CAIR-Chicago Presents at Illinois Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights
Chicago, IL.- On August 21, 2014, during a hearing of the Illinois Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission Civil Rights, CAIR Chicago’s Staff Attorney Rabya Khan testified during a panel entitled Data Deficit, Underreporting, and Community Concerns. This panel was part of a day long public hearing addressing hate crimes and discrimination against religious institutions.
Three other experts testified with Khan on the panel: Mona Noriega, Chair of the City of Chicago Commission on Human Relations (CCHR); Kalia Abaide, Advocacy Director for the Center for New Community; and Dr. Muhammad Hamadeh, Board President of Muslim Educational and Cultural Center of America (MECCA).
CCHR Chair Noriega noted the importance of maintaining accurate data regarding hate crimes, and a government’s need to promote values of inclusiveness and non-discrimination. She also noted that multiple factors contribute to the underreporting of hate crimes, including victims not understanding the law, being mistrustful of law enforcement, having language barriers, and ultimately deciding not to engage law enforcement. Noriega also publicized a Hate Crime Summit taking place on October 20, 2014 at University of Illinois at Chicago.
Khan discussed hate crimes in a religious context, focusing on acts of violence and vandalism against local Muslim institutions within the past two (2) years: shots fired at Muslim Education Center in Morton Grove, shots fired at the Orland Park mosque’s dome, and cemetery vandalism. She echoed Chair Noriega’s sentiment that there is a gap of understanding between the police, the community, and the prosecutors, but referenced her own difficulties receiving support from law enforcement officials during the hate crime incidents.
Kalia Abaide provided context on a national level, testifying to the increase in anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant groups recently, especially in response to undocumented children crossing the Mexican border. Locally, Abaide noted flyers posted in a Crestwood Mall in June 2014 by the Creativity Movement, the same organization from which white supremacist Matthew Hale originated. She also explained how anti-Muslim extremists have been retained to conduct biased training of law enforcement officials, and such trainings are shared with right wing organizations encouraging members to “find the jihadi in your neighborhood.”
Dr. Hamadeh discussed the numerous barriers MECCA faced with DuPage County officials, ultimately resulting in the mosque not being authorized to build a dome and minaret. He also explained how officials changed the rules throughout the zoning process, including Text Amendments which initially sought to ban any religious institutions in residential areas and ultimately greatly restricted new institutions and expansions. Dr. Hamedeh recommended more education of local governments regarding the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 and federal monitoring of such compliance before lawsuits are filed.
Other recommendations made to the Advisory Committee included improving training of law enforcement officials on hate crimes to improve community relations and respond to hate-related incidents with clear public messages that hate crimes will not be tolerated.
CAIR-Chicago will be supplementing Khan’s presentation with written testimony further addressing hate crimes and mosque zoning issues