CAIR-Chicago Testifies Before the Illinois House of Representatives

Christina Abraham, CAIR-Chicago Civil Rights Coordinator, testified in a Racial Profiling Subject Matter Hearing before the Judiciary II – Criminal Law Committee of the Illinois House of Representatives. The hearing, which took place in the Capitol Building in Springfield, Ill., addressed the legislative proposal to continue data collection on racial profiling for traffic stops and amend the legislation to incorporate more information in the data that is collected.

The bill was presented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois (ACLU-IL) and the organizations that were present to support the amended legislation included CAIR-Chicago and the Chicago Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (CLCCRUL). Christina Abraham testified to support the legislative bill, in particular to include a classification for Middle Easterners/North Africans in the racial class descriptions, and to include a parameter that would require police officers to record whether the individual they had stopped was wearing any type of religious garment such as a headscarf (hijab).

Ms. Abraham cited two reported cases to support the need for such data collection measures. The first involved a man who was stopped by police and asked if he was Palestinian because, as the officer asserted, Palestinian car dealers tend to steal cars and re-sell them. The man was arrested despite having valid paperwork to show that his car was properly bought and registered. He was eventually released after officers verified that the automobile did, in fact, belong to him.

The second incident involved a woman who was excessively ticketed for a minor traffic violation, arrested, forced to remove her headscarf (hijab) in the presence of two male officers, and photographed without her headscarf. Ms. Abraham stressed that Middle Easterners should not be classified as Caucasian, as they currently are, if they are evidently not perceived to be so by those acting out of bias against them. She also stressed the importance of collecting data on whether or not individuals stopped were wearing religious garments, such as the Muslim woman’s headscarf (hijab), in order to determine and combat any bias against members of religious minorities such as Muslims.

The hearing may be continued later this year in Chicago, where more minority groups may be represented to testify. The bill presented by the ACLU was amended to incorporate the classification for Middle Eastern/North Africans and individuals wearing religious garments at the request of CAIR-Chicago.

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