Chicago’s Arab American Community: An Introduction by Ray Hanania
(Excerpted from Ray Hanania’s forthcoming book, The Door of God: The Story of Chicago’s Arab American Community, (c) 2000 Ray Hanania, All Rights Reserved. You may reprint all or parts of this document as long as it includes a full reference to the author, the copyright, and the web address of www.hanania.com)
Chicago’s Arabic Quarter was located at 18th and Michigan Ave, and it was taking form just after the turn of the Century. In fact, 18th and Michigan is sometimes referred to as the “Plymouth Rock” of the Chicago Arab American community.
It continued to serve as the arrival point for new Arab and Muslim immigrants through the mid-1940s. In the 1940s, it was centered around the Mecca Restaurant, 1806 S. Michigan Ave., where Arabian food specialties were served and Arab merchants would congregate and share stories and find comfort.
In their book Chicago Confidential (1950, Crown Publishers, New York, p. 71), authors Jack Lait and Lee Mortimer included a small section called “Sons of the Prophet” to introduce their readers to this Middle East section of the city. Their writing is typical of the racism that was ascribed to Arab American immigrants.
Lait and Mortimer wrote:
You won’t find any camels at 18th and Michigan. Chicago’s small Arabic quarter is surrounded by Automobile Row. If you can digest such, there are several native restaurants serving Near Eastern delicacies which you are supposed to eat with your hands. Arabs sell tapestry and rugs, wholesale and retail. Many merchants who say they are Arabs (because business is business) are not. You will find no orgies out of the Arabian Nights here. Chicago’s Arabs don’t keep harems and if they did you wouldn’t care to look twice at their women. They wouldn’t be to your taste. The chief past time is drinking thick, black coffee and playing cards.
Entering “The Door of God”
yatlah al-Bab al-Allah
By 1910, three pockets of Syrian Arabs were living in Chicago, with the center recognized as being in the area of 18th and Michigan Avenue. Although the early Arab settlers found homes throughout Chicago, it was perceived by many that a large concentration existed at this location. More than likely, it had to do with the few restaurants in Chicago that offered Arab food, which were located there in the area of 18th and Michigan Avenue.
In 1911, The Survey Journal, in its four part series on Syrians in America, estimated that there were 1,200 “Syrians” living in Chicago, compared to 6,000 in New York, and only 56 in Duluth, Minnesota. There were 15 Arab owned stores in Chicago, it reported. The largest American Muslim community in the United States, at that time, was located in Providence, R.I. There were some 150 Muslim residents, not all Arab, though.
Louise Seymour Houghton wrote for The Survey: “In Chicago, there are also 3 colonies resembling those of New York in gradation of living, though not in size. The poorest is housed in an uncomfortable region near the railroad tracks, evidently chosen from consideration of rent. This was formerly one of the most disreputable quarters of the city, and it still has the reputation among those who are ignorant that the entrance of Syrians, killing off the saloon trade, has driven away the disreputable inhabitants. (This was the case in 1909. The property has recently been bought by the railroad and the Syrians who lived there were removed to better parts of the city.) The other colonies, like those of New York, are better standing in proportion as they are farther from the center.” (Houghton, Louise Seymour, “Syrians in the United States,” The Survey, Vol. 26, No. 14, pp 492. July 1, 1911.)
Arab merchants still had to learn the customs, and they learned quickly that they had to satisfy the demands of the local politicians.
“We had to go there for our permits to peddle merchandise from our suitcases,” recalled Hassan Haleem, the patriarch of a large family of Muslim Palestinians who immigrated to this country at the turn of the century and who also helped other Arabs as they immigrated to Chicago.
“We would meet with the aldermen, there, ‘Bathhouse’ John Coughlin and Hinky Dink Kenna. We had to pay them the registration fee, and a small fee for them, personally. Then, we could peddle our wares on the street. The permit would be fixed to the suitcase.”
The Arab peddler was an extension of the Arab merchant in the great souqs (open air markets) of the Middle East. The peddlers who came to America saw their profession as demanding as the work they left behind, except they found more opportunity here, and less back home.
Because it was strenuous work and required long hours of walking carrying a heavy suitcase of merchandise, usually bed spreads, shirts, combs, and brushes, the early Arab peddlers referred to their work as “knocking on (or opening) the door of God” (yatlah al-Bab al-Allah, in Arabic).
Lebanese Christians Begin Immigration
Many of the early Christian Arab immigrants to America were, initially, Lebanese, who fled persecution in their homelands . They came to America in the middle of the 19th Century. At that time, a great massacre of Christians by Muslims in 1860 resulted in the total destruction of the Lebanese Christian village of Zahlah, only one of the occasional skirmishes between the two religious groups that occurred. Some 22,000 Christian Arabs were massacred in that conflict with the larger Muslim Druze community. Some believe that the Ottoman Turks were involved in inciting this conflict.
Many of the Christian Lebanese fled to other Arab countries, like Damascus in Syria. Having settled in new areas, they were more than likely to continue their flight with many arriving on the shores of the United States. By the end of the 19th Century, many did.
Generally, Muslims and Christians have maintained excellent relations and conflicts like the Zahlah massacre in Lebanon were rare, although destructive. Nonetheless, this event did spark the first major wave of Arabs to come to America and Chicago.
The early Syrian-Lebanese community settled near 18th Street and Michigan Avenue, where almost all Arab Americans to Chicago arrived. These nearly all Christian Arabs (Maronite by faith) used an apartment that they rented at the time to conduct their church services. It was located on Canal Street near Harrison Street.
These Christian Syrians did not have a priest of their own. They would invite Arab priests passing through Chicago to offer the religious services. Finally, in 1905, they found a priest who offered services fulltime from the basement of a local church on Canal Street.
From 18th Street and Michigan Avenue, these Syrian-Lebanese immigrants earned money through door-to-door peddling and purchased homes just west of the city’s downtown area, in a “neighborhood” called “Little Zahlah.” “Little Zahlah” was located between Roosevelt Road on the north, 16th Street on the south, California Avenue on the west and Kedzie Avenue on the east. It is the second concentration of Arab Americans outside of 18th and Michigan Avenue.
A Christian Arab Church, St. John the Baptist Melkite Church, was established at 1343 S. Washtenaw Avenue on June 24, 1910 with the blessing of the Archbishop of the Chicago Archdiocese. Before the church was purchased, Rev. Msg. S. Roumie, the Syrian Priest who held services at the downtown offices on Canal Street, became the new church’s pastor.
These Syrian-Lebanese settlers also established a Syrian Club. The Maronites broke away and established their own church in 1959 called Our Lady of Lebanon. It was located in the city but was later moved west to the suburb of Hillside in the late 1960s or early 1970s. The Maronite Lebanese also sought to separate themselves by establishing the Phoenician Club in 1971 which identified more with ancient historical and cultural roots more than with their identity as Arabs.
Palestinians and Jordanians Follow
The majority of Arabs living in Chicago are of Palestinian and Jordanian origins. There are two “streams” of migration originating from 18th and Michigan Ave, one heading Northwest and the other Southwest.
The Palestinians came predominantly from two villages in Palestine called “Beitunia,” and “Ramallah.” These twin cities are located next to each other in the West Bank just north of Jerusalem. Beitunia is the Muslim village and Ramallah is the Christian village. Today, many of these religious distinctions have changed considerably, especially in Ramallah which today has a large Muslim population.
Today, Beitunia Muslims constitute the largest community of Arabs in Chicago. The Beitunia Palestinians began arriving in Chicago around 1910.
The first members of the Ramallah Palestine community began arriving in Chicago in 1920, according to research conducted by doctoral student Ali Zaghal (see below).
This resulted in a geographical division of these two large Arab groups, with the Muslim Palestinians from Beitunia settling on Chicago’s South and Southwest Side, and the Christian Palestinians from Ramallah settling on the city’s North and Northwest Side.
The Beitunia Palestinians settled near the Syrians at 18th and Michigan, conducting religious services in a nearby building’s basement. Later, they began their migration south and southwest to an area near 45th and South Ashland Avenue. There was a restaurant near there called the Shahrazad Restaurant. In fact, it was common for an affluent businessman to lead the migration by opening restaurants in newer areas. These restaurants became the magnets for later immigrants.
The Beitunia Palestinian Arabs continued their migration southwest in later years, establishing a new colony between Western Avenue and Kedzie Avenue around 63rd Street in the 1970s. By the 1990s, these same families moved further Southwest in Oak Lawn, Burbank and also Orland Park. An Arab community center was established at 55th and Fairfield. It was closed and another opened up on 63rd Street near Kedzie.
Today, the largest concentration of Palestinian Arabs are located between Oak Lawn and Orland Park in the city’s Southwest Suburbs.
The first Muslim church or Mosque was founded in the Spring of 1956 and it created somewhat of a sensation resulting in a newspaper article in the Chicago Tribune.
Moslems Buy Building for Use as Mosque
The Mosque Foundation of Chicago has purchased a home of its own which will be the first mosque in Chicago, according to Hassan Haleem, secretary-treasurer of the foundation.
He said the building, a former church at 6500 [South] Stewart Ave., was purchased from the South Side association for $100,000 … [The Mosque will service] many families from Arabian countries, the majority from Palestine, during the last few years. The society was formed two years ago by 10 or 15 families.
Haleem said there were about 100 Islamic families on the south and southwest side, including more than 200 children. Most of them live between 63rd and 79th Streets, and Stony Island and Halsted Street.
“To continue their customs, to follow and practice their religion, and to instill these habits together with the Arabic language in the minds of their children, they felt a great need for forming a society,” Haleem said. Society President is Abdallah Shoukry.
Their religion has this creed:
“There is no God but Allah and Mohammad is his Messenger.”
(Chicago Tribune, 1956)
Later, the Mosque Foundation, which Haleem and others founded, established several temporary religious and Muslim education centers that later resulted in the construction of Chicago’s first ever Arab and Muslim Mosque in Bridgeview. (The story is detailed in the background piece on Sheikh Khalil Zayid, included in my manuscript booklet and to be published here later.)
The Christian Ramallah Palestinians, along with several Christian Jordanian families, established a church too. By 1970, the St. George Orthodox Church at 1125 N. Humphrey in Oak Park, was drawing parishioners from as far away as Indiana.
In the late 1980s, the church relocated to 1220 S. 60th Court in Cicero, Illinois. It is important to remember that while churches and mosques became the center of community activity for various Arab groups, they did not serve specific groups exclusively. St. George Church, for example, attracted not only Ramallah Palestinian Christians, but also Christians from other denominations and Arab countries or Palestinian cities. The church service is conducted in the Arabic language.
The Jordanian population of Chicago originated from three cities
in Jordan. They are Madaba, Salt and El-Fuheis.
Originally, they settled around Logan Square on the city’s Northwest Side,
among the Ramallah Palestinians. A center of Jordanian activity was the St.
Charles Restaurant at Montrose Avenue and Lincoln Avenue, which was owned by a
Jordanian Christian from Madaba. The restaurant was opened sometime in the
1950s. Today there is a large Jordanian presence in the Southwest Suburbs, too.
Chicago Arab Population Growth
Three studies of Chicago’s Arab American communities were conducted by doctorate students in Chicago. The first was completed in 1950 and 1952 by Abdul Jalil al-Tahir, and the second by Ali Zaghel in 1976 at Northwestern University.
Because Arab Americans are not included as a minority designation in the US Census documents, and because so few studies existed outside of the Arab American community, these two documents present the most accurate glimpse into the lives of Arab Americans during those periods. Both authors also document some history and folklore.
It’s also important to note that prior to 1897, immigrants from the Middle East were classified as “Turks” or as “Turkish.” That year, immigration officials started to differentiate between Turks and “Syrians.” This made it more difficult to track pre-1900 Arab settlement, especially in Chicago.
A more updated look at Chicago’s Arab American population was completed by the Arab American Action Network in 1998 called “Meeting Community Needs, Building on Community Strengths,” and was based on research by AAAN Research Director Louise Cainkar. This focussed on the city’s deteriorating Arab neighborhood along 63rd Street.
According to Zaghel, in 1976, the Arab population of Chicago was approximately only 15,000 total, broken up as follows:
Palestinian Christians, (By 1965, Ramallah Palestinians numbered about 250)
Palestinian Muslims, (By 1965, Beitunia Palestinians totaled more than 1,800, the largest group in Chicago, growing to 4,500 in 1976, the time of the Zaghal study.)
Syrian-Lebanese, (almost entirely Christian)
Egyptians (Copt Christian and Muslim - They began arriving in Chicago in 1955)
Jordanians (largely Christian) (They, too, arrived in substantial numbers in 1965)
Iraqis (They began arriving in 1963)
Yemenis and others (including students)
(1965 is an important year because it was at that time that the United States eased its immigration restrictions imposed following the War, in which five of seven preference immigration categories favored qualified relatives of US citizens or permanent residents.)
Today, as a result of increased immigration since 1976, it estimated that the Chicago area’s Arab American community actually number around 150,000. I want to stress this is for the entire Chicago Area. (Estimates from the City of Chicago assert more than 250,000 in Chicago alone, but there is no data to back up this claim.) Estimates for the state range between 350,000 and 450,000.
About 55,000 to 80,000 Arab Americans live in the City of Chicago, far below the projections. This community continues to decline as more and more Arab families follow the primary migration in the Southwest Suburbs, with smatterings relocating North and Northwest. There are about 75,000 to 85,000 Arab Americans living in suburban Chicago. The largest concentration of Arabs live in the Southwest Suburbs (55,000-60,000) and the remainder (20,000-25,000) live scattered in the Western and Northwest Suburbs with no real concentration in any one area. Even these numbers are estimates and are based upon numerous interviews with community leaders.
A hardship imposed upon the Arab community is the exaggeration of their numbers. Many politicians and government officials have complained about this discrepancy and its reflection on individuals of responsibility in our community. But, this also is the result of the failure of the US Census takers to correctly identify Arab Americans by race. Most statistics on Arab American immigration is based on immigration entry interviews. Only some Arab Americans list themselves as “Arabs” in the “Other” category when completing census materials.
A look at the Arab Presence at the 1893 Columbian Exposition
One of the first Arabs that many Chicagoans and Americans came to know may have been the make-believe character, Gamal El Din El Yahbi.
El Yahbi was a character created by the sponsors of the 1893 Columbian Exposition to help Americans experience the excitement and culture of the Arab World. El Yahbi “owned” an elegant home that was located in the center of the “Street in Cairo” which was one of the main attractions of the 1893 Columbian Exposition and located at the center of the fair’s Midway Plaisance.
Cairo Street, as it was informally called, was a composite of many different images that a visitor might have seen while visiting Cairo, Egypt and other Arab countries in the Middle East. It reflected the lifestyles of the early 17th Century Arabs and was designed by Max Herz, the official government architect for the Khedive of Egypt.
This reconstructed Arab city feature many amazing details, and included a Mosque (a Muslim house of worship) with its massive doors and ornamentation. It was built to the precise dimensions of an existing Mosque in Cairo, the Mosque of Abou Bake Mazhar, minus the towering Minaret where the Muezzin would call the faithful to prayer.
The street itself was lined with other buildings and storefronts with their balconies and ornate facades, portals and mosaic designs, over looking a fountain and open air market filled with tethered camels and donkeys that fairgoers could ride.
Cairo Street also featured the Tomb of Thi, a monument to the 5th Dynasty (3800 BC), the Temple of Luxor of the age of Amenophis III and Rameses II (1800 to 1480 BC), mummies (1700-1710 BC) and the Tomb of the Sacred Bull, built under Ptolemies (260 BC).
The population of “Cairo Street” consisted of 180 “Egyptians, Arabs, Nubians and Sudanese” and the many storied home of Gamal El Din El Yahbi, described as a “Mohammedan of the time,” was a highlighted feature.
(The term “Mohammedan” is an antiquated term that is viewed as being derogatory today and is not used.)
There were 61 merchant shops on the street, selling souvenirs. Each day they would offer two performances.
Sword dancers and candle dancers performing the Dans Du Ventre, are accompanied by musicians. There are conjurers, astrologers, fortune tellers, snake charmers and entertainment of all descriptions.
The most popular was “Little Egypt,” the nickname of Fahreda Mahzar, who danced the “Hootchie Coochie” dance (or belly dance). She was actually Armenian Arab, and was only one of a dozen dancers who performed under the same stage name at the time. Her dance was performed despite protests from Chicago’s Board of Lady Managers. William B. Gray memorialized Cairo Street in his song, She Never Saw the Streets of Cairo, with these the lyrics:
“She never saw the Streets of Cairo, on the Midway she had
“She had never seen a Hootchie Coochie, poor little innocent maid.”
A pamphlet prepared for fairgoers concluded, “When the Columbian Exposition shall have become a thing of the past and its memories hazy with the flight of time, it there shall be one spot which shall remain brighter than all the rest, that one will be its beautiful Cairo Street, in the Midway Plaisance.”
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U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Facts About Religious Discrimination
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of l964 prohibits employers from discriminating against individuals because of their religion in hiring, firing, and other terms and conditions of employment. The Act also requires employers to reasonably accommodate the religious practices of an employee or prospective employee, unless to do so would create an undue hardship upon the employer (see also 29 CFR l605). Flexible scheduling, voluntary substitutions or swaps, job reassignments and lateral transfers are examples of accommodating an employee’s religious beliefs.
Employers cannot schedule examinations or other selection activities in conflict with a current or prospective employee’s religious needs, inquire about an applicant’s future availability at certain times, maintain a restrictive dress code, or refuse to allow observance of a Sabbath or religious holiday, unless the employer can prove that not doing so would cause an undue hardship.
An employer can claim undue hardship when accommodating an employee’s religious practices if allowing such practices requires more than ordinary administrative costs. Undue hardship also may be shown if changing a bona fide seniority system to accommodate one employee’s religious practices denies another employee the job or shift preference guaranteed by the seniority system.
An employee whose religious practices prohibit payment of union dues to a labor organization cannot be required to pay the dues, but may pay an equal sum to a charitable organization.
Mandatory “new age” training programs, designed to improve employee motivation, cooperation or productivity through meditation, yoga, biofeedback or other practices, may conflict with the non-discriminatory provisions of Title VII. Employers must accommodate any employee who gives notice that these programs are inconsistent with the employee’s religious beliefs, whether or not the employer believes there is a religious basis for the employee’s objection.
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U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Facts About National Origin Discrimination
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of l964 protects individuals against employment discrimination on the basis of national origin as well as race, color, religion and sex.
It is unlawful to discriminate against any employee or applicant because of the individual’s national origin. No one can be denied equal employment opportunity because of birthplace, ancestry, culture, or linguistic characteristics common to a specific ethnic group. Equal employment opportunity cannot be denied because of marriage or association with persons of a national origin group; membership or association with specific ethnic promotion groups; attendance or participation in schools, churches, temples or mosques generally associated with a national origin group; or a surname associated with a national origin group.
Speak English-Only Rule
A rule requiring employees to speak only English at all times on the job may violate Title VII, unless an employer shows it is necessary for conducting business. If an employer believes the English-only rule is critical for business purposes, employees have to be told when they must speak English and the consequences for violating the rule. Any negative employment decision based on breaking the English-only rule will be considered evidence of discrimination if the employer did not tell employees of the rule.
An employer must show a legitimate nondiscriminatory reason for the denial of employment opportunity because of an individual’s accent or manner of speaking. Investigations will focus on the qualifications of the person and whether his or her accent or manner of speaking had a detrimental effect on job performance. Requiring employees or applicants to be fluent in English may violate Title VII if the rule is adopted to exclude individuals of a particular national origin and is not related to job performance.
Harassment on the basis of national origin is a violation of Title VII. An ethnic slur or other verbal or physical conduct because of an individual’s nationality constitute harassment if they create an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment, unreasonably interfere with work performance or negatively affect an individual’s employment opportunities.
Employers have a responsibility to maintain a workplace free of national origin harassment. Employers may be responsible for any on-the-job harassment by their agents and supervisory employees, regardless of whether the acts were authorized or specifically forbidden by the employer. Under certain circumstances, an employer may be responsible for the acts of non-employees who harass their employees at work.
Immigration-Related Practices Which May Be Discriminatory
The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA) requires employers to prove all employees hired after November 6, 1986, are legally authorized to work in the United States. IRCA also prohibits discrimination based on national origin or citizenship. An employer who singles out individuals of a particular national origin or individuals who appear to be foreign to provide employment verification may have violated both IRCA and Title VII. Employers who impose citizenship requirements or give preference to U.S. citizens in hiring or employment opportunities may have violated IRCA, unless these are legal or contractual requirements for particular jobs. Employers also may have violated Title VII if a requirement or preference has the purpose or effect of discriminating against individuals of a particular national origin.
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U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Questions and Answers About Employer Responsibilities Concerning the Employment of Muslims, Arabs, South Asians, and Sikhs
Since the attacks of September 11, 2001, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and state and local fair employment practices agencies have recorded a significant increase in the number of charges alleging discrimination based on religion and/or national origin. Many of the charges have been filed by individuals who are or are perceived to be Muslim, Arab, South Asian, or Sikh. These charges most commonly allege harassment and discharge.
While employers have an ongoing responsibility to address workplace discrimination, reaction to the events of September 11, 2001 may demand increased efforts to prevent discrimination. This fact sheet answers questions about what steps an employer can take to meet these responsibilities. The Commission has also prepared a companion fact sheet that answers questions about employee rights. For additional information, visit the EEOC’s website at http://www.eeoc.gov.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits workplace discrimination based on religion, ethnicity, country of origin, race and color. Such discrimination is prohibited in any aspect of employment, including recruitment, hiring, promotion, benefits, training, job duties, and termination. Workplace harassment is also prohibited by Title VII. In addition, an employer must provide a reasonable accommodation for religious practices unless doing so would result in undue hardship. The law prohibits retaliation against an individual because s/he has engaged in protected activity, which includes filing a charge, testifying, assisting, or participating in any manner in an investigation, or opposing a discriminatory practice. Employers with 15 or more employees are required to comply with Title VII. Title VII also prohibits discrimination by most unions and employment agencies.
HIRING AND OTHER EMPLOYMENT DECISIONS
Narinder, a South Asian man who wears a Sikh turban, applies for a position as a cashier at XYZ Discount Goods. XYZ fears Narinder’s religious attire will make customers uncomfortable. What should XYZ do?
XYZ should not deny Narinder the job due to notions of customer preferences about religious attire. That would be unlawful. It would be the same as refusing to hire Narinder because he is a Sikh.
XYZ Discount Goods should also consider proactive measures for preventing discrimination in hiring and other employment decisions. XYZ could remind its managers and employees that discrimination based on religion or national origin is not tolerated by the company in any aspect of employment, including hiring. XYZ could also adopt objective standards for selecting new employees. It is important to hire people based on their qualifications rather than on perceptions about their religion, race or national origin.
Muhammad, who is Arab American, works for XYZ Motors, a large used car business. Muhammad meets with his manager and complains that Bill, one of his coworkers, regularly calls him names like “camel jockey,” “the local terrorist,” and “the ayatollah,” and has intentionally embarrassed him in front of customers by claiming that he is incompetent. How should the supervisor respond?
Managers and supervisors who learn about objectionable workplace conduct based on religion or national origin are responsible for taking steps to correct the conduct by anyone under their control. Muhammad’s manager should relay Muhammad’s complaint to the appropriate manager if he does not supervise Bill. If XYZ Motors then determines that Bill has harassed Muhammad, it should take disciplinary action against Bill that is significant enough to ensure that the harassment does not continue.
Workplace harassment and its costs are often preventable. Clear and effective policies prohibiting ethnic and religious slurs, and related offensive conduct, are needed. Confidential complaint mechanisms for promptly reporting harassment are critical, and these policies should be written to encourage victims and witnesses to come forward. When harassment is reported, the focus should be on action to end the harassment and correct its effects on the complaining employee.
Three of the 10 Muslim employees in XYZ’s 30-person template design division approach their supervisor and ask that they be allowed to use a conference room in an adjacent building for prayer. Until making the request, those employees prayed at their work stations. What should XYZ do?
XYZ should work closely with the employees to find an appropriate accommodation that meets their religious needs without causing an undue hardship for XYZ. Whether a reasonable accommodation would impose undue hardship and therefore not be required depends on the particulars of the business and the requested accommodation.
When the room is needed for business purposes, XYZ can deny its use for personal religious purposes. However, allowing the employees to use the conference room for prayers likely would not impose an undue hardship on XYZ in many other circumstances.
Similarly, prayer often can be performed during breaks, so that providing sufficient time during work hours for prayer would not result in an undue hardship. If going to another building for prayer takes longer than the allotted break periods, the employees still can be accommodated if the nature of the template design division’s work makes flexible scheduling feasible. XYZ can require employees to make up any work time missed for religious observance.
In evaluating undue hardship, XYZ should consider only whether it can accommodate the three employees who made the request. If XYZ can accommodate three employees, it should do so. Because individual religious practices vary among members of the same religion, XYZ should not deny the requested accommodation based on speculation that the other Muslim employees may seek the same accommodation. If other employees subsequently request the same accommodation and granting it to all of the requesters would cause undue hardship, XYZ can make an appropriate adjustment at that time. For example, if accommodating five employees would not cause an undue hardship but accommodating six would impose such hardship, the sixth request could be denied.
Like employees of other religions, Muslim employees may need accommodations such as time off for religious holidays or exceptions to dress and grooming codes.
Susan is an experienced clerical worker who wears a hijab (head scarf) in conformance with her Muslim beliefs. XYZ Temps places Susan in a long-term assignment with one of its clients. The client contacts XYZ and requests that it notify Susan that she must remove her hijab while working at the front desk, or that XYZ assign another person to Susan’s position. According to the client, Susan’s religious attire violates its dress code and presents the “wrong image.” Should XYZ comply with its client’s request?
XYZ Temps may not comply with this client request without violating Title VII. The client would also violate Title VII if it made Susan remove her hijab or changed her duties to keep her out of public view. Therefore, XYZ should strongly advise against this course of action. Notions about customer preference real or perceived do not establish undue hardship, so the client should make an exception to its dress code to let Susan wear her hijab during front desk duty as a religious accommodation. If the client does not withdraw the request, XYZ should place Susan in another assignment at the same rate of pay and decline to assign another worker to the client.
Anwar, who was born in Egypt, applies for a position as a security guard with XYZ Corp., which contracts to provide security services at government office buildings. Can XYZ require Muhammad to undergo a background investigation before he is hired?
XYZ may require Anwar to undergo the same pre-employment security checks that apply to other applicants for the same position. As with its other employment practices, XYZ may not perform background investigations or other screening procedures in a discriminatory manner.
In addition, XYZ may require a security clearance pursuant to a federal statute or Executive Order. Security clearance determinations for positions subject to national security requirements under a federal statute or an Executive Order are not subject to review under the equal employment opportunity statutes.
WHERE TO GO FOR GUIDANCE
The EEOC is available to provide you with useful information on how to address workplace problems relating to discrimination based on religion, national origin, race or color. We conduct various types of training, and we can help you find a format that is right for you.
Small businesses are faced with unique challenges in promoting effective workplace policies that prevent discrimination. Our Small Business Liaisons are located in each of our District, Local and Area offices to assist you in compliance with EEO laws.
You should feel free to contact EEOC with questions about effective workplace policies that can help prevent discrimination. We are also available to answer more specialized questions. To be connected to the appropriate office, please call 1-800-669-4000, or send inquiries to:
Office of Legal Counsel
1801 L Street, NW, Suite 6000
Washington, D.C. 20507
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U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Questions and Answers About the Workplace Rights of Muslims, Arabs, South Asians, and Sikhs Under the Equal Employment Opportunity Laws
Since the attacks of September 11, 2001, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and state and local fair employment practices agencies have documented a significant increase in the number of charges alleging workplace discrimination based on religion and/or national origin. Many of the charges have been filed by individuals who are or are perceived to be Muslim, Arab, South Asian, or Sikh. These charges most commonly allege harassment and discharge.
In order to help people better understand their rights, EEOC has posted detailed information on its website about national origin and religious discrimination, as well as information on how to file a charge. If you think that you, or someone you know, has been discriminated against because of national origin or religion and want to learn more about exercising your legal rights, please read the information provided or go to www.eeoc.gov.
The scenarios described below are based on charges EEOC has received over the past few months. The following questions and answers are meant to provide guidance on what constitutes illegal discrimination and positive steps you can take to exercise your rights in the workplace.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits workplace discrimination based on religion, ethnicity, country of origin, race and color. Such discrimination is prohibited in any aspect of employment, including recruitment, hiring, promotion, benefits, training, job duties, and termination. Workplace harassment is also prohibited by Title VII. In addition, an employer must provide a reasonable accommodation for religious practices unless doing so would result in undue hardship. Title VII prohibits retaliation against someone who complains about a discriminatory practice, files a charge, or assists in an investigation of discrimination in any way. Employers with 15 or more employees are required to comply with Title VII. Most unions and employment agencies are also covered.
HIRING AND DISCHARGE
I am a South Asian woman from Bangladesh. I applied for a job at a bakery and had a phone interview with the manager. She seemed to like me a lot and she offered me the job over the phone. When I came in to work the first day, she appeared to be startled by my appearance. I have dark skin and wear a hijab. She brusquely stated that she had found someone “better suited to the job” and sent me home. I don’t know what to do about this.
An employer may not refuse to hire someone because of his or her religion, national origin, race or color. However, it is often difficult to find out exactly why a person was not hired for a job. In your situation, it appears that you were sent home because the employer had a negative reaction to your hijab, which you wear as part of your religious and/or cultural identity. But the only way to really know is to get more facts. You can ask the employer for an explanation of its business reasons.
Let’s assume that when the employer saw you wearing your hijab, she worried about how her customers would feel about it. Customer preference is never a justification for a discriminatory practice. Refusing to hire someone because customers or co-workers may be “uncomfortable” with that person’s religion or national origin is just as illegal as refusing to hire that person because of religion or national origin in the first place. Similarly, an employer may not fire someone because of religion and/or national origin. This prohibition applies to other employment decisions as well, including promotion, transfers, work assignments and wages.
Even though you have a gut feeling that the reason you were turned away is due to your religious identity or national origin, a fuller explanation of the employer’s business reasons would be needed before determining whether the action was discriminatory. You may contact the EEOC or your state Fair Employment Practices Agency and file a charge. We will assess the allegation and conduct the appropriate investigation.
I am an Arab American man and have been a salesman at a large car retailer for five years. After September 11, my coworkers stopped talking to me, and there has been a lot of tension. One coworker started calling me names like “camel jockey” and “the local terrorist.” I used to have a good relationship with my coworkers and enjoyed my job, but now I dread coming to work each day. What can I do about my situation?
Racial and/or ethnic epithets and general workplace hostility can amount to unlawful harassment. While many employees feel powerless in this situation, the important thing to remember is that you have options. Even if your situation does not amount to illegal harassment, you can still take steps to try to improve the situation by communicating with your employer about it.
Coming up with an acceptable solution to the problem depends on your specific circumstances. If you have had a good relationship with these coworkers in the past, perhaps the most effective approach would be to discuss the conduct directly with them. On the other hand, if you are uncomfortable talking with them about it, or if the harassment has continued for an extended period, you should notify your employer about the harassment. Your employer is legally required to take steps to end harassment. Follow the employer’s complaint procedure, if it has one, or notify a manager or other company official. If you are worried that your coworkers might retaliate against you for complaining, you should know that your employer has a legal duty to protect you against retaliation.
Employers can do different things to address these types of situations. The employer may decide to sit down with both you and your coworkers and explain why the comments are unacceptable. Since, in your situation, there is also overall workplace tension, another option would be training for all employees addressing harassment in the workplace. If there is no improvement in your coworkers’ conduct, your employer may choose to punish the harassers for their behavior. The bottom line is that the employer must take action that effectively ends the harassment.
It is possible that your employer may not be helpful to you, or might not see this as a problem at all. While most employers try to prevent workplace harassment, there are situations where an employer may condone or even perpetrate this type of behavior. In those situations, it is going to be very difficult to solve the workplace problems through dialogue. You can contact the EEOC for guidance or file a charge of discrimination at any time. If you decide to file a charge with EEOC, it is most helpful if you document any incidents that occur, including the dates on which they occurred, and the names of the harassers. There are strict deadlines for filing charges. A charge of employment discrimination must be filed with EEOC within 180 days or 300 days if the state has a fair employment practices agency of the date of the disputed conduct. See below for more information on filing a charge of discrimination.
I am a computer specialist at a software company downtown. As a devout Muslim, I am required to attend prayer services at my mosque for a short period on Friday afternoons. Obviously this conflicts with my work hours. Can I ask for the time off to attend services?
You can ask your employer for permission to attend services. When an employer’s workplace policies interfere with its employee’s religious practices, the employee can ask for something called a “reasonable accommodation.” A “reasonable accommodation” is a change in a workplace rule or policy to let you engage in a religious practice. Your employer is required to provide you with such an accommodation unless it would impose an undue hardship on the employer’s business. This means the employer is not required to provide an accommodation that is too costly or difficult to provide. The key is that you should work closely with your employer in finding an appropriate accommodation.
Whether your employer can accommodate your religious practices will depend upon the nature of the work and the workplace. Usually, your employer can allow you to use lunch or other break times for religious prayer. If you require additional time for prayer, your employer can require you to make up the time.
There are many situations in which the accommodation of Islamic religious practices may not impose a monetary or administrative burden on the employer for example, allowing an employee to utilize appropriate space for prayer. However, each situation is different. If the accommodation would impose a burden on the employer that cannot be resolved, the employer is not required to allow the accommodation. If your employer is unsure of its obligations to provide you with religious accommodations, feel free to contact EEOC with your questions.
I am a Sikh man and the turban that I wear is a religiously-mandated article of clothing. My supervisor tells me that my turban makes my coworkers “uncomfortable,” and has asked me to remove it. What should I do?
If a turban is religiously-mandated, you should ask your employer for a religious accommodation to wear it at work. Your employer has a legal obligation to grant your request if it does not impose a burden, or an “undue hardship,” under Title VII. Claiming that your coworkers might be “upset” or “uncomfortable” when they see your turban is not an undue hardship.
If you or your employer has questions about employer obligations to accommodate religious practices, feel free to contact EEOC for more detailed information. If your employer continues to insist that you remove your turban, or takes adverse action against you for refusing to remove it, you may want to contact EEOC to file a charge.
HOW TO FILE A CHARGE OF DISCRIMINATION
Anyone who believes that s/he has been subjected to discrimination in violation of Title VII may file a charge with the nearest field office of the EEOC. Persons who file a charge, oppose unlawful employment discrimination, participate in employment discrimination proceedings, or otherwise assert their rights under the laws enforced by the Commission are protected against retaliation. An EEOC charge must be filed within 180 days or 300 days if the state has a fair employment practices agency of the date of the disputed conduct. When charges or complaints are filed too late, you may not be able to obtain any remedy. Charges may be filed in person, by mail or by telephone by contacting the nearest EEOC office. Field offices are located throughout the United States. To be connected to the appropriate office, please call 1- 800-669-4000. EEOC’s TTY number is 1-800-669-6820. To avoid delay, call or write beforehand if you need special assistance, such as an interpreter, to file a charge.
The Department of Justice Office of Special Counsel for Immigration Related Unfair Employment Practices enforces the prohibition on national origin discrimination as it relates to hiring and discharge against employers with four to fourteen employees. If your employer has between four and fourteen employees and you feel you have been subjected to discrimination based on your national origin, contact the Office of Special Counsel at 1-800-255-7688.
For more information on discrimination against Muslims, Arabs, South Asians and Sikhs in the aftermath of September 11, 2001, please contact DOJ’s Initiative to Combat Post-9/11 Backlash.
[accessed at <http://www.eeoc.gov/facts/backlash-employee.html>]
U.S. Department of Transportation, Aviation Consumer Protection Division
Processing of Complaints Alleging Discrimination by Airlines Based on Race, Color, National Origin, Sex, Religion or Ancestry
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Aviation Consumer Protection Division (ACPD), part of DOT’s Office of the Assistant General Counsel for Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings (Enforcement Office), receives complaints from passengers about airline service, and it investigates each complaint against an airline or its contractors alleging discrimination in air travel on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, and ancestry. Members of the public, who feel they have been the subject of discriminatory actions or treatment by air carriers, may file a complaint by sending an email, a letter, or a completed complaint form to ACPD. ACPD’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org and its mailing address is: Aviation Consumer Protection Division, U.S. Department of Transportation, Room 4107, C-75, Washington, DC 20590. Complaint forms that consumers may download and/or print are available at http://airconsumer.ost.dot.gov/problems.htm.
Complaints should include the following: full name, address, telephone number including area code of complainant; name of the party who suffered the discriminatory conduct, if other than the person submitting the complaint; name of the airline involved in the incident; the flight date, flight number, origin and destination cities of the aggrieved party’s trip; a detailed description of the incident; and a statement that the aggrieved party would like the matter to be investigated by ACPD.
Complaints will be reviewed, acknowledged, and investigated. Upon receiving a discrimination complaint, ACPD will mail a copy of the complaint letter to the airline and ask the airline for a prompt and specific response to the passenger, with a copy to ACPD. ACPD will also request a separate response from the airline concerning any information required by law to remain confidential. The carrier’s responses will be reviewed and further action will be taken, as appropriate. At the conclusion of the investigation, the Enforcement Office will send a letter to the passenger explaining any action taken.
If the Enforcement Office finds an airline policy or procedure is not in compliance with the law, it would direct the carrier to change its policy or procedure, warn the carrier about potential enforcement action if similar complaints continue to be received, and recommend additional civil rights customer relations training for the employees involved, if appropriate. If this does not solve the problem, the Enforcement Office may bring enforcement action against the carrier. Generally, the Enforcement Office will pursue enforcement action on the basis of a number of complaints on which it may infer a pattern or practice of discrimination. However, where one or a few complaints describe particularly egregious conduct on the part of a carrier and those complaints are supported by adequate evidence, the Enforcement Office will pursue enforcement action as its resources permit. In an enforcement case, DOT is limited to issuing cease and desist orders and assessing civil penalties not to exceed $2,500 per violation. Such action can only be accomplished through settlements or formal hearings before administrative law judges. It cannot order compensation for aggrieved parties. To obtain a personal monetary award of damages, a complainant would have to file a private legal action that might be based on private contract rights or on civil rights statutes that provide for private rights of action (e.g., 42 U.S.C. § 1981).
[accessed at <http://airconsumer.ost.dot.gov/DiscCompInstr.htm>]
U.S. Department of Transportation, Aviation Consumer Protection Division
Air Travel Civil Rights Problems
Where to File Complaints
This Informational Sheet provides contact information to help members of the public who feel they have been the subject of discriminatory action or treatment at airports file complaints with the appropriate agency in the Federal government. Since the horrific attacks that occurred on September 11th, much effort has been expended by various agencies within the Federal government to prevent intentional harm to our critical air transportation system. In securing out national air transportation system, we have also taken steps to ensure that all persons are provided equal protection of the laws and that no person is subject to unlawful discrimination when traveling in the Nation.
While we expect security personnel and law enforcement officials at airports to be in full compliance with the civil rights laws, we realize that, on occasion, individuals may believe they have been subjected to unlawful discrimination. We also realize that with various types of security personnel and law enforcement officials at the airports, there is increased confusion regarding the appropriate place to file discrimination complaints. The Department of Transportation’s Office of Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings has prepared this information sheet to assist consumers determine with whom to file a discrimination complaint and how to do so.
Complaints alleging discriminatory treatment by air carrier personnel (e.g., pilots, flight attendants, gate agents or check in counter personnel) should be directed to the Department of Transportation’s Aviation Consumer Protection Division. This office provides complaint forms for consumers to download and print on its website at http://airconsumer.ost.dot.gov/problems.htm. The Aviation Consumer Protection Division accepts complaints via e-mail to email@example.com or via mail to the following address:
Aviation Consumer Protection Division
U.S. Department of Transportation
400 7th Street, S.W., Room 4107
Washington, DC 20590
Complaints alleging discriminatory treatment by Federal security screeners (e.g., personnel screening and searching passengers and carry-on baggage at airport security checkpoints) should be directed to the Department of Transportation’s Transportation Security Administration. The Transportation Security Administration accepts complaints via mail to the following address:
Transportation Security Administration
12th Floor, Room 1203N, TSA-1
400 Seventh Street, SW
Washington, DC 20590
Complaints alleging discriminatory treatment by airport personnel (e.g., airport police) should be directed to the Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Civil Rights. The Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Civil Rights accepts complaints via mail to the following address:
Federal Aviation Administration
Office of Civil Rights
800 Independence Ave., S.W., Room 1030
Washington, DC 20591
Complaints alleging discriminatory treatment by members of the National Guard should be directed to the National Guard Bureau’s Equal Employment Office. The National Guard Bureau’s Equal Employment Office accepts complaints via mail to the following address:
Mr. Felton Page
Director, EEO Division
National Guard Bureau - EO
Jefferson Plaza 1, Room 2400
1411 Jefferson Davis Highway
Arlington, VA 22202-3231
Complaints alleging discriminatory treatment by Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) personnel should be directed to the Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General and/or the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Office of Professional Responsibility. The Office of the Inspector General accepts complaints via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, via phone at (800) 869-4499 or via fax to (202) 616-9881 as well as via mail. The mailing addresses for these offices are:
Office of the Inspector General
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., Suite 4706
Washington, DC 20530
Office of Professional Responsibility
Federal Bureau of Investigation
U.S. Department of Justice
935 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.
Washington, DC 20535
Complaints alleging discriminatory treatment by Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) personnel of the Department of Justice, including Border Patrol personnel, should be directed to the Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General and/or the Immigration and Naturalization Service’s Office of Internal Audit. The Office of the Inspector General accepts complaints via e-mail to oig.hotline@ usdoj.gov, via phone at (800) 869-4499 or via fax to (202) 616-9881 as well as via mail. The mailing addresses for these offices are:
Office of the Inspector General
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., Suite 4706
Washington, DC 20530
Office of Internal Audit
Immigration and Naturalization Service
U.S. Department of Justice
425 I Street, N.W., Room 3260
Washington, DC 20536
Complaints alleging discriminatory treatment by Customs Service officials should be directed to the Department of Treasury’s Office of Internal Affairs. The Department of Treasury’s Office of Internal Affairs accepts complaints via phone at 202-927-1016 or 1-877-422-2557 (24 hours/day), via fax to 202-927-4607 or via mail to the following address:
Department of Treasury
Office of Internal Affairs
U.S. Customs Service
P.O. Box 14475
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20044
Issued on 03/27/2002 and amended on 04/08/2002 and 07/26/2002 by the Office of the Assistant General Counsel for Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings and its Aviation Consumer Protection Division.
[accessed at <http://airconsumer.ost.dot.gov/DiscrimComplaintsContacts.htm>]
U.S. Department of Transportation
Answers to Frequently Asked Questions Concerning the Air Travel of People Who Are or May Appear to Be of Arab, Middle Eastern or South Asian Descent and/or Muslim or Sikh
Since the terrorist hijackings and tragic events of September 11, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued directives to strengthen security measures at airline checkpoints, passenger screening locations, and boarding gates. As the Department of Transportation (Department or DOT) works to strengthen transportation security in the aftermath of the horrific attacks that occurred on September 11, DOT is also continuing its efforts to ensure that those new security requirements preserve and respect the civil rights of individuals and protect them from unlawful discrimination. The Department is committed to ensuring that all persons are provided equal protection of the laws and that no person is subject to unlawful discrimination when traveling in the Nation. Various Federal statutes prohibit unlawful discrimination against air travelers because of their race, color, religion, ethnicity, or national origin.
The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, have raised concerns about intimidation, harassment and bias directed at individuals who are, or are perceived to be, of Arab, Middle Eastern, or South Asian descent and/or Muslim or Sikh. This Fact Sheet provides information about how the strengthened security requirements better secure our air transportation system and still fully comply with the civil rights laws by providing examples of the types of actions that airline or airport personnel may and may not take when checking in and screening passengers. The examples listed below are not all-inclusive and are simply meant to provide answers to frequently asked questions since September 11 concerning the air travel of people who are or may appear to be of Arab, Middle Eastern or South Asian descent and/or Muslim or Sikh.
Question: What new DOT/FAA security restrictions on carry-on items should I be aware of before I fly on a commercial airliner?
In addition to other weapons, knives of any length, composition or description, including kirpans  , are prohibited beyond the screener checkpoints. Knives may be placed in checked luggage.
Question: What are my rights when I fly on a commercial airliner?
Individuals who may appear to be of Arab, Middle Eastern or South Asian descent and/or Muslim or Sikh have the right to be treated with the same respect as persons of other ethnicities and religions, and all persons should be treated in a polite, respectful and friendly manner.
Persons or their property may not be subjected to inspection, search and/or detention solely because the persons appear to be Arab, Middle Eastern, Asian, and/or Muslim or Sikh; or solely because they speak Arabic, Farsi, or another foreign language; or solely because they speak with an accent that may lead another person to believe they are Arab, Middle Eastern, Asian, and/or Muslim or Sikh.
Individuals may not be selected for additional screening based solely on appearance or mode of dress that is associated with a particular national origin or religion. For example, selecting a woman for additional screening solely because her hair is covered or she is wearing a veil, as some Muslim women do, is unlawful discrimination. Selecting a man for additional screening solely because he is wearing a long beard or hair covering, as some Muslim men do, is unlawful discrimination. Likewise, selecting a man for additional screening solely because he is wearing a turban, as some Sikh men and women do, is unlawful discrimination.
Persons and their property may not be denied boarding or removed from an aircraft solely because the person appears to be Arab, Middle Eastern, Asian, and/or Muslim or Sikh; or solely because they speak Arabic, Farsi, or another foreign language; or solely because they speak with an accent that may lead airline or airport personnel to believe they are Arab, Middle Eastern, Asian, and/or Muslim or Sikh.
Question: What can I expect as I go through the security screening process at the airport?
During the check-in process, names of passengers may be compared to an FBI watch list to ensure the safety of the traveling public.
Knives found during the security screening of persons and their carry-on luggage will be confiscated and a ground security officer and/or law enforcement coordinator may be notified. Kirpans that are found during security screening will also be confiscated if not placed in checked luggage or removed from the airport by someone not entering the secure area.
Some passengers will be selected for additional screening on a random basis when crossing the screener checkpoints. The additional screening often consists of the use of a hand held metal detector in conjunction with a pat-down search, and the search may become more thorough if the initial search indicates that a prohibited item may be concealed.
Individuals who pass through a metal detector without setting off the device may be subjected to additional screening if the individual is properly selected on a truly random basis. Similarly, where a turbaned Sikh passes through a metal detector without setting off the device, the Sikh may be subjected to additional screening if the Sikh is properly selected on a truly random basis.
Passengers who pass through a metal detector and set off the device will be subjected to additional screening through the use of a hand held metal detector if they wish to go beyond the screening checkpoint. Where a hand held metal detector is not available, the passengers will be subjected to a manual pat down as a means of ensuring that a prohibited item is not being carried. Similarly, where a turbaned Sikh passes through a metal detector and the device is set off, the screener should, where available, use a hand held metal detector around the turban to determine if there is a risk of a prohibited item being concealed.
Passengers whose heads trigger the hand held metal detector will be subjected to a manual pat down including probing of the hair if they wish to go beyond the screener checkpoint. Similarly, where a turbaned Sikh triggers the hand held metal detector when it is near or over his or her head, then a manual pat down including probing of the turban and hair is necessary if the Sikh wishes to go beyond the screener checkpoint. Screening personnel must request permission to touch a person and his/her clothing, particularly the hair or turban of a Sikh, prior to doing so.
In instances where a manual pat down indicates that a prohibited item may be concealed or the pat down is insufficient to make such a determination, then the passenger will be more thoroughly searched if he/she wishes to go beyond the screening checkpoint. Similarly, where a manual pat down of a turbaned Sikh’s head indicates that the Sikh may be carrying a prohibited item in his/her hair or the pat down is not helpful in making such a determination, then the Sikh’s turban must be searched, if the Sikh wishes to go beyond the screening checkpoint. Again, screening personnel must request permission to touch a person and his/her clothing, particularly the hair or turban of a Sikh, prior to doing so.
If a search or inspection involving the removal of clothing is necessary for safety or security reasons, screeners should provide the person involved a choice of a public or private inspection. Private searches may be perceived to be overly intimidating while public searches may be viewed as humiliating or may violate an individual’s religious tenants. For example, the removal of a Muslim woman’s veil in public or in the presence of a man, not her husband, will violate her religious beliefs . Likewise, a Sikh’s turban is a religious article of faith and a public search will likely create great embarrassment and fear for the Sikh. After a turban search in private, a Sikh should be provided a mirror to retie his or her turban.
Passengers identified by the Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System (CAPPS) as selectees, including those selected by a computer at random, will be subjected to additional screening at the boarding gate in addition to having their checked baggage being subject to additional security requirements. The CAPPS selection criteria have been reviewed by the Department of Justice to ensure that the methods of passenger selection are non-discriminatory and do not constitute impermissible profiling of passengers on the basis of their race, color, religion, ethnicity, or national origin. The additional screening will consist of a search of carry-on items and the search of the person through the use of a hand held metal detector in conjunction with a pat-down search. The search may become more intrusive if the initial search indicates that a prohibited item may be concealed.
Question: How do screeners determine when additional security screening is appropriate?
All available facts and circumstances must be taken into account in identifying persons or property that may be a safety or security risk. Although the screeners’ actions could, at times, appear to be offensive to the person involved, screeners would continue to be justified in conducting additional questioning, inspections or searches, for safety or security reasons, in certain situations; for example: a person wearing a turban or head dress, while being searched at an airport security checkpoint, triggers the handheld metal detector when it is near his or her head; or a veiled woman shows photo identification to prove her identity but it is difficult to conclude that this woman is the same person as the woman in the photo without checking her face. When it is necessary to verify the identity of a veiled woman, whenever possible, her face should be checked by female safety or security personnel in private or only in the presence of other women so as not to violate her religious tenets.
Airline and airport personnel must use the “but/for” test to help determine the justification for their actions. But for this person’s perceived race, ethnic heritage or religious orientation, would I have subjected this individual to additional safety or security scrutiny? If the answer is “no,” then the action may violate civil rights laws.
Question: What can I do if I believe that my rights have been violated?
Members of the public, who feel they have been the subject of discriminatory actions or treatment by air carriers, may file a complaint by sending an email, a letter, or a completed complaint form to the Aviation Consumer Protection Division (ACPD). ACPD’s e-mail address is email@example.com and its mailing address is: Aviation Consumer Protection Division, U.S. Department of Transportation, Room 4107, C-75, Washington, DC 20590. Complaint forms that consumers may download and/or print are available at http://www.dot.gov/airconsumer/problems.htm.
Issued on 11/19/01 by the Office of the Assistant General Counsel for Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings and its Aviation Consumer Protection Division.
[accessed at <http://www1.faa.gov/acr/DOTAT-RNO.doc>]
Letter from Assistant U.S. Attorney Victoria J. Peters with Copy of the Letter Sent as Part of the National Interview Project
[Text of Letter]
U.S. Department of
United States Attorney Northern District of Illinois
Victoria J. Peters, Assistant United States Attorney
July 5, 2002
David J. Mussatt, PhD.
Senior Research Analyst
U.S. Commission on
55 West Monroe Street
Suite 410 Chicago, IL 60603
Dear Dr. Mussatt:
At the request of Pat Fitzgerald, I am writing to you regarding your questions about the national Interview Project’s implementation in the Northern District of Illinois. In the letter
that went out to prospective interviewees in December of last year, (enclosed), the voluntary nature of the proposed interview was stressed. The recipients of the letter were told that the Department of Justice was not only investigating the terrorist attacks of September 11, but wanted to insure that there were no hate crimes committed by individuals angry about the attacks. Further, the letter made it clear that the recipient had been chosen as a potential voluntary participant in the interview based upon his or her travel to the United States on a visa from a country where there are groups that support, advocate, or finance international terrorism, and that the recipient was not a suspect in any way.
The letter stated that we were including contact numbers for organizations which could be called for advice. At the recent meeting that you and Mr. Fitzgerald attended, it was first brought to our attention that the contact numbers were inadvertently left out of the letters. I must say, no one who received the letter, in responding to it, asked for the contact numbers, and a number of the interviewees had attorneys accompany them to the interviews.
I hope that I have answered the questions that you had. Please feel free to contact me at (312) 353-5319 if I can be of any help.
Very truly yours,
United States Attorney
VICTORIA J. PETERS
Assistant U.S. Attorney
[Text of Letter]
U.S. Department of Justice
United States Attorney Northern District of Illinois
Dean J. Polales
Chief, Special Prosecutions Section
December 12, 2001
Dear Mr. Zulkarnaen:
As you know, law enforcement officers and federal agents have been acquiring information that may be helpful in determining the persons responsible for the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Furthermore, they are pursuing all leads that may assist in preventing any further attacks. We recognize that these crimes were committed by a small group of individuals (linked to a larger terrorist group overseas) and that this conduct has been condemned by people of all backgrounds, nations and religions. We are also working with federal, state and local authorities to make sure that there are no hate crimes committed against any persons or communities by individuals angry about what happened on September 11. I am asking that you assist us in these important matters.
We have no reason to believe that you are, in any way, associated with terrorist activities. You are not a suspect in this investigation. Nevertheless, you may know something that could be helpful in our efforts. Your name was brought to our attention because, among other things, you traveled to the United States on a visa from a country where there are groups that support, advocate, or finance international terrorism. In fact, it is quite possible that you have information that may seem irrelevant to you but which may help us piece together this puzzle. We would not be doing our job—which is to protect all the people living in America, including you—if we did not ask questions to see if you might know a piece of the puzzle.
I hope that you will contact us at (312) 886-4177 to set up an interview at a location, date, and time that is convenient for you and the interviewer. During this interview, you will be asked questions that could reasonably assist in the efforts to learn about those who support, commit, or know about persons who commit terrorism. You will also be asked if you are aware of any persons that may seek to commit hate crimes against the persons residing in your community. I can assure you that all involved in the interviewing process will treat you with respect. If you wish to contact any organizations for advice, we are providing the contact numbers they provided us.
While this interview is voluntary, it is crucial that the investigation be broad based and thorough, and the interview is important to achieve that goal. We hope that you will choose to participate. We need to hear from you as soon as possible, but no later than Tuesday, December 18, 2001. We hope you will call us as soon as you receive this letter to set up an interview. Please call the contact number on the attached sheet between 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. any day, including Saturday and Sunday, beginning on Saturday, December 15. We will work with you to accommodate your schedule.
PATRICK J. FITZGERALD
United States Attorney
Assistant United States Attorney
[This document was scanned into electronic format from the hard copy provided.]
Immigration & Naturalization Service
Post 9/11 Community Engagement Activities
The INS Chicago District Office recognized immediately the need to engage members of the region's Arab American, Muslim and South Asian communities in light of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Early efforts have evolved in the ensuing months into a comprehensive and continuing engagement strategy.
Beginning in the afternoon of September 11, 2001 contact was made with social service agencies, legal organizations and religious institutions to acknowledge the possibility of backlash and victimization and offer assurance of the district's commitment to the non-discriminatory application of immigration law and the enforcement of civil rights law.
Since that date, at times accompanied by the United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois and the Special Agent in Charge of the Chicago Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the INS District Director and INS Community Relations Officers have maintained extensive contact with affected community members in both structured and less formal settings. We have initiated activity and dialogue and we have responded to requests for information and participation. Beyond the public meetings, on a regular basis, we are on the phone, having tea or sharing a meal with community leaders and members. These occasions provide continuing opportunities to hear the concerns emerging from the communities and inform community members of the current status of immigration policies and procedures in a post-9/11 climate. A dialogue has been established and continues today.
Following is a sampling of events and meetings held to date:
September 14, 2001. Participated with the Chicago Commission on Human Relations briefing with Arab American and Muslim community leaders. Provided INS policy, procedures and contact numbers in the event of a complaint of abuse involving INS employees. Commission staff was encouraged to bring to the attention of the district immediately any allegations of profiling or other abuse by INS staff.
September 14, 2001. Met with local enforcement agency leadership in the heavily Arab American southwest suburbs to offer community relations expertise to quell tensions between the mainstream and ethnic communities.
Visited the Mosque Foundation in Bridgeview, Illinois to acknowledge community fears and tensions and assure community leadership that the district office had returned to normal business hours, that extra security measures would be in place and implemented in a non-discriminatory fashion and that all customers would be treated respectfully.
September 25, 2001. In conjunction with the Ethnic Affairs Office of the governor for the State of Illinois met with key leader of the Arab American, Muslim, Pakistani and Afghani communities to provide information and updates about INS national and local enforcement policies and practices, dispel rumors, and listen to concerns.
October 1, 2001. Participated in a community meeting in Hickory Hills convened by Muslim civil rights organizations at which concerns were discussed about continuing backlash and fears of impending federal enforcement agency selective enforcement.
October 1, 2001. Participated in the National Symposium on Racial Profiling to examine the applicability of learnings of local enforcement agencies to federal immigration law enforcement in the post 9/11 climate.
October 3, 2001. Met with representatives of the Afghan Reconstruction Support Committee to discuss concerns about the equitable treatment of the Afghani population in enforcement activity and benefits processing.
October 5, 2001. Discussed with attorneys from the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice our interest in ensuring that any allegations of abuse by INS employees be pursued and provided contact numbers and locations to file complaints.
October 14, 2001. Participated in a Community Forum at the Mosque Foundation sponsored by the Council of Islamic Organization of Greater Chicago, Muslim Americans for Civil Rights & Legal Defense and the Muslim Bar Association.
October 30, 2001. Discussions with southwest suburban community members about convening community forums to examine issues of selective enforcement, relationship between local enforcement agencies and INS, evidentiary standards for interrogations.
November 11, 2001. Participated in the "Chicagoans and Islam" community event sponsored by the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago to examine how to counter stereotypes of the Arab American and Islamic communities.
November 12, 2001. Met with citizenship educators to reassure them that the naturalization and interview process for naturalization applicants with Middle East countries of origin will not be adjudicated using different standards than those used for other applicants.
November 14, 2001. Participated in a community forum jointly convened by the INS, the FBI and the Community Relations Service with representative leaders of the Arab American, Muslim and South Asian religious, civic, business and legal communities. Statutory and policy mandates for the federal agencies were discussed as were procedures for filing complaints of alleged civil rights violations. Discussion of future community engagement activities was encouraged and commitments were made to initiate further outreach.
November 15, 2001. Participated in a panel discussion on the "Implications of 9/11 for Immigration Policy" convened by the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations.
December 6, 2001. As a guest of Arab American Family Services, attended the Lieutenant Governor's gathering of ethnic community leadership.
December 12, 2001. Participated in an Iftaar dinner and planning for continuing formal and informal community dialogue.
December 18, 2001. Participated in a panel discussion convened by the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations on backlash in immigrant communities and the implications for immigrants and immigration policy.
December 19, 2001. Facilitated a meeting between the FBI SAC and a Palestinian Muslim woman whose family had been interrogated by the FBI.
December 2001.Upon learning that a list of 5000 people from selected countries to be interviewed was to be distributed to United States Attorneys offices, based on our understanding of community concerns, INS suggested that it would ease tensions in the community if the USA met with Arab American, Muslim and South Asian leaders prior to proceeding. It was our belief, proven accurate, that community leadership would play a productive role in helping to design and then explain the process to community members.
January 10, 2002. Initiated planning meetings with community members to convene a workshop to review detention procedures and immigration court procedures including access to counsel for detainees and other concerns arising out of post 9/11 detentions.
January 20, 2002. Participated in a community meeting sponsored by the Islamic Foundation of Villa Park convened to discuss the role of public policy making and specific concerns about ethnic profiling, detention and interrogations.
January 23, 2002. Attended a community workshop on racial profiling convened by Chicago human relations organizations.
January 24, 2002. Coordinated and participated in a community forum at the College of Dupage with the FBI, the United States Attorney's Office and the Community Relations Service. Attendees included representatives from member organizations of the Council of Islamic Organizations, social service organizations and business associations in the Arab American, Muslim and South Asian communities.
February 5, 2002.Discussions with the Hamdard Center on strategies to address the fears and concerns within the Bosnian Muslim community.
February 12, 2002. Discussion with community leadership to identify additional engagements initiatives including cultural awareness training.
February 19, 2002.Coordinated and participated in a community forum at the University of Milwaukee, Milwaukee, Wisconsin with the Community Relations Service, FBI and United States Attorney's Office.
March 20, 2002. Participated with the Chicago Police Department and the FBI in a community with key leadership from area faith communities and the Arab American and Sikh communities.
April 7, 2002. Guest of the Assyrian American Federation at a community event.
Participated with the Consulate General of Pakistan in the celebration of community service in the Pakistani business community.
April 9, 2002. Discussions with the leadership of the Council of Islamic Organizations of greater Chicago about continuing opportunities for sustained dialogue.
April 12, 2002. Convened representatives of Muslim civil rights and faith organizations to discuss detention procedures and immigration court proceedings.
April 17, 2002. Jointly coordinated with the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations and participated in a community panel discussion with the FBI, United States Attorney, ACLU Immigrant Rights Project and a representative of the area Arab American community. Primary area of interest was the continuing challenge to balance the needs for security with the protection of civil liberties.
April 19, 2002. Participated in a community forum in Indianapolis, Indiana with the United States Attorney, FBI and Community Relations Service.
April 30, 2002. Participated with the United States Attorney and the FBI in a roundtable discussion with grassroots community leaders in the Arab American and Muslim communities in the southwest suburbs.
[This document was scanned into electronic format from the hard copy provided.]
“Total Arrests by Country of Citizenship,” U.S. Department of Justice–INS (PDF)
Illinois Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights
Community Forum Agenda
Arab and Muslim Civil Rights Issues in the Chicago Metropolitan Area Post-September 11
Monday & Tuesday
June 17 & 18, 2002
Ralph H. Metcalfe Federal Building
77 West Jackson Boulevard, Room 331
Monday, June 17, 2002
Welcome and Opening Remarks
9:00 a.m. to 9:15 a.m.
James E. Scales, Chairman, Illinois Advisory Committee
9:15 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.
Clarence Wood, Designee of Mayor Richard M. Daley
Kareem Irfan, Chairman, Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago
10:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.
Dean Koldenhoven, 2002 John F. Kennedy Profiles in Courage Award Winner
Kenneth Gunn, First Deputy, Chicago Commission on Human Relations
10:30 a.m. to 10:45 a.m.
10:45 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Aminah Beverly McCloud, Professor, DePaul University
William Yoshino, Midwest Director, Japanese American Citizens League
Balwant Singh Hansra, Trustee, Parliament of World Religions and
Sikh Religious Society of Chicago
12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m.
1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Mohammad Kaiseruddin, President, Muslim Community Center
Dean Mohiuddin, Board Member, Islamic Foundation
Gregory Mitchell, Board Member, Muslim Civil Rights Center
2:00 p.m. to 2:45 p.m.
Jesse Taylor, Regional Director, U.S. Department of Justice–Community Relations Service
Carol Ritter, Executive Director, Governor’s Commission on Discrimination and Hate Crimes
2:45 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.
3:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Ray Hanania, Founder, National Association of Arab American Journalists
Sammer Ghouleh, Author, Victims of Circumstance
4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Harvey Grossman, Legal Director, ACLU of Illinois
Jim Fennerty, President, Chicago Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild
Anthony Simpkins, President, Muslim Bar Association
5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Tuesday, June 18, 2002
9:00 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.
James E. Scales, Chairman, Illinois Advisory Committee
William Haddad, Chicago Commission on Human Relations, Advisory Council on Arab Affairs
9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.
Richard Devine, State’s Attorney of Cook County
William Shaver, Chief of Staff for the Superintendent of Police, City of Chicago
Rouhy Shalabi, President, Arab American Bar Association
10:30 a.m. to 10:45 a.m.
10:45 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
Patrick J. Fitzgerald, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois
Thomas Kneir, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation
Brian Perryman, Regional Director, Immigration and Naturalization Services
12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m.
1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Khaled Elkhatib, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee
Itedal Shalabi, Arab American Family Services, Inc.
2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Rev. Dirk Ficca, Director, Council for a Parliament of the World Religions
Jonathan Levine, Midwest Executive Director, American Jewish Committee
Azam Nizamuddin, Member, Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago
3:00 p.m. to 3:15 p.m.
3:15 p.m. to 4:15 p.m.
Rita Coffey, Program Analyst, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Helen Serassio, Attorney,
Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings Office, U.S. Department
Kamran Memon, Civil Rights Attorney
4:15 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Dr. Bassam Jodi, President, Mosque Foundation in Bridgeview
Saffiya Shillo, Executive Director of Ethnic Affairs, Lt. Gov. Corrine Wood’s Office
Elizabeth Shuman-Moore, Director to Combat Bias Violence, Chicago Lawyers’ Committee
5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
See, e.g., 49 U.S.C. §41702, 41310, and 40127 and 42 U.S.C. § 2000d et
A kirpan is a sheathed sword, usually sharp and
2-4 inches in length. It is a mandatory article of faith for initiated Sikhs
and is almost always carried on the person. Some Sikhs wear
mini-kirpans that are not knives on necklaces. These mini-kirpans are no
more harmful than small crosses worn by some Christians and are permitted
beyond screener checkpoints.
 Besides screening on a random basis, a person will be subjected to additional screening if he/she exhibits suspicious behavior. For example, if security personnel see an individual placing a sharp object in his/her shoe and that individual proceeds to walk through the metal detector, then the security personnel must search the shoe even if the individual passes through the metal detector without setting it off.