Press Release: Diverse Group of Organizations Demand Clarification from Congressman Jerry Weller

(Chicago, IL 11/06/06)- The Chicago office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations announced today that it has issued a letter, along with the Illinois Coalition of Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR), the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs (JCUA), and Illinois Coalition for Civil Liberties and a number of organizations, demanding a clarification from Congressman Jerry Weller (R-IL, 11th congressional district) on his recent comments about racial profiling.

In a recent debate against his opponent John Pavich, Congressman Weller remarked: “if we know a Middle Eastern male has entered our community, I believe our law enforcement needs to be able to go out and look for Middle Eastern males, if that Middle Eastern male was part of a jihadist movement and part of a terrorist threat to our nation,” when asked what he would do about racial profiling.

Sadiya Ahmed, CAIR-Chicago Governmental Relations Coordinator, said that the practice of racial profiling “creates a cycle of discrimination that is difficult to break out of.”

“Elected officials have the ability to protect the civil rights of their constituents,” remarked Ahmed. “Singling out a group of people, Middle Eastern men, and encouraging law enforcement to seek them out only encourages a dangerous climate of hate.”

The following letter was sent to Congressman Weller:

Congressman Jerry Weller
108 Cannon HOB
Washington, D.C. 20515

November 1, 2006

Dear Congressman Weller:

We, the undersigned organizations, are disturbed by your remarks on racial profiling during a recent debate against your opponent John Pavich in Bloomington, Illinois. We request clarification.

Your response, when asked what you would do about racial profiling was:

“if we know a Middle Eastern male has entered our community, I believe our law enforcement needs to be able to go out and look for middle-eastern males, if that Middle Eastern male was part of a jihadist movement and part of a terrorist threat to our nation.”

As organizations that interact with diverse communities on a regular basis, as well as organizations that work to protect the rights and liberties of all people, we are concerned about the negative impact of remarks such as yours.

One of the most fundamental rights in the United States of America is freedom from discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or national origin. Under no circumstance should a group of individuals be singled out, by an elected official or any other person, in the name of security or otherwise. Such prejudice is also prohibited by the constitution and would strip us of one of the basic tenets of democracy.

It is the duty of our elected officials to protect the rights of the American people and it is a right of the American people to live without the fear of being targeted because of their ethnicity or national origin. Thus, we are asking that you clarify your statement which seems to sanction discrimination.

Sincerely,

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)-Chicago
The Illinois Coalition of Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR)
The Jewish Council on Urban Affairs (JCUA)
Illinois Coalition for Civil Liberties
The Asian American Institute (AAI)
Korean American Resource Center (KRCC)
Arab American Family Services
Marcia Brown-Medina, Social Worker with Hispanic Ministry-Diocese of Joliet in Kankakee
Arab American Action Network
Alfredo Melesio, Parish Council President Mt. Carmel, Joliet

Contact: Sadiya Ahmed at (312) 212-1520 or (847) 962-8449 / gov.relations@cairchicago.org

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