September 14, 2001
WASHINGTON, D.C.-The United States Commission on Civil Rights has received complaints from Arab and Muslim Americans who are being targeted in the wake of Tuesday's attacks. In order to address these troubling incidents, the Commission voted at its meeting today to direct its National Complaint Line (1-800-552-6843 -- please see 9/19/01 announcement of second line for updated information) and its State Advisory Committees to solicit and catalogue discrimination complaints from Arab and Muslim Americans. It is further directing its State Advisory Committees to organize forums on the issue of tolerance in light of the terrorist attacks.
"Many of our nation's leaders have already risen to the occasion by urging Americans to resist the temptation to hold entire communities responsible for the acts of individuals. President George W. Bush, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Attorney General John Ashcroft, and the United States Senate, among others, have condemned the isolation and targeting of Arab and Muslim Americans within our communities," noted Commission Chairperson Mary Frances Berry. "Arab and Muslim Americans are important and valuable members of American society. Just as we celebrate the diversity of so many of our people, we should also embrace the contribution their differences make to our rich national fabric."
Dr. Berry stressed, "Our nation is slowly emerging from beneath the pall of hatred cast over our country by the tragic terrorist attacks. But as the search for those merciless individuals who perpetrated the horrendous acts continues, we must be mindful that we as a nation do not unfairly single out any religious or ethnic communities. All Americans, regardless of race, creed, or culture, were deeply affected by the unprecedented atrocities inflicted on that which our nation holds most dear."
The Commission noted that America's founding principles were freedom, liberty, and tolerance. Few occasions in our nation's history will test our continuing embrace of those values more than this week's attack on America. However, we must view this time as an opportunity to show the world that even in periods of great turmoil, America holds to its fundamental principles as strongly as ever. We will not allow the terrorists' actions to force us to curtail the freedoms of any Americans. If we allow the terrorists to make us intolerant, they have won.
"As our nation pursues the criminals who committed these acts, we must not allow our desire to find those responsible lead us to irresponsible and un-American behavior. We must not compromise any person's civil rights or civil liberties. No one should be a target simply because they are, or appear to be, a member of a particular ethnic or religious community," Chairperson Berry stressed.
Obviously, there is no more important goal than finding and bringing to justice those responsible for the horrific terrorists acts. But we must be cognizant that in this, we maintain the just and reasonable freedoms that make American life exceptional and exemplary.