MPAC's Tarin Testifies at US Commission on Civil Right


Today, the United States Commission on Civil Rights held a timely briefing on Federal Civil Rights Engagement with the Arab and Muslim American Communities Post 9/11. The briefing was prompted by anti-terrorism programs post 9/11, which have proven to be problematic and ineffective and have raised serious concerns about their intrusion of civil rights and civil liberties. Panelists providing testimony were asked to evaluate the “successes and failure of the federal government in engaging the Arab and Muslim American community post 9/11” and to address the discrimination faced by those communities by national security programs.

The director of MPAC’s Washington, DC office Haris Tarin testified before the Commission and stressed the importance of engaging American Muslim communities with law enforcement communities to build trust and work together on a diverse range of issues. He discussed the trickle-down effect of public and elected officials who marginalize American Muslims which lead to the subsequent bullying of American Muslim students.

Tarin commented on the two main methods of engaging minority communities used by law enforcement communities: 1. Treating them as suspect communities or 2. Treating communities as partners. Whereas the New York Police Department generally uses the first model of engagement, in other local law enforcement agencies such as in Los Angeles, Dallas and Chicago, the use of partnering with communities is more prevalent and in turn, more effective.

Other experts on the panel agreed and stressed that civil rights and civil liberties issues must be expanded from just Muslim issues to include all faiths and ethnic backgrounds. To that end, the Department of Justice (DoJ) is currently working on including anti-Sikh and anti-Arab statistics in their annual hate crime reports. This endeavor could not have been made possible without the partnership of DoJ and these minority communities.

As we continue to deal with post 9/11 law enforcement programs, the very real concerns over the intersection between civil liberties and national security must be addressed. With the re-election of President Barack Obama on Tuesday night comes the expectation that these issues and more will be addressed as our nation continues to move forward. The fact that the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, an entity created to “inform the development of national civil rights policy and enhance enforcement of federal civil rights laws,” commenced this public briefing is a big step forward in recognizing that serious reforms need to be made when it comes to balancing between the need to safeguard our nation and uphold our civil liberties.

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