases they did not show any warrant but just entered and proceeded to search. Some doors were broken down. The authorities ran through premises looking for anyone who was not a U.S. citizen. In some instances, they treated people very badly until they saw their U.S. passports. Some investigators participating in the raids became very angry and verbally violent when questioned about anything at all that had to do with the search. Two women and one teenage boy were handcuffed for several hours. Two Muslim women who wear head coverings normally were not wearing them when the government agents came in and they refused to allow the women to put on their religiously mandated head coverings for several hours. They took every computer from the premises as well as boxes of papers, money and other valuables, and even people’s personal diaries. In at least one case, agents left the entire home in complete disarray. News of this went out very quickly and traumatized Muslim women all over the country.

We met with Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill and asked for information about the protocol for how the raids were conducted, but his office never provided the information and did not respond to follow-up calls. They call meetings to give the impression that they care about your concerns, but they don’t do anything about them.[21]

For every complaint that is filed, another 10 are never brought forward because people are scared to death of being taken away if they speak up.[22] Our organization has been organizing town meetings in our communities with representatives of federal agencies, which have helped somewhat to convince people that the government is not out to get every Arab and Muslim.

Some good things have happened as a result of the backlash. For example, four mosques in Fairfax County, Virginia, received government grants to provide counseling and other services to the Muslim community. This was a vote of confidence in the Muslim community by the county and the government. Additionally, although the media coverage has been heavily anti-Arab and anti-Muslim, it nonetheless has served to increase the average American’s interest in learning more about these groups. Since September 11, our organization has participated in more than 200 events, including interfaith dialogues, meetings with public officials, media appearances, and teach-ins at universities, churches, and other institutions.

Our recommendations:

Gautam Dutta
Vice president, South Asian Bar Association

South Asia is a very large and diverse subcontinent, with many religions, and South Asian immigrants to the United States reflect that diversity. They include Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, Sikhs, and even Christians and Jews.

The nonprofit organization South Asian American Leaders of Tomorrow compiled a report on the violent attacks against South Asians, Arabs, Muslims, and Sikhs in the first week after September 11.[24] The report documents 645 reported hate crime incidents during September 11–17, including three killings of South Asians as well as several killings of Arab Americans. The violence has touched many different communities, including Latinos—anyone who resembles what people think a terrorist should look like is at risk. There were also at least 49 assaults and 92 incidents of vandalism or arson, and 465 incidents of threats and intimidation. A lawyer colleague of mine was chased down the streets of Manhattan on September 12, 2001. Another colleague of mine was kicked off an airplane just because he looked South Asian. As for me personally, I was walking down the street with some South Asian friends two or three weeks after September 11 and a passerby said, “Your people must be really happy about the attacks.” I don’t know which people he’s talking about. We’re all Americans, too.

The South Asian community has always been treated as “foreign.” The community experienced many violent attacks even before September 11, but a lot of South Asians believed that as long as they work hard and contribute to society, no one will harm them. Suddenly, people are realizing that they are vulnerable.

There is now widespread concern about racial profiling and discrimination: being pulled off airplanes, being pulled over just because you look Sikh. There’s concern about the detentions of many South Asians by the federal government right now. And in a broader sense, there’s concern about whether South Asians will ever be accepted as Americans. South Asians now have more empathy for groups that have suffered from racial profiling in the past—African Americans, Latinos. We’re all in the same boat and we have to fight for our rights.

There are mixed messages coming from the government, so top political leaders need to make clear statements about hate crimes. They should get the word out that hate crimes will not be tolerated and let people know what to do if they are affected. At present, there is often reluctance to go to the authorities because of fear and embarrassment. At the same time, local and state governments must get over their denial that hate crimes do occur.

We, members of affected groups, all need to be more proactive in working to promote understanding. People need to see that we are not the “Other.”[25]

Joseph Zogby
Special counsel for post-September 11 national origin discrimination, Civil Rights Division, Department of Justice

Since September 11, we have seen a substantial increase in reported bias incidents against Arab Americans, Muslim Americans, South Asian Americans, and Sikh Americans, as well as others perceived to be members of these groups. These incidents include hate crimes and discrimination in employment, housing, education, public accommodations, and air travel. The Department of Justice is taking this problem very seriously and is devoting significant resources to it.

The Civil Rights Division reacted swiftly to stem the backlash, issuing a statement on September 13, 2001, that threats of violence or discrimination against these groups are wrong, un-American, and unlawful. We met with representatives of the affected communities on the same day, and have continued to meet with them. We also created a post-September 11 initiative within the Civil Rights Division’s National Origin Working Group. This initiative seeks to combat discrimination in three ways. First, we receive reports of violations, maintain a database of complaints, and refer complaints to the proper federal agencies. Second, we do outreach to vulnerable communities, working with Arab, Sikh, and Muslim community organizations to enable people to file complaints. This has included holding community forums in Arlington, Virginia, and several other locations. Third, we work with other DOJ components and with other government agencies to provide interagency coordination to address the backlash.

With the help of the FBI, the U.S. attorneys’ offices, and local prosecutors, the Civil Rights Division has opened more than 350 criminal investigations into alleged hate crimes, including telephone, Internet, mail, and face-to-face threats; minor assaults; assaults with dangerous weapons; assaults resulting in serious injury or death; and vandalism, shootings, and bombings aimed at homes, businesses, and places of worship. We also have dozens of civil investigations under way into alleged noncriminal bias incidents.

The Civil Rights Division and the U.S. attorneys’ offices continue to coordinate with local prosecutors to bring federal charges where appropriate. Federal charges have been brought in 10 cases so far. Additional prosecutions may take place in response to the 350 investigations opened since September 2001, but with each complaint a determination must be made whether it rises to the threshold of having violated federal civil rights law. In some cases, these crimes have to be prosecuted at the state and local level.

Regarding violations of civil rights by government personnel, there are two offices in the Justice Department charged with investigating allegations of abuses by the department’s personnel and by state and local law enforcement. Complaints about the Operation Green Quest raids have been filed with the Customs Service of the Treasury Department, which is heading up that operation, and some investigations have been opened. Treasury Secretary O’Neill has also met with Arab American and Muslim leaders to discuss their concerns about the raids.[26]

[1] Federal Bureau of Investigation, Uniform Crime Reporting Program, “Hate Crime Statistics 2001,” Nov. 25, 2002, <> (Dec. 2, 2002).

[2] American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) Research Institute, Report on Hate Crimes and Discrimination Against Arab Americans September 11, 2001 to October 11, 2002 (available from Laila Al-Qatami at lalqatami@ or (202) 244-2990). The FBI and the ADC used slightly different criteria to define and verify incidents; the ADC report includes incidents reported to the organization and to the news media as well as those reported to law enforcement.

[3] These examples and the examples in the following paragraphs are drawn from ADC Research Institute, Report on Hate Crimes and Discrimination, and press reports.

[4] Stroman was subsequently tried and convicted of Patel’s murder. See also Robert E. Pierre, “Victims of Hate, Now Feeling Forgotten,” Washington Post, Sept. 14, 2002.

[5] ADC Research Institute, Report on Hate Crimes, citing the Washington Post.

[6] ADC Research Institute, Report on Hate Crimes, citing the Baltimore Sun, Sept. 14, 2001.

[7] ADC Research Institute, Report on Hate Crimes, citing the Washington Post, Sept. 23, 2001.

[8] ADC Research Institute, Report on Hate Crimes, citing the Washington Post, Sept. 13, 2001.

[9] ADC Research Institute, Report on Hate Crimes, citing the Washington Times, Feb. 11, 2002.

[10] Ibid.

[11] ADC Research Institute, Report on Hate Crimes, citing the Washington Post, Oct. 11, 2001.

[12] ADC Research Institute, Report on Hate Crimes, citing Council on American-Islamic Relations, Jan. 8, 2002.

[13] Although Louis Farrakhan agreed in 2000 to adopt the general tenets of worldwide Islam, the Nation of Islam maintains a separate organizational structure and has remained somewhat isolated, according to Mr. Abdul-Malik.

[14] Johari Abdul-Malik, summary of testimony before the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia Advisory Committees to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, community forum, Annandale, Virginia, April 24–25, 2002, transcript, pp. 309–16, 364–65, 371, 411 (hereafter cited as Forum Transcript).

[15] More than 700 violent incidents targeting Arab Americans or those perceived to be Arab Americans, Arabs, and Muslims in the first nine weeks following September 11, 2001, were reported by the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee Research Institute in its report titled Report on Hate Crimes & Discrimination Against Arab Americans: The Post-September 11 Backlash, May 2003. Copies may be obtained by e-mailing or calling (202) 244-2990.

[16] The incidents are summarized in ADC Research Institute, Report on Hate Crimes. The final version of the report covered the period up to October 11, 2002, and thus contained a higher number of incidents in every category than the figures mentioned by Mr. Shora at the April forum.

[17] Summary of testimony by Kareem Shora, Forum Transcript, pp. 317–24, 385–89, 394–95, 408–09.

[18] Many press articles documenting the backlash against Sikh Americans can be found at <>.

[19] Mr. Singh later added that the Department of Justice has not moved ahead on prosecution of the murder of Balbir Singh Sodhi. Although it is being prosecuted locally as a homicide, he stated, it should also be dealt with at the federal level as a hate crime. Forum Transcript, p. 391.

[20] Summary of testimony by Rajwant Singh, Forum Transcript, pp. 325–33, 391–92, 410–11.

[21] Consistent with this, a member of the audience, June Han of the National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium, remarked that initial outreach by federal agencies to vulnerable communities has been good and they have shown openness to receiving complaints; the problem is lack of follow-up. She suggested the need for a formal follow-up mechanism. Forum Transcript, pp. 405–06.

[22] Albert Mokaiber, an Arab American attorney in the forum audience, said, “We go to the Department of Justice and we’re told all the right things about civil rights, and no sooner do we leave than there’s somebody behind us following us all the way back.” Forum Transcript, p. 400.

[23] Summary of testimony by Sharifa Alkhateeb, Forum Transcript, pp. 334–45, 372–73, 384–85, 401, 409–10.

[24] South Asian American Leaders of Tomorrow, American Backlash, Sept. 28, 2001, <> (Oct. 27, 2002).

[25] Summary of testimony by Gautam Dutta, Forum Transcript, pp. 345–53, 389, 412.

[26] Summary of testimony by Joseph Zogby, Forum Transcript, pp. 354–62, 366–70, 374–77, 379–82, 389–92, 399–400, 406–07.