Muslim Civil Rights Violations on the Rise, Durbin Hearing Shows

Muslim Americans face rising religious discrimination in schools, workplaces and communities across the country, according to Tom Perez, assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, who testified yesterday at a congressional hearing on protecting the civil rights of Muslim Americans.

Witnesses at the hearing of the Senate Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights discussed the rise of discrimination against Muslim Americans in communities across the country and brought several specific cases to light. According to Perez, Muslims make up less than one percent of the U.S. population but more than 14 percent of religious discrimination cases and 25 percent of workplace discrimination cases investigated by the federal government. 

Farhana Khera, president and executive director of Muslim Advocates, testified about a recent case brought against a meatpacking plant by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in which, “supervisors and workers had cursed [the plaintiffs] for being Muslim; thrown blood, meat and bones at them; and interrupted their prayer breaks.”

The hearing was in stark contrast to the hearing that Rep. Peter King, chair of the House Committee on Homeland Security, held three weeks ago that singled out Muslims as particularly susceptible to engaging in anti-American extremism.

“Such inflammatory speech from prominent public figures creates a fertile climate for discrimination,” said Sen. Dick Durbin, who chairs the Senate subcommittee. “It’s wrong to blame an entire community for the wrongdoing of a few. Guilt by association is not the American way.”

Civil and human rights groups have long been concerned with the rise of anti-Muslim sentiment since the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In a recent report, “Restoring a National Consensus: The Need to End Racial Profiling in America,” The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights documents how, since the 9/11 attacks, the federal government has focused massive investigatory resources on Arabs and Muslims—and those presumed to be Arabs or Muslims—singling them out for questioning, detention, and other law enforcement activities.

Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference, released a statement on Tuesday applauding Chairman Durbin for his leadership on this important issue and submitted written testimony for the congressional record.

“It is hearings like this one, focusing on the importance of just and equal treatment for American Muslims, which will help heal the wounds and bridge the gap,” Henderson said. “As we witness the devastation around the world—whether it be the national disasters facing Japan or political violence in Libya—we must come together to recognize the greatness of this nation, which comes from our diversity, our tolerance, our cooperation, and our respect. We must work together to honor the founding principles of this nation, and to welcome all to live and worship in safety and freedom.”