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Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Chicago Civil Rights Activists Urge “Middle Eastern” Category for Police Tracking

On November 18, 2005, the Chicago Tribune reported, "Citing examples of racial profiling, Muslim and civil rights activists told a legislative committee Thursday that police in Illinois should be required to add a category of "Middle Eastern" to those they use to track who is stopped by officers.

That suggestion was part of legislation drafted by the American Civil Liberties Union to help monitor police behavior toward people of Middle Eastern descent as well as other minorities. The legislation, not yet introduced in the General Assembly, would amend a 2003 statute that outlines racial data police officers should collect during traffic stops.

Many police agencies in Illinois log the race of drivers they pull over, but "Middle Eastern" is not among the listed ethnicities. People of Middle Eastern descent are often logged as Caucasian, activists said, so racial profiling of the community remains hidden.

'How can we fix a problem if we don't have a way to monitor it?' said Christina Abraham, civil rights coordinator at the Chicago chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, testifying before the Illinois Senate Judiciary Committee. Abraham listed several incidents in which Chicago police officers allegedly mistreated Arab-Americans in ways she said constituted racial profiling. In November 2004, Chicago police arrested Ahmed Awad, a Bridgeview-based physical therapist born in Egypt. He alleged no reason was given for his arrest and that he was called 'jihadi' and 'bin Laden' when he asked to pray during his incarceration."

This article cross-posted at the Pluralism Project's Religious Diversity News.

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