ISLAMIC MIDDLE EASTERN RESPONSES

A PROGRAM SPONSORED BY THE

UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE

COMMUNITY RELATIONS SERVICES, and

the U.S. District Attorney's Office and the Baltimore City Police Department

December 7, 2001

The purpose of the event was to provide information about Islam, Middle Eastern culture and to describe the various state and federal Hate Crime Statutes and Fair Housing Statutes. These provisions may be invoked if one is exposed to a racial, religious or ethnic crime. Also law enforcement and human rights leaders need to be aware of cultural vs. religious Middle Eastern practices; these two groups were the target audience for this presentation.

 

Understanding Islam and Middle Eastern Cultural Influences

(The speaker was a representative from the organization Connecting Cultures)

The speaker's presentation was interwoven with religious and with cultural considerations. An essential theme throughout Islam is modesty. The purpose of the head covering is modesty and is the woman's choice outside the mosque. Protocol inside the mosque is to remove one's shoes; women wear head covering (Islamic and non-Islamic); women and men are seated separately; individuals pray on their knees. This is similar the speaker said to orthodox Christianity and Judaism. During Ramadan it is appropriate to say Happy Ramadan and to refrain from eating and drinking in the presence of Muslims. There are 48,000 Arab Americans in Maryland. Montgomery County has the highest percentage of Arab Americans in Maryland, 24,000. Most Arab Americans are Christians. They came to America from Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon. 82% of Arab Americans are United States citizens; over 80% are high school graduates. 36% have college degrees and the speaker stated this last percentage is above the United States average. 66% of Arab Americans are in the labor force. These statistics are reported from the United States Census.

Other aspects of the culture are group and family orientation. Usually the entire family may be consulted on a particular issue. Women make decisions in the home; men speak more publicly. Hospitality is very important. It is important in the home for instance to socialize before discussing business. In the Middle East for the first three days there may be hospitality before business. Greetings in Arab culture are very important. When you (speaking to the audience) are representing an organization or government service, you are a good will ambassador for your organization or country. You should strive to observe the rules of courtesy. Many times the expression will be used In-shallah. American Non-Muslims may seek a definitive response. Muslims recognize God in all things, if God is willing "such and such" will occur. The statement is not meant to be ambivalent or noncommittal. The stereotype is you cannot trust an Arab.

Human interaction is very important. When you enter a room, out of courtesy, everyone may stand. This is done out of respect. Muslims or people of Middle Eastern descent, if you have visited them at home, may stand at the door when you leave, out of courtesy until you are out of sight.

In terms of personal space comfort zones, Arab males may stand closer to you than a non-Arab male. Women may stand further away. Saving face is also important in the culture. The majority of the Arabs and Muslims condemn the tragedies of September 11, 2001.

Turning to the question of bias. The speaker stated we all have "bias tapes" that is prejudgments. When we encounter someone who challenges us in one of those areas, we need to put the tape in the "phase" position. Speaking about backlash after September 11, 2001, the speaker said that there has been backlash throughout the country and that there has also been great extensions of goodwill. The speaker said only 10% of Muslims are Arabs.

ABOUT THE SIKH RELIGION

Presenter from Sikh Media Watch and Resource Task Force

The religion is 500 years old. There are twenty-two million followers. It is not a branch or sect of any other religion. It is the 5th largest religion in the world. The Sikh religion in America is over 100 years old. There are 500,000 Sikhs in America. The tenets of the religion include a belief in the equality of men and women, belief in one God, earn an honest living, no tasks is to small or large, and that one should share with the less fortunate. After one is baptized, hair is to remain uncut. The ceremonial sword is worn under one's clothes. The turban is pointed, and is 16 feet long; it is not a hat and it should not be touched or removed by another person. It is a required covering, representing humility. It is optional for women to wear the turban. The Ceremonial sword represents justice in any situation and is not to be used as a weapon. One is to cover one's head and remove one's shoes when one prays. The colors of the turban are meaningless. During New Year, orange turbans may represent protest or celebration.

The religion is practiced in a Gurudwara (place of worship). Each Gurudwara has its own name. Some of the stereotypes and myths are: Sikhs are Arabs or Muslims; it is a sect of Islam; they are Muslim, Hindu or Arab; they are hiding something in the turban; they are a violent people or terrorist. Sikhs are not related to the Taliban or Mr. Bin Laden.

Sikh backlash. A Sikh was killed in Arizona. Sikhs died who were in the World Trade Center Tower on September 11th. Sikhs have been beaten and harassed. The speaker knows of 15 incidents involving Sikhs and has personal testimony of her family member being searched after clearing the metal detector. Some are now apprehensive to be in public or to travel by airplane. In Maryland, one Sikh was shot at and another was run off the road. Sikh children are harassed in school. There are different ways people "brow beat" Sikhs. African American and Caucasian Americans in the audience spoke of extra security measures also targeted at them because of Middle Eastern features.

Most Sikhs speak English because India is based on the British system. Law enforcement officers should announce, I must pat you down before the action is taken.

Federal and State Laws Affecting Hate Crimes

Government Speakers included Glendora Hughes, General Counsel, MD. Commission on Human
Relations

John T. Sylvester, FBI, Michael Khoury, Criminal Division, United States Department of Justice,
Civil Rights Division

References were made to the new Racial Profiling Law which is a data collection measure. No one was capturing the facts regarding the number of stops attributable to alleged racial profiling. Lawsuits involving the Maryland State Police and Montgomery County Police Departments led to consent decrees. The Racial Profiling Law does not state ramifications; but it requires reporting to the Governor and the Maryland General Assembly. This law sunsets August 31, 2006. A decision will have to be made about what is necessary at that time. The Maryland Justice Center will analyze the data collected under this law. A fiscal note is attached to the law to help law enforcement agencies establish mechanisms to capture the required data.

Maryland's Hate Crime Law, Article 27-470 is a punitive law. It allow for enhanced penalties if convicted of a crime motivated by bias. Under the state fair housing law, preventing the enjoyment of one's home, threats, intimidation and coercion have civil and criminal penalties. As necessary, the Maryland Commission on Human Relations staff will work with the State's Attorney's Office. The penalty on the criminal side can be a fine and/or imprisonment. Ms Hughes gave examples of a woman severely harassed in her home through videotaping, spraying, name calling; the woman thought she may even be physically harmed. In another example, a Black, male was harassing an inter-racial couple. The harasser was required not to come into proximity of the family and was put on three years probation.

Under federal hate crime statutes various situations are covered; while other incidents "slip through the cracks", i.e. are not actionable under hate crime statutes. There must be a motive connected to one's race, religion, national origin and interference with a federally protected activity such as employment, education, use of the streets. Section 245 is the most used provision for relief. Recent efforts to expand 245 have not been successful. The death penalty is available under 245.

Section 247 provision involves hate crimes motivated by religious bias and interstate commerce. Church arsons were adjudicated under this provision.

Section 241 involves conspiracy of two or more people to violate someone's civil rights. It does not have to be an overt act. Housing related hate crimes are sometimes prosecuted under 241.

The attorney's must assess when it is best to prosecute under state or federal law. The federal government has strong subpoena authority. Investigators should look for evidence of motive early in the process. Some incidents referred to as "just joking around", is not just a joke or a prank in terms of the affect on the victims.

FBI Speaker Comments/First Amendment

More cases are open than are actually prosecuted. Cases can be investigated with local, state or federal joint efforts. Juvenile cases are usually better handled locally. Maryland is in the top ten states for the reporting of hate crimes. Hate crimes are still under reported. The officer on the scene must report the incident as a hate crime if appropriate. Several extremist groups are in Maryland. Recently, Mexican American, African American and people of Indian heritage have been harassed because they have been presumed to be Middle Eastern. Some people have neighbor harassment problems. Mediation is attempted whenever possible.

Montgomery County and Prince George's County are studying Citizen Review Boards. Montgomery County has citizen response teams, trained to respond to potentially tension producing incidents.

Extremist groups have cites on the web to target children. The first amendment protects freedom of speech, unless there is a threat. If a hate symbol is put in a public place, it may be protected as a freedom of speech activity; such an act is not necessarily a threat directed at a person. Similarly, if a neighborhood is blanketed with hate flyers and only one person of a different ethnic group lives on the block, that one family is not necessarily targeted for a "hate incident". A home invasion is another example of an incident which is not necessarily a hate crime. These illustrations were made in answer to an audience inquiry about the boundary between a hate crime and a crime or matter which is technically not a hate crime.

Someone cited an example of an elderly person whose home may have been used against his/her will for criminal activity. Being made to work, cook, under the threat of bodily harm may or may not fall under section 241.

Finally, the Justice Department staff encouraged law enforcement representatives to work with the local human rights offices.

HELPFUL SITES AND TELEPHONE NUMBERS

Maryland Hate Crimes Hotline (800) 637-6247

To report civil rights violations related to 9/11/01

1 (866-) 76-USCCR/728-7227, TTY 1(800) 877-8339

Community-wide Tension Technical Assistance, U.S. Department of Justice

Community Relations Service (215) 597-2344

Victims of Anti-South Asian Harassment/Violence

Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (212) 966-5932, fax (212) 966-4303

Victims of 9/11/01 Terrorist Attacks and Their Families, Assistance Through

Office of Victims of Crime 1 (800) 331-0075

About the Arab American, Arab American Institution. Website AAI.org

Anti-Defamation League Website ADL.org

U.S. Commission on Civil Rights "Tolerance, Civil Rights, and Justice in Wake of

9/11/01 Tragedies" available at http://www.usccr.gov/tragedy/main.htm

 

Resources Distributed at Workshop

* Distant (Community) Early Warning Signs System

* 25 Things Local Law Enforcement Agencies Can Do to Prevent or Respond to Hate Incidents Against

Arab Americans, Muslims and Sikhs

* Press release. Department of Justice. New handbook offers Guidance for Victims of Terrorism; A

Guide for Healing and Recovery 1(800) 331-0075

* U.S. Department of Justice, Kids Age -- www.usdoj.gov/kidspage

* Federal Criminal Statutes Used to Prosecute Hate Crimes

* CRS Bulletin, Hate Crime: The Violence of Intolerance 12/01, U.S. Department of Justice

* From Study Circles "Facing the Future: How Should We Respond to the Attack on Our Nation"? A

guide for public dialogue and problem solving (860) 928-2616

* Advisory Memo -- Searches at Airports (from a private organization)

* 100 Questions and Answers about Arab Americans (U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Website)

* Who Are The Sikhs, pamphlet

* Pamphlet, Maryland's Response to Hate Crimes

* "Responding to Hate Crimes: A Police Officer's Guide to Investigation and Prevention". Produced by

International Association of Chiefs of Police. Accessed through www.theiacp.org. To order

call (800) 851-3420. This pamphlet contains a pocket guide. It contains useful information about how

to support a person who has been the victim of a hate crime or incident.

 

This information is provided as a community educational service only. While we believe the information presented to be accurate, the reader is encouraged to seek independent verification of details presented by the speakers. This information is not legal advice. Please consult the enforcement agencies to determine specific application of a statute or law to a particular circumstance. This report is the recorders best recall of the information provided by the speakers. The Criminal Division of The United States Justice Department prosecutes under the federal hate crime statutes. For more information on federal hate crimes statutes, contact the Community Relations Service, United States Department of Justice (215) 597-2344. The Frederick County Human Relations Department has additional information on federal hate crime statues in the office. If you believe you have been the victim of a hate/crime inform the law enforcement officer who responded to the call. Also, you may contact the FBI through the Frederick or Baltimore County office. If an alleged hate incident or crime involves your home, contact the local Human Relations Department or the Maryland Commission on Human Relations, Baltimore Office. Contact the Frederick County Human Relations Department for further information and assistance.