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Your rights: what Muslims can do about hate crimes

According to the American Muslim Council, the FBI is currently investigating 40 hate crimes against Muslims across the United States. In the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks, Muslims, Arabs and those who resemble them have been victims of harassment, threats and in a few cases already, death.

Given the level of hysteria and anger being expressed against Muslim and Arab-Americans, it is necessary for all concerned to know what to do if you are a victim of a hate crime.

Chicago-based civil rights lawyer Kamran Memon has provided a number of tips for Muslims across the country who are victims.

1. Report, report, report

It is extremely necessary that every single incident of harassment and violence be documented by the right organizations. The date, time, place, circumstances of the crime as well as the names and contact information of witnesses must be noted quickly as they are fresh in your memory. These will provide information not only to follow up with legal action if necessary, but it will also be important for Muslim organizations who are trying to stop such crimes from being repeated. The more they know, the more they can do something about it.

Here are the places you should report hate crimes to:
-The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR). Fill out an incident report at www.cair-net.org/ireport.
-The US commission on civil rights: 1-800-552-6843
-After a meeting with the FBI, the American Muslim Council has been advised to tell Muslims to register a complaint at the following website: www.ifccfbi.gov. The FBI has also asked Muslims to report hate crimes to their local branch of the FBI (find yours at http://www.fbi.gov/contact/fo/info.htm)
-National Lawyers' Committee For Civil Rights 202-783-0951 or 202-662-8600
-if your city has one, a commission on human rights and/or human relations
-your local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (www.aclu.org) and the National Lawyers' Guild.
-the National Association of Muslim Lawyers at NAMLnet@aol.com

2. Harassment on the job

If you are harassed at work, report it immediately to your boss in writing. This should cause the harassment to stop. If the boss allows the harassment to continue, you may have a legal claim. In other words, you can sue the company. File a complaint with your local branch of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) at 1-800-669-4000 as well as the organizations mentioned in point number one.

3. At school

Muslim children have been harassed by fellow students and teachers in elementary and high schools, with one Chicago elementary school teacher calling all Palestinians terrorists.

If you are harassed at school, report it immediately to the school administration in writing. This should cause the harassment to stop. If the administration allows the harassment to continue, go to the head of the school board and file a complaint. If you do not receive a positive response, you have a legal claim and can sue the school. You may also file a complaint with a city level human rights committee.

3. Stores and restaurants

Two Muslim women reportedly had their headscarves pulled off in a Walmart on the South Side of Chicago a few days after the September 11 terrorist attack.

If you have been a victim of this or a similar kind of discrimination (physical or otherwise) in a store or restaurant, report the incident to management immediately. You may have a legal claim against any store or restaurant that allows you to be mistreated by employees. If the mistreatment is by other customers, also report it to management. If management allows the harassment to continue, you may also have a legal claim. To file a complaint against these types of businesses, you can also contact a government agency that deals with racism.

4. Physical harm

Beatings, attempts at running over a Muslim woman in Hijab and threats to do so have all occurred since last Tuesday.

If you have been a victim of this, immediately report the incident to your local police and file a report. Also ask for increased police protection for yourself, your family and your home. You may also be able to sue anyone who threatens you with physical harm.

5. Property damage


Muslim and Arab American homes and stores have had their windows smashed and their walls defaced with offensive graffiti, to name just a few of the ways Muslim property has been damaged since last week.
Nobody is allowed to damage or trespass your property. Immediately contact your local police and file a report. You may also be able to sue someone who damages or trespasses your property.

6. Government employees

If a government employee (for example a police officer or municipal employee) harasses you, you have a legal claim and therefore, can sue. Find out if the particular office has a complaints department and register your complaint there as well.

If you want more information about what you can do about a hate crime against you, contact an anti-racism group in your city or state. They know what resources exist to deal with such incidents.
If you are in the Chicago-area, you may get more information about your rights as a victim of hate crime from Br. Kamran by e-mailing him at discrimination@hotmail.com

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