Efforts to Open Dialogue between Ethnic and Religious Leaders and the US Government

September 17, 2006

Source: Voice of America News


On September 17, 2006 the reported, "In the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States five years ago, there was an increase in crimes against Muslims, and Muslim-Americans said they were unjustly targeted by law enforcement agencies. In the five years since, there have been efforts to open a dialogue between law enforcement and civil rights groups representing Muslim and South Asian communities.

At a recent forum in Washington, U.S. law enforcement officials and leaders of the nation's Muslim, Arab and South Asian communities gathered to discuss their attempts to improve relations since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States.

Laila al-Qatami, communications director for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, remembered the initial response from the public when terrorists flew hijacked planes into the World Trade Center towers in New York City and the Pentagon outside Washington.

'I happened to be watching the news like probably many of you, and I know after the first plane hit, I answered the phone in our office, and, immediately, people were saying, "We know you did this, and we're going to get you for it,"' she said.

Authorities say there was a huge jump in the number of hate crimes committed against members of the nation's Muslim, Arab and South Asian communities in the aftermath of the attack, as well as numerous civil rights violations. Al-Qatami says her community deplores terrorism, but says combating terrorism should not be at the expense of America's most important values.

'ADC has been very unequivocal in its condemnation of violence against civilians. We've also been very unequivocal in doing our part to help secure the nation,' added Al-Qatami. 'But we've also been unequivocal in our belief that any of those efforts to secure our country should not come at the expense of our civil rights.'"