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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff discusses security and civil liberties with young Arab, Muslim, Sikh, South Asian American leaders

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff met with more than 40 young American Arab, Muslim, Sikh, South Asian and Middle Eastern leaders July 25 to cap a unique two-day roundtable designed to gauge the views and aspirations of young people from these communities.

The participants, ages 18-25, took part in a "Roundtable on Security and Liberty: Perspectives of Young Leaders Post-9/11."

The roundtable was organized by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties in collaboration with George Washington University Homeland Security Policy Institute and occurred at George Washington University Law School.

Other such roundtables are expected to be held in other cities across the country.

The roundtable afforded an opportunity for Federal officials to directly hear the perspectives of young community leaders on topics including:

• The State of Arab, Muslim, Sikh, South Asian, and Middle Eastern American Youth;

• Civil Rights in America: Challenges and Opportunities;

• Toronto, London and Madrid: Can it Happen in America?

• Careers in the U.S. Government.

"This was a tremendous opportunity to engage young leaders and discuss some of the most significant issues our country is confronting," said Daniel Sutherland, the Department of Homeland Security's Officer for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. "We had a frank and constructive conversation on the challenges young Americans from ethnic and religious communities face, the importance of protecting civil rights, the potential for alienation and radicalization in our society, and the best ways to encourage public service."

The purpose of the youth roundtable was to allow senior government officials to have direct communication with young people from these communities. The government has increased efforts to engage with community leaders of civil rights organizations, NGOs, and scholars.

For example, in the past several months, Chertoff met with various civil rights leaders, interfaith leaders at a mosque in Dearborn, Muslim leaders at a dinner in Germany, and Muslim business leaders in Washington, D.C. and Detroit. This roundtable was organized to ensure the Department is also engaging youth and reaching out to a wide spectrum of people from these communities.

The young people discussed stereotypes of their communities in the media and the general public, their reactions to government policy, and the strength of social service organizations that serve these religious and ethnic communities. They identified the types of people who are influential in their communities, and the sources of news and information that impact them.

They described the basic challenges facing young people from these communities, including concerns about employment discrimination, restrictive government security policies, and general misunderstanding in the public.

They also shared their experiences in making positive changes in their local communities by engaging government agencies. The participants were mainly college or graduate students who are completing internships this summer in Washington, D.C. [Link]

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