This week, Attorney General Eric Holder and U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon Dwight Holton met with Arab-American and Muslim leaders in Portland to discuss the department’s commitment to protecting the rights of the Muslim, Sikh, Arab-American, and South Asian communities.
Attendees included: Salma Ahmad, Gulzar Ahmed, Shariar Ahmed, Shamima Banu, Mohammed Ridha, Mostafa Arifin, Ronault Catalani, Mohamed Farah, Samira Godil, Jamal Haagi, Mohammed Haque, Tahmina Hossain, Muhammad Najieb, Nadira Najieb, Musse Olol, Athar Pasha, Ayoob Ramjan, Zaki Said, Mozafar Wanly, Yosof Wanly, Anam Pasha and Mohamed Alyajouri.
The Justice Department, under Attorney General Holder, has emphasized outreach to American Muslim and Arab communities, building upon efforts by the Civil Rights Division, which has met with national leaders of Arab American and Muslim American organizations, as well as with other community groups across the country. These meetings are one way to ensure we continue to protect against threats to our national security while building trusting, collaborative, and productive relationships that facilitate mutual understanding between certain communities, and the law enforcement officials serving them.
Attorney General Holder has said:
“In this nation, our many faiths, origins and appearances must bind together, not break us apart. In this nation, the document that sets forth the supreme law of the land – our Constitution – is meant to empower, not exclude. And in this nation, security and liberty are – at their best – partners, not enemies, in ensuring safety and opportunity for all.”
The Department’s engagement efforts have two central components. First we seek to build trust by working with Muslim leaders to find out how we can better serve the community on issues like civil rights enforcement to anti-bullying efforts. In addition, we work to equip and empower local Muslim leaders to help them guard against violent extremists who are targeting young people in their communities for recruitment to misguided, violent causes.
The Muslim leaders who met with the Attorney General pledged their support and are undertaking practical steps resist violent extremists targeting their young people and help federal law enforcement do its job better.
Engagement is just one way that the Justice Department is building stronger relationships with Arab and Muslim-American communities. The Attorney General has met with Arab and Muslim-American community leaders in Washington, D.C. and across the country to discuss the federal government’s relationship the community and to improve the Department’s communication and collaboration with members of the community. Attorney General Holder also established an Arab and Muslim-American Engagement Advisory Group. That group helps to coordinate and review community outreach efforts and policy initiatives that affect the community.
The department’s individual components have been active in the effort to address the concerns of Arab/Muslim communities through engagement and outreach. Many FBI field offices hold conference calls with local community leaders, and each field office employs a Community Outreach Specialist to engage the community through town hall meetings, public speaking, youth initiatives and citizens’ academies. The Department’s Community Relations Service has responded to allegations of disparate and discriminatory treatment faced by Arab, Muslim, and Sikh communities across the country by offering conciliation and mediation services, as well as appropriate training programs for law enforcement, government officials and members of the community.
In addition, U.S. Attorneys’ Offices are working in their districts to engage with their local Arab and Muslim-American communities.
- U.S. Attorneys’ Offices are reaching out directly to local Arab and Muslim-American leaders and groups to develop closer relationships, participating in local events hosted by Arab and Muslim-American groups in their districts, including annual dinners, mosque openings, lectures and town hall meetings. And they have sponsored conferences to promote cultural understanding between law enforcement and Arab, Muslim and Sikh-Americans.
- U.S. Attorneys have worked with other agencies, including the FBI and various Department of Homeland Security components, to conduct outreach through programs such as Project Safe Neighborhood, Weed and Seed, hate crimes task forces, civil rights initiatives and anti-gang efforts.
- U.S. Attorneys have conducted outreach to the international community, including foreign nationals working in embassies, to share general information about the United States, with a focus on elections, governmental transparency and improving interfaith efforts and race relations.
Working together we will continue to protect and defend our homeland, while upholding the promises of the Constitution, including respect for civil liberties, a commitment to religious freedom and honor for the diversity of the American people.