Thursday, July 31, 2008
New religious discrimination manual released
Citing changing demographics and a steady increase in complaints from people of faith, a federal agency last week released an updated compliance manual on religious discrimination in the workplace.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued the guidance after consultation with religious groups, employers, and labor organizations. The number of religious-discrimination charges reported to the agency has more than doubled over the last 15 years.
"The goal here is to promote voluntary compliance, to get everyone on the same page, to let them know what the law is," said David Grinberg, a spokesman for the agency. "We want to stop discrimination before it starts."
The new manual provides safeguards for workers who request time off for religious observances, and protects workers whose faith requires they wear specific religious garments, such as a hijab, a head covering worn by some Muslim women.
Muslims have faced the sharpest increase in workplace discrimination of any major religious in recent years. Between 1997 and 2007, the number of discrimination charges filed by Muslims more than doubled, from 398 to 907. That figure peaked at 1,155 in 2002, in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. [Link]
Labels: discrimination, employment, legal, muslims
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Hate Crime Charges Filed In Clerk Beating
Prosecutors filed hate-crime charges against a Seattle man accused of beating a convenience store clerk while yelling anti-Muslim and anti-Arab slurs.
The attack happened on July 3 in Fremont.
Court documents said that Edward Hugh Campbell was dressed in green camouflage and called the clerk a "bin Laden sympathizer" who did not respect his military uniform.
Prosecutors said Campbell smashed a beer can against the clerk's face, causing severe cuts around the victim's left eye.
Campbell is not an active member of any armed service. [Link]
Labels: arabs, hate crime, muslims
'Proud to be Welsh and a Sikh'. Schoolgirl wins court battle to wear religious bangle
She spent nine weeks in isolation in a classroom, alone except for a teaching assistant, working from notes which she was instructed to copy. The school canteen was barred to her and so were its corridors whenever they were being used by other pupils.
She was not allowed to join her friends in the playground and had to be accompanied by a teacher when she went to the toilet. All because her determination to wear a metal bangle was considered by her school to be an act of defiance.
Yesterday, a high court judge ruled that the exclusion of 14-year-old Sarika Watkins-Singh from Aberdare girls' school in south Wales because she continued to wear the bracelet - a symbol of her Sikh religion - was unlawful.
Mr Justice Stephen Silber concluded the school was guilty of indirect discrimination under race relations - Sikhs are a race - and equality laws. [Link]
Labels: kara, legal, schools, sikhs
Monday, July 28, 2008
Critics say laptop searches at border cross the line
Jawad Khaki, a corporate executive from Sammamish, Wash., was returning home from a business trip to Ireland and Germany last year when a customs agent at the airport asked him to turn on his cell phone.
He already had told the agent in detail where he had traveled and why, so when the agent began looking over the to-do list and calendar in his phone, Khaki was shocked.
"It was an invasion of privacy," he said. "I thought it was going too far."
Khaki's story joins what seem to be growing numbers of similar reports from people - many of them Muslims or of Middle Eastern or South Asian descent - who say that their laptops, cell phones or other electronic devices were searched or seized at airports or U.S. border crossings, and that they've been questioned extensively.
The heightened scrutiny is prompting concern and raising questions among a diverse array of groups, from Muslim associations to law firms, corporate groups and technology organizations. [Link]
Labels: airport, muslims, profiling
Turning 100, FBI Trains Newest Generation of Agents to Target Terrorism
The FBI has confronted many threats in its 100-year history, from busting gangsters in the '20s and '30s to hunting for Nazi saboteurs during World War II. But its newest recruits were in college or just out on Sept. 11, 2001, and they're being trained to tackle a new enemy....
Though recruits still put in their hours at the firing range, the FBI is now focusing — some critics would say struggling — to recruit more candidates with specialized skills, including second or third languages to help deal with foreign threats.
But some civil liberties groups say they're concerned the bureau will rely on racial profiling. When FOX News visited Quantico, both arrest and interrogation scenarios included civilians playing roles as Muslim extremists.
One arrest scenario shown to FOX News was built around a Muslim bomb-making cell. Academy officials said it was to ensure that recruits are comfortable with a broad range of people. [Link]
Labels: muslims, profiling
Sunday, July 27, 2008
Employers must tackle race issues
Those that fail to treat people equally will suffer
Race discrimination and harassment cost Cleveland policeman Sultan Alam, 45, his career, his first marriage and his freedom.
Alam, a pioneering Asian recruit to the notoriously white macho world of 1980s policing, spent nine months in jail for a theft for which he claimed he had been framed by fellow officers. He fought for a decade to clear his name after release until his conviction was quashed by the Court of Appeal last year.
You might think that the last place Alam would want to work again would be Cleveland Police, where he was racially harassed – a series of incidents culminating in a Ku Klux Klan poster being left on his desk led to his original racial discrimination claim – and which had dismissed him in disgrace.
Yet earlier this year the father to two teenage girls went back to work for his old employer determined to return to the career he once loved.
“I’m trying to stick to my promise not to be consumed by anger and bitterness,” he said. “But we are all human with human failings and sometimes the memories do come back, though I try to rise above them.
“It was always my intention to go back. It was essential to my own wellbeing to claim back what was mine by right. Also few of the old officers are still in place and at executive level attitudes have changed. I think the organisation has learnt from my experience.”
As has the Police Federation. Last year an employment tribunal ruled the federation had racially discriminated against Alam when it refused to help him clear his name though it supported four officers who were tried – and cleared – of framing him.
The discrimination Alam suffered is rarer these days, but his return to the beat comes amid a flurry of racial-discrimination claims by Asian officers over promotion opportunities.
The most high-profile involve Metropolitan Police assistant commissioner Tarique Ghaf-fur, who has threatened to sue the force for discrimination, and Met commander Shabir Hussain, who claimed at an employment tribunal this month that Met Commissioner Sir Ian Blair groomed a “golden circle” of white officers for promotion ahead of black and Asian officers. Blair “absolutely refuted” the claim. The hearing has now concluded and a decision is awaited.
The National Association of Muslim Officers, which alleges its members are being discriminated against in training and promotion, has complained that 20 police forces have refused to cooperate with its national audit of the number of Muslim and black police officers, their rank and promotion prospects. [Link]
Labels: discrimination, employment, muslims
Friday, July 25, 2008
Muslim schools fuel segregation, say teachers
The opening of more Islamic faith schools should be stopped amid fears they will fuel social segregation, according to teachers.
Government plans to create more state-funded Muslim schools will divide communities along racial and religious lines, it is claimed.
They risk creating a situation similar to that in Northern Ireland where some educated teenagers fail to meet students of the opposite faith until they go to university, according to Voice, the teaching union.
In a speech to the union's annual conference next week, one teacher will claim Labour's policy to expand Muslim schools is "about trying to defend minorities".
Last year, Ed Balls, the schools secretary, pledged to remove "unnecessary barriers" to religious groups bidding to open their own schools.
He said additional money would be made available to allow the hundreds of private religious schools to convert to the state sector. The move raised the prospect of more schools for faiths including Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus, which have few schools of their own, despite representing significant minority groups.
Speaking at the conference, Wesley Paxton, a further education lecturer from Hull, will say: "More faith schools in 2008 is probably going to mean more Islamic schools." [Link]
Labels: britain, integration, muslims, schools
Dearborn McDonald's sued by 2 Muslim women
Women say manager insulted them, refused them jobs because of their traditional Islamic dress
Two Muslim women say the manager of a McDonald's restaurant refused to hire them and insulted them during job interviews because they wear traditional Islamic dress.
Toi Whitfield, 20, of Detroit, and Quiana Pugh, 25, of Dearborn, filed a lawsuit Thursday in Wayne County Circuit Court against McDonald's, the owner of the local franchise and its unnamed manager. Their representative said they are considering filing civil rights complaints with the federal and state governments.
"I applied for the McDonald's position maybe two weeks ago and he simply (told me) I had to make a choice and remove my hijab, or I would not be able to establish employment there," Pugh said. "When I walked away, I was definitely hurt by it and disturbed. I was confused that it could happen here in Dearborn, with so many Muslims." [Link]
Labels: discrimination, employment, hijab, muslims
Thursday, July 24, 2008
B.C. firm lambasted for post-9/11 racism
An Arab man employed at a biotech company on the UBC campus has been awarded $11,599 in damages after the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal found he was a victim of racial profiling by colleagues, which led to him being reported to the RCMP as a suspect in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
The case was so egregious that the tribunal said it would have awarded Ghassan Asad much more than the $6,000 he had sought as compensation for injury to dignity, feelings and self-respect.
"If it were possible to increase the award beyond $6,000 I would do so," said tribunal member Abraham Okazaki, given the insensitivity and lack of care by Kinexus Bioinformatics Corp.'s senior management. [Link]
Labels: arab, discrimination, employment, legal
Monday, July 21, 2008
Arab-American who alleged hostility at state agency wins $337,000 award
A jury has awarded $337,000 to a former Missouri Department of Natural Resources supervisor who claimed he was subject to a hostile work environment after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the invasion of Iraq.
Mohamad Alhalabi, who is of Lebanese descent, told the jury in St. Louis County Circuit Court during a two-week trial that his bosses did nothing to alleviate ethnic slurs, including personal attacks in anonymous anti-Muslim fliers. [Link]
Labels: arab, discrimination, employment, legal
BBC investigates 'anti-Muslim bias' - on its own Asian network
The BBC has launched an investigation after complaints from staff of anti-Muslim discrimination by a ‘mafia of executives’ at the Corporation’s own Asian radio station.
At least 20 past and present BBC employees, all Asian Muslims, have lodged complaints that its digital radio station, Asian Network, is operating with an anti-Muslim policy.
They claim Muslim presenters and reporters are sidelined or sacked from the station, which began 12 years ago, in favour of Asians from other backgrounds – mainly Hindus and Sikhs.
They also complain that attempts to persuade the station’s upper ranks
to play Pakistani or Bengali music for its 500,000 listeners are ignored in favour of a strict diet of Bollywood and bhangra tunes, which are more popular among the Hindu and Sikh communities. [Link]
Labels: discrimination, employment, muslims
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Ex-Kane jail guard sues over religious discrimination
A Muslim man is suing the Kane County Sheriff’s Department for religious discrimination, claiming he was fired as a correctional officer after refusing to shave off the mustache he kept for religious reasons.
Abal Zaidi filed a federal lawsuit Monday against the department, claiming he was discriminated against and fired due to his religion.
Zaidi was employed as a correctional officer at the department from July 31, 2006 until December 19, 2006, according to the suit filed in U.S. District court. [Link]
Labels: discrimination, employment, legal, muslims
Library hopes to shut the book on discrimination
N.B. resident donates books and DVDs about Sikh religion
To dispel any misunderstandings about the Sikh religion and to try to prevent further harassment of the religious followers, township resident Rajinder Singh Gadhok has donated a collection of educational materials to the North Brunswick Public Library.
The 10 books and two DVDs, from the Sikh Coalition in New York, will teach about the history, culture, beliefs, human rights and the Diaspora of the Sikh people.
"The object of donating the books and tapes is to acquaint local people about my religion," Gadhok said.
Gadhok was born in Pakistan, raised in India and studied in England. He came to the United States in 1969, living in New York and Missouri until 1973, when he moved to New Jersey.
In North Brunswick since 2002, he said he has seen the effects a post-Sept. 11 world has had on members of his religion. He said the basis of the misunderstanding is that Muslim men grow beards and wear turbans, as do Sikhs, so the general population believes many members of Sikhs and Muslims are terrorists.
"Because of Sept. 11, a lot of our people were misidentified as Muslims and went through hatred by non-Sikhs in this country, so it became very important to educate the local community so they can acquaint themselves with Sikhs and non-Islam," he said. He noted recent instances were a man's turban was burned and a young woman's hair was cut in New York, which are two symbols of the Middle Eastern religions. [Link]
Labels: discrimination, outreach, sikhs
Monday, July 14, 2008
Obama: one week after 9/11
We will have to be unwavering in opposing bigotry or discrimination directed against neighbors and friends of Middle Eastern descent. [Link]
Saturday, July 12, 2008
Editorial: Get spied on without doing anything wrong
If you're wondering how desperate of a pickle we're in in our "war on terror," check out the following item: The Department of Justice is mulling over whether to let the FBI investigate U.S. citizens and legal residents without evidence of wrongdoing. Instead, investigators would be allowed to use racial profiling, targeting, according to The Associated Press, "Muslim, Arabs or other racial and ethnic groups. ... The changes would allow FBI agents to ask open-ended questions about activities of Muslim- or Arab-Americans, or investigate them if their jobs and backgrounds match trends that analysts deem suspect." Attorney General Michael Mukasey denies this is happening. Then again, just as he doesn't consider waterboarding torture, perhaps Mukasey has a new term for racial profiling ("racial recognition" would sound downright complimentary). Also, senior FBI agents and law enforcement officials spoke to the AP about the potential new guidelines, so we know it was/is being considered. Say hello to the World War II days, when just being Japanese was enough to be seen as a threat. So, we're being told that racial profiling might be allowed as a legitimate investigative tool. I guess that means all that warrantless spying on thousands of Americans, snooping through our mail and e-mail and keeping tabs on whom we call hasn't been yielding much in the way of evidence. Anyway. [Link]
Labels: muslims, profiling
PA McDonald's Facing Racial Discrimination Suit
Their motto is more than 99 billion served...but right now, they're down at least one customer. A Whitehall woman says a local McDonald's wouldn't serve her because she is Muslim. So now, she's serving McDonald's with a religious discrimination suit. [Link]
Labels: discrimination, employment, muslims
Thursday, July 10, 2008
Ireland warned against banning headscarves in schools
A ban on Muslim head gear in schools could spark a rift with minority communities, an intercultural affairs expert has warned.
Introducing rules against the hijab head scarf or other religious symbols is "likely to result in tension with those communities where no tension existed before," said the director of the State's advisory body on intercultural affairs, Philip Watt.
During the debate over whether Muslim pupils should be allowed wear the headscarf in State schools, Mr Watt, who sits on the National Consultative Committee on Racism and Interculturalism, said most schools had already found their own "sensible and sensitive compromise".
He explained that the majority of schools allowed the head scarf to be worn provided it was the same colour as the school uniform. [Link]
Labels: head scarf, ireland, muslims, schools
Sikh cuts ties with Alberta over beard shaving
A 24-year-old Sikh man who was told to leave a jobsite unless he shaved his beard said the experience has turned him off Alberta and doubts he will return if he's offered another job.
Av Singh flew back to England Tuesday afternoon. He plans to meet with human resources officers and union officials with his company in England to determine if they will take action against TransAlta Corporation.
Singh was ordered off the job at the Sundance plant near Wabamun because he was told the length of his beard interfered with a respirator and posed a safety risk.
He had been working at the plant for five weeks and had passed an earlier fit test with the mask without problems.
As a Sikh, Singh is not allowed to shave his beard for religious reasons. [Link]
Labels: canada, discrimination, employment, sikhs
Opinion: The FBI's plan to "profile" Muslims
It's unconstitutional, un-American -- and it might hurt, rather than help, the FBI's effort to stop real acts of terror.
The U.S. Justice Department is considering a change in the grounds on which the FBI can investigate citizens and legal residents of the United States. Till now, DOJ guidelines have required the FBI to have some evidence of wrongdoing before it opens an investigation. The impending new rules, which would be implemented later this summer, allow bureau agents to establish a terrorist profile or pattern of behavior and attributes and, on the basis of that profile, start investigating an individual or group. Agents would be permitted to ask "open-ended questions" concerning the activities of Muslim Americans and Arab-Americans. A person's travel and occupation, as well as race or ethnicity, could be grounds for opening a national security investigation....
If the aim is to identify al-Qaida operatives or close sympathizers in the United States, racial profiling is counterproductive. Such tiny, cultlike terror organizations are multinational. Richard Reid, the shoe bomber, is a Briton whose father hailed from Jamaica, and no racial profile of him would have predicted his al-Qaida ties. Adam Gadahn, an al-Qaida spokesman, is from a mixed Jewish and Christian heritage and hails from suburban Orange County, Calif. When I broached the topic of FBI profiling to some Muslim American friends on Facebook, a scientist in San Francisco replied, "Profiling Muslims or Arabs will just make al-Qaida look outside Islam for its bombers. There are many other disgruntled groups aside from those that worship Allah."
It is a mystery why the Department of Justice has not learned the lesson that terrorists are best tracked down through good police work brought to bear on specific illegal acts, rather than by vast fishing expeditions. After Sept. 11, the DOJ called thousands of Muslim men in the United States for what it termed voluntary interviews. Not a single terrorist was identified in this manner, though a handful of the interviewees ended up being deported for minor visa offenses. Once it became clear that the interviews might eventuate in arbitrary actions against them, the willingness of American Muslims to cooperate declined rapidly, and so the whole operation badly backfired. [Link]
Labels: muslims, profiling
Sikhs fight sawmill hard hat policy
Turbans 'Sacred'; Sidelined workers file human rights complaint
Two turban-wearing Sikhs have filed a human rights complaint against International Forest Products, saying a new hard hat policy is preventing them from returning to their jobs at a Delta, B.C., sawmill.
Lawyer David Perry is representing Kalwant Singh Sahota and Mander Singh Sohal, who have worked at Interfor's Acorn division for years, but are now unable to continue unless they abandon their turbans for hard hats.
Mr. Perry said yesterday that the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal accepted the complaint on March 9 and that Interfor has until April 9 to file its response.
The company did not return repeated calls to head office and the Acorn division manager yesterday.
"Both of these guys are both long, long-term forestry employee workers, and this is the first time this has ever happened," Mr. Perry said. "It is actually worse than it would be for other workplaces because when you think about the history of Punjabi pioneers coming here, forestry was one of the few industries that they could get into."
Mr. Sahota, who is on a disability leave, said he learned last November that he would no longer be able to work at the mill wearing his turban because of a stricter hard hat rule.
"This is pretty devastating when they give you the news that you cannot come across the yard without a hard hat.
"So when you are in the industry for so long and nobody ever questioned that thing before and all of a sudden they drop a bombshell, imagine how you can feel," he said yesterday. "This turban is pretty sacred to us." [Link]
Labels: discrimination, employment, sikhs, turbans
Tuesday, July 08, 2008
Editorial: Profiling? OK, if you insist
President Bush and I were on the same page on profiling. Now Attorney General Michael Mukasey has me thinking outside the box.
Mere months after 9/11, with anti-Muslim hysteria peaking, Bush called racial profiling "wrong in America." This after one of his Secret Service agents was kept off a commercial flight because he is Arab-American.
Former AG John Ashcroft called racial profiling unconstitutional. Courts agreed, overturning convictions in which defendants showed they were targeted because of race.
Now, under Mukasey's watch, the FBI is considering authorizing racial profiling for national security investigations. In other words, start with ethnicity and religion.[Link]
Editorial: Obama, McCain should condemn Islamophobia
Now that Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama have become the presumptive presidential nominees for the Republicans and Democrats, they should address how all bigotry, including Islamophobia, hurts America. [Link]
Labels: islamophobia, politics
The 'turban effect'
A computer simulation suggests that one-sided media reports are making us all unconsciously Islamophobic
A recent experiment, soon to be published in the journal of experimental social psychology, offers provocative evidence that Islamophobia operates in the dark recesses of our unconscious. In the experiment, participants played a computer simulation and were asked to shoot individuals carrying weapons and to spare those unarmed. Participants were more likely to shoot unarmed individuals who were wearing turbans or hijabs. More interestingly, they were unaware and incredulous that they were doing so. The author of the experiment, Christian Unkelbach, a visiting scholar at Australia's University of New South Wales, has called this "the turban effect" and blames one-sided media reports.
Unkelbach's experiment is timely. As was reported in the Independent, Shahid Malik MP, a minister in the Department for International Development, believes Muslims in the UK increasingly feel hostility from members of the British community and misrepresentation by the media. Indeed, if Unkelbach's conclusions are correct, it raises a number of questions about the responsibility of the media in perpetuating Islamophobia in western countries.
Unkelbach's experiment also presents the occasion for deeper reflection. While Shahid Malik points to blatant and conscious discrimination, the "turban effect" is more insidious, because it highlights the danger of unconscious prejudices. Unkelbach blames the media post 9/11, although perhaps we should look further back. Edward Said's famous argument in his book Orientalism is that western society has a long history of categorising Muslims and Asians as "the other" – as different, dangerous and violent. Thus, the wearing of a turban or a hijab marks the wearer with a sense of otherness, of being inscrutable and thus deemed threatening.
But before we sharpen our knives and turn on the media, it is quite possible that the "turban effect" does not reveal a deep-seated (and recently revived) prejudice, but rather our instinctual disposition towards inductive reasoning – that is, making predictions about the future on the basis of past experience. The fact remains that the attacks of 9/11, 7/7 and Madrid were committed by individuals in the name of Islam (albeit a perverted interpretation). Is it not then somewhat rational to take greater notice – even if unconsciously, as much of our instinctual reasoning takes place behind the scenes – of visual representations of Islam in the context of assessing threats, simply because the last notable large-scale incidences of violent attacks were committed by self-proclaimed Muslims?
The only problem, of course, is that none of these men were wearing turbans during their respective attacks, or in their portrayal in the media. Not only that, even though inductive reasoning forms the basis of our everyday reasoning, it is often fallacious, and in the current context it could prove particularly pernicious, if it leads to such simple and unthinking connections.
Ultimately, whatever Unkelbach's experiment may reveal about our prejudices or the structure of human rationality, it at least brings our unconscious prejudices and implicit assumptions to our attention. Only then might we begin to understand them and move beyond them. [Link]
Labels: muslims, research, stereotypes, turbans
Monday, July 07, 2008
Editorial: Shelve FBI's profiling plan
The FBI's plan to compare untold numbers of Americans to a terrorist profile could be a sound way to target suspects and prevent attacks -- if the agency could be trusted not to use race or ethnicity or religion as automatic triggers for spying.
We fear the FBI cannot be trusted to wield a profiling pointer with a laser's precision. The temptation would be to compile a list of all Muslims or all Arabs or all members of some other group and only then start checking for legitimate triggers such as explosives training or frequent trips to terrorist-infested areas that should arouse suspicion.
The limited details on the proposed program now leaking out of the Justice Department reveal an effort that could easily boil down to presuming everyone is guilty until proven innocent. Guidelines are broad and vague and don't distinguish between what traits can be used to build profiles and what is lazy stereotyping.
Justice Department assurances that changes to existing -- and much stricter -- policies will "reflect our traditional concerns for civil liberties" are not comforting. Often the only concern the FBI and other agencies have had for civil liberties is that they get in the way of what officials want to do.
From J. Edgar Hoover's obsession 40 years ago with keeping files on John Lennon and anyone else who struck his fancy to George W. Bush's recent warrantless wiretapping, those who would spy on their fellow citizens have proven that the more absolute the power, the more likely that civil liberties will be trampled.
That the FBI profiling would be done for the most compelling of reasons makes no difference. Otherwise, there could have been no legitimate objection to New Jersey State Police using the color of a driver's skin as a proxy for evidence of drug trafficking.
Targeting people based on race or ethnicity isn't just unfair. It also isn't very effective, as profiling on the New Jersey Turnpike showed. The percentage of profiling stops that uncovered drugs, guns or other contraband was lower than for stops based on evidence that some law was being violated.
Broad federal data mining would swamp investigators with worthlessly large lists of potential suspects, just as the aviation anti-terror watch list is now approaching an unmanageable 1 million names. And as with the aviation list, almost all the suspicion would be absolutely baseless.
Maybe, just maybe, the Justice Department could develop a series of specific behavioral factors that, taken in sufficient number and under tight supervision and control, could justify taking a closer look at someone.
But we doubt it. And so far, the G-men aren't even trying. [Link]
Labels: muslims, profiling
Friday, July 04, 2008
Independence Day Address
By Robert H. Jackson
Attorney General of the United States
July 4, 1941
For nearly two years now many of us have been bewildered by the headlong course of events in Europe and not a few of us have been confused as to the course of wisdom at home. We have seen a nation which twenty years ago had been vanquished, rise up with a ferocity seldom seen in the history of mankind. We have seen vaunted armies smashed as if they were so much paper. We have seen Europe overrun and England placed in grave danger. We have seen the dictator idea spread in the world. At first its two principal proponents, communism and fascism, appeared to be mortal enemies. Then, one day, they turned up as partners. Now they battle each other.
For nearly two years Americans have been asking each other which way safety and security lie. We have pondered the problem weighing risk against risk and danger against danger. Now at last, on this Fourth of July in 1941, the truth of our situation is coming home with increasing clarity to all Americans. We are learning the overwhelming fact that now, as in 1776, our nation together with our sister Republics on this hemisphere, faces a preponderantly hostile and undemocratic world. Now, as in 1776, we can turn to the Declaration of Independence for the principles which should guide our action.
You are lifted and inspired, like generations before you, by the majestic cadence of the boldest, the noblest, and best known of all American writings. The Declaration of Independence speaks strong doctrine in plain words. It is the world’s master indictment of oppression. The fervor of its denunciation haunts and challenges dictators everywhere and in every field of life.
But the Declaration of Independence does not stop with mere denials and negations. It sets forth great affirmations as to the permissible foundations of power and political leadership among free men. It lays down a fighting faith in the rights of man — merely as man — a faith to die by if need be, or even more bravely to live by. It impresses upon all political power the high obligation of trusteeship. It established an accountability by the governing few to the governed many. That is why men abroad who wield dictatorial powers over subject peoples would silence the reading of the Declaration of Independence, would tear all mention of it from the record, and torture all recollection of it out of the minds of men. Even at home there are some who hope it will not be read too loudly.
But the masses of warm-hearted people are reared on its strong doctrines of equality and human rights. It has exceeded every other modern pronouncement in its profound influence upon our lives, our culture, and our relations to the world. When the Constitution of the United States was adopted, its foundations were laid in the democratic idealism of the Declaration. It has been the inspiration for every later recognition of broadened human rights and for the extension of justice and security to all men. We do not claim to have reached a perfect fulfillment of its high principles. But we have achieved the nearest approach among all the nations to a classless society, to equality of rights, and to a fair distribution of opportunity and prosperity. Whenever we reproach our own imperfections, as we ought often to do, we must not forget that our shortcomings are visible only when measured against our ideals, never when put beside the practical living conditions of the rest of the world. We have by Constitution, by legislation, and by judicial decision translated the Declaration out of the language of abstract philosophy into the idiom of everyday living. We have validated democratic principles by our success.
America’s position in the society of nations is unavoidably that of a champion of the freedoms. The reason is aptly stated by Carl Becker, who says:
“In the Declaration the foundation of the United States is
indissolubly associated with a theory of politics, a philosophy of
human rights, which is valid, if at all, not for Americans only, but for all
When our national success demonstrated that freedom is an attainable goal, we made it the ultimate goal of all people everywhere. The four freedoms are not local or transient incidents; they are universal and timeless principles if they are valid at all. A blow against their existence in Europe is a blow at their validity everywhere. On the other hand, the example of a great and powerful people governed by their own consent through lawmakers of their free choice is a standing incitement to overturn tyranny anywhere. Malevolent conquests by dictators are silently undermined by our confession of faith in democracy as stated in the Declaration. That carries hope to subject peoples in whom there would otherwise be a noble, but unavailing, fortitude. Overridden countries find a bid to insurrection in its assertion of the right of the people to alter or abolish an existing government that is destructive of life, liberty, and happiness. They read words of invitation in its statement of their right to “institute new Government, laying its foundations on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.” No wonder the Declaration of Independence is the nightmare of conquerors.
Some will say that the decision faced by the patriots of 1776 was an easier one than ours, since they had nothing to lose but their intolerable situation. Our task, some will argue, is to protect rather than to win our freedom and that for that reason we should be cautious.
But if the patriots of 1776 risked little by action, we risk much by indifference. Today we risk the loss of a physical, cultural and spiritual heritage of freedom far beyond the most inspired visions of the leaders of ’76. And the more of the world that ceases to be democratic, the greater our risk will be. We do not need to be imprudent or foolhardy, but we should recognize that no amount of cautious behavior, no amount of polite talk will earn for us the friendship and goodwill of dictator systems. Ultimately we must come to the day when we shall face their threats and their enmity for no other reason than that we persist in living the kind of life we live.
One fact emerges clear above all others. We Americans cannot cease to be the kind of people we are, we cannot cease to live the kind of life we live. We are not the kind of people the dictators will ever want in the world. They will never have any use for our kind of life, nor we for theirs.
Every American knows now, as he knew it in 1776, that there is nothing for him in that way of life.
There are those who shrink from the risks of standing for a forthright, practical application of democracy. They point to the striking power and efficiently of foes abroad. But the enemies of American democracy today cannot begin to assemble a force so relatively powerful and so encircling as were its foes that day when the signers of the Declaration pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor in its support. The most strategic points in our own country were then in possession of the King’s armies. Canada was a base for his operations. Florida, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the mouth of the Mississippi were occupied by forces of Spanish monarchy — no lover of democracy. And the unsolved problem of the colonies along their whole precarious frontier was the Indian. American democracy then had no navy, only an empty treasury. Its army was composed of untrained volunteer backwoodsmen who could not get shoes, clothing, or substantial arms to fight the invading British regulars. There was no national unity. There were cabals against Washington, a fifth column of Royalists was powerful and respectable, and the states were jealous rivals who did not act, nor even think, as a unit. But in such an hour our forefathers who believed in freedom did not fear to stand alone and to become, as they continued for many years to be, the world’s only real democracy. But the American forces had power — the unseen power of the earnest individual — the individual with what Mr. Justice Holmes called "fire in his belly." Only when these fires go out need we fear the lawless forces of dictatorship. Democracy’s strength is in man-to-man measure. None other draws such initiative from its way of life, none invents, and none had so generally and fully mastered in its daily life the technique of handling modern machine transport and production. And we dwell among resources as incredible as acres of diamonds.
But there is at home and abroad an anti-democratic influence, even more cynical and sinister and dangerous than Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin combined. I refer to those who think democracy is a fair weather ideal — to guide us in soft times — but that when the going is tough we cannot save it without losing it. This doctrine has every base quality of fascism without either its candor or courage. Let us in America never forget that liberties trampled by conquest may be regained, but liberties abandoned by an indifferent people are never recovered. Nor are they deserved.
Let us not forget the example of our forefathers. They, too, heard the argument that time of external danger was no time to advance freedoms. But their answer was to give liberty a new birth not only in the midst of a war but in the very darkest hours of that war, because they knew that what wins struggles are the last ounces of endurance and the reserves of power that come to the common run of men on fire for a cause. Such men do not count costs nor watch the clock. We must keep our freedoms, keep them in face of foreign dangers even more tenaciously and jealously than in calmer times — keep them because it is our liberty that lifts our cause above material ends and anchors our efforts in timeless things. We know that in the unfolding book of destiny, just as in the closed book of history, it is written that tyranny and oppression bring forth their own downfall and that the irresistible moral forces of the world march always on the side of resolute men when freedom is their goal. We know that the spiritual strength and the moral power of our democratic tradition, authenticated by a century and a half of progress, will not long yield the field anywhere in the world despite the temporary devastations by enemies of the fundamental philosophy of our Declaration of Independence. As Kipling has said:
“Though all we knew depart,
The Old Commandments stand: -
‘In courage keep your heart,
In strength lift up your hand.’”
Labels: independence day
Wednesday, July 02, 2008
Race profiling eyed for terror probes
The Justice Department is considering letting the FBI investigate Americans without any evidence of wrongdoing, relying instead on a terrorist profile that could single out Muslims, Arabs or other racial and ethnic groups.
Law enforcement officials say the proposed policy would help them do exactly what Congress demanded after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks: root out terrorists before they strike.
Although President Bush has disavowed targeting suspects based on their race or ethnicity, the new rules would allow the FBI to consider those factors among a number of traits that could trigger a national security investigation.
Currently, FBI agents need specific reasons — like evidence or allegations that a law probably has been violated — to investigate U.S. citizens and legal residents. The new policy, law enforcement officials told The Associated Press, would let agents open preliminary terrorism investigations after mining public records and intelligence to build a profile of traits that, taken together, were deemed suspicious.
Among the factors that could make someone subject of an investigation is travel to regions of the world known for terrorist activity, access to weapons or military training, along with the person's race or ethnicity.
More than a half-dozen senior FBI, Justice Department and other U.S. intelligence officials familiar with the new policy agreed to discuss it only on condition of anonymity, either because they were not allowed to speak publicly or because the change is not yet final.
The change, which is expected later this summer, is part of an update of Justice Department policies known as the attorney general guidelines. They are being overhauled amid the FBI's transition from a traditional crime-fighting agency to one whose top mission is to protect America from terrorist attacks.
"We don't know what we don't know. And the object is to cut down on that," said one FBI official who defended the plans.
Another official, while also defending the proposed guidelines, raised concerns about criticism during the presidential election year over what he called "the P word" — profiling.
If adopted, the guidelines would be put in place in the final months of a presidential administration that has been dogged by criticism that its counterterror programs trample privacy rights and civil liberties.
Critics say the presumption of innocence is lost in the proposal. The FBI will be allowed to begin investigations simply "by assuming that everyone's a suspect, and then you weed out the innocent," said Caroline Fredrickson of the American Civil Liberties Union.
Attorney General Michael Mukasey acknowledged the overhaul was under way in early June, saying the guidelines sought to ensure regulations for FBI terror investigations don't conflict with ones governing criminal probes. He would not give any details.
"It's necessary to put in place regulations that will allow the FBI to transform itself ... into an intelligence gathering organization in addition to just a crime solving organization," Mukasey told reporters.
The changes would allow FBI agents to ask open-ended questions about activities of Muslim- or Arab-Americans, or investigate them if their jobs and backgrounds match trends that analysts deem suspect.
FBI agents would not be allowed to eavesdrop on phone calls or dig deeply into personal data — such as the content of phone or e-mail records or bank statements — until a full investigation was opened.
The guidelines focus on the FBI's domestic operations and run about 40 pages long, several officials said. They do not specifically spell out what traits the FBI should use in building profiles.
One senior Justice Department official said agents have been allowed since 2003 to build "threat assessments" of Americans based on public records and information from informants. Such assessments could be used to open a preliminary investigation, the official said.
However, another official said the 2003 authorities are limited, tightly monitored by FBI headquarters in Washington and, overall, confusing to agents about how or when they can be used.
Justice spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said the guidelines governing when to open a national security investigation are part of a "harmonizing" process that will not give the FBI any more authority than it already has. He declined further comment, but he and two other senior Justice officials, would not deny the changes as they were described to AP by others familiar with the guidelines.
"Any review and change to the guidelines will reflect our traditional concerns for civil liberties and First Amendment liberties and our traditional investigative emphasis on using the least intrusive means feasible," Roehrkasse said Wednesday.
Although the guidelines do not require congressional approval, House members recently sought to limit such profiling by rejecting an $11 million request for the FBI's security assessment center. Lawmakers wrote it that was unclear how the FBI could compile suspect profiles "in such a way as to avoid needless intrusions into the privacy of innocent citizens" and without wasting time and money chasing down false leads.
The denial of funding could limit the FBI's use of profiles, or "predictive models and patterns of behavior" as the government prefers to describe the data-mining results, but would not change the guidelines authorizing them. The guidelines would remain in effect until a new attorney general decided to change them.
Courts across the country have overturned criminal convictions when defendants showed they were targeted based on race. Racial profiling generally is considered a civil rights violation, and former Attorney General John Ashcroft condemned it in March 2001 as an "unconstitutional deprivation of equal protection under our Constitution."
President Bush also has condemned racial profiling as "wrong in America" and in a December 2001 interview had harsh words for an airline that refused to let one of his Secret Service agents board a commercial flight. The agent was Arab-American. "If he was treated that way because of his ethnicity, that will make me madder than heck," Bush said.
Immediately after 9/11, hundreds of Muslims and Arabs were detained, deported and monitored as the government urgently sought information that could prevent another attack. Despite efforts to repair and nurture relationships with those groups, Muslim- and Arab-Americans still complain of being singled out by federal security practices.
Martin Redish, a constitutional and civil rights scholar at Northwestern University School of Law, said courts are likely to give the FBI a lot of leeway in deciding how to open national security investigations.
"But it's a very fine line to be drawn when the basis of the investigation is dominated by the ethnic background of the subject," Redish said. "And when the investigation results in harassment, you have a serious constitutional concern."
Citing Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski and Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh — two white Americans — the ACLU's Fredrickson said: "Profiling has sent us in the wrong direction. ... I thought we learned our lesson in that regard." [Link]
Labels: muslims, profiling