Heartbreaking Stories Shared At Religious and Racial Profiling Event

For years, whether it was the post-9/11 NSEERS program, the raids on Muslim organizations in 2002, or more recently the numerous cases involving Muslims being profiled by law enforcement at airports and elsewhere, racial and religious profiling has become an unfortunate constant in our communities. The stories are endless as we often hear about – and sometimes become desensitized to – horrific incidents and their consequences in our community. On June 1, KARAMAH hosted a town hall to humanize these stories. The featured panelists were prominent civil rights leaders familiar with the Muslim community. The first was Manar Waheed, Esq. Policy Director at SAALT, an organization founded upon the rise of discrimination post-9/11. Ms. Waheed is a national advocate for civil and human rights and brought significant experience to the panel. Ms. Waheed spoke on federal programs like 287(g) and Secure Communities, as well as local programs like the NYPD’s expansive surveillance program that legitimize religious and racial profiling. Especially since 9/11, federal and local enforcement have indiscriminately targeted Muslim Americans, including campus groups and even wedding parties. Ms. Waheed observed how the targeting and surveillance tactics employed by law enforcement has created an environment of fear and alienation, making it more difficult for Muslim American to not only trust law enforcement, but attend mosques, join religious and secular organizations, and live their life with freedom. The second speaker was Chicago attorney and local activist Kamran Memon, Esq.. Mr. Memon, who is an experienced civil rights litigator, explained in detail the conditions that allow discriminatory policies like religious profiling to become politically and socially acceptable. He pointed out evidence confirmed by credible analysts showing a concerted effort to whitewash right-wing and other terrorism – largely in an effort to paint Muslim and Arab Americans as uniquely worthy of discriminatory targeting. Mr. Memon also pointed to several polls demonstrating that many fellow Americans still misunderstand Muslims and harbor attitudes that must be aggressively countered by groups like KARAMAH, SAALT, and SAAPRI. The final panelist was Ami Gandhi, Esq., the Executive Director of SAAPRI, a Chicago-based research and policy organization devoted to supporting South Asian Americans. Ms. Gandhi aptly discussed how long enforcement abuse through targeting and discrimination goes far beyond “hurt feeling.” The consequences of these policies and behaviors impact families and entire communities. Ms Gandhi argued that concrete steps must be taken with the Chicago Police Department, including better training for law enforcement and meaningful dialogue with diverse communities. Finally, Ms. Gandhi also discussed the importance of alliance and coalition building with groups like those co-sponsoring this town hall in efforts to fight problematic policies and combat abuse of law enforcement discretion. The second hour featured a Question and Answer session moderated by KARAMAH Chair, former law professor, and longtime human rights activist, Dr. Azizah al-Hibri. Not only was the diverse and vibrant audience in attendance very involved, but the panelists answered several questions from individuals watching the live stream and participating in the session through the Twitter hash tag #MuslimStories. The event captured the essence of the Muslim American Stories project. Each speaker was able to reflect on the current state of affairs, but also reflect on the consequences of these violations on our community as a whole. Unfortunately, because profiling has been a mainstay in our communities for some time now, it is obvious to see the incredible and horrific impact it is having on our community as a whole. We encourage you to watch the town hall below and continue to share your stories with us as well.

Scroll to Top