SAALT Declines to Attend Today’s Department of Justice Hate Crimes Summit

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), a national civil rights and racial justice organization, will not participate in today’s Hate Crimes Summit organized by the U.S. Department of Justice due to the Trump Administration’s ongoing efforts to disregard and undermine the civil rights of all Americans, regardless of our appearance, how we pray, or where we were born. Illustrating a continued denial of civil rights on the part of the current Administration, today marks the first day that partial implementation of the Muslim Ban resumes after the Supreme Court’s announcement earlier this week.

SAALT and other invited organizations for today’s Summit learned only 36 hours ago that Attorney General Jeff Sessions will provide opening remarks this morning and will not answer questions from press or attendees. Given that this serves as a photo opportunity, we are not convinced the Summit will be a forum for substantive dialogue. Combating hate violence is central to SAALT’s mission, and we have been deeply committed to developing solutions that stem the tide of violence targeting South Asian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Arab, and Middle Eastern Americans since our inception.

Furthermore, SAALT is profoundly disturbed by the infrastructure this Administration has created to combat hate crimes. Established in a February 9 executive order, the Department of Justice’s Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety has made it a top priority to criminalize undocumented immigrants. Unconscionably, the Department of Justice has embedded a “Hate Crimes Subcommittee” into this taskforce, equating the criminality of perpetrators of hate violence with those who are undocumented.

Among their many transgressions, this Department of Justice has deeply undermined the trust that is foundational for communities to feel comfortable reporting hate crimes to law enforcement. From issuing and repeatedly appealing an unconstitutional Muslim Ban to publically supporting Texas’ draconian state immigration enforcement law, SB 4, to rolling back police accountability measures, this Administration has broadcast a very clear message to all of our communities. Given this reality, we believe that the Attorney General’s remarks and the subsequent discussion today will only amount to window dressing.

South Asian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Middle Eastern, and Arab Americans are experiencing levels of hate violence not seen since the year after 9/11. In the seven months since the 2016 presidential election SAALT has documented 104 incidents of violence against our communities. We believe discriminatory government policies, executive orders, and litigation have actively contributed to the very rise in hate violence that the Department of Justice will attempt to discuss today.

SAALT has a long and successful history of engagement with the Department of Justice on behalf of our communities across numerous administrations. However, the current Department of Justice continues to be at the center of policies that criminalize our communities. We have worked with our allies within and outside government for over fifteen years to improve policies on reporting and investigating hate crimes. SAALT remains deeply committed to being rooted in community and building our power with everyone impacted by the rising tide of violence in our nation. We will continue to fight the discriminatory policies, executive orders, and litigation coming out of this Administration.

Contact:  Suman Raghunathan, Executive Director, SAALT.  suman@saalt.org

SAALT Objects to the Supreme Court’s Partial Reinstatement of the “Muslim Ban”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), a national South Asian racial justice and civil rights organization, strongly objects to the Supreme Court’s decision to reinstate part of President Trump’s “Muslim Ban”. It is disappointing that the highest court in our land will hear the federal government’s appeal despite federal appellate courts repeatedly striking down and staying key parts of the “Muslim Ban” as unquestionably unconstitutional.
“Reinstating any part of this administration’s patently discriminatory ‘Muslim Ban’ is contrary to the values of the United States and the ideals this country was founded on,” stated Suman Raghunathan, Executive Director of SAALT. “The President’s executive orders, and the Supreme Court’s decision to partially reinstate the ban, amounts to government sanctioned discrimination. It does not make America safe, it makes America afraid.”
Individuals from the six majority-Muslim countries identified in the President’s executive orders who do not have a “bona fide” relationship with a person or organization in the United States will be barred from entering the country. This administration’s dogged pursuit of a “Muslim Ban” has provided a prominent platform for white supremacists and anti-immigrant voices.
The “Muslim ban” discriminates against travelers as well as any Muslim or individual perceived as Muslim in the United States.  These individuals have the right to walk down the street without fear of harassment or violence by virtue of how they pray, what language they speak, or their nation of origin. Today’s Supreme Court announcement is coupled with the Administration’s announcement on Friday that it will no longer actively support efforts to counter Neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other far-right hate groups as part of the “Countering Violent Extremism” program. This change is divorced from the reality of terrorism in the United States, as Klan groups continue to multiply and feel emboldened in the current political climate.
South Asians are the fastest growing demographic group in the nation, yet this administration’s policies, under the guise of national security, paint millions of people with suspicion and make our communities question their place in this quintessential nation of immigrants. SAALT calls on Congress to overturn the President’s “Muslim Ban” to safeguard our national integrity and to state clearly and convincingly that hate and fear will not be allowed guide our country’s policies now or in the future. We reject any attempt to discriminate and divide us base upon how we pray, what we look like, and where we come from.
Contact: Vivek Trivedi – vivek@saalt.org

SAALT Mourns Death of Muslim Teenager, Calls on Police to Investigate Possible Hate Crime

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), a national South Asian racial justice and civil rights organization, mourns the death of Nabra Hassanen, a 17-year-old Reston, Virginia resident who was killed as she left her All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) mosque on Sunday morning. Though police swiftly arrested and charged a local man with the killing, on Monday Fairfax County Police stated on Twitter, “We are NOT investigating this murder as a hate crime.” This early and impulsive decision to rule out racial or religious bias as a possible factor in this killing sends the wrong message to South Asian and Muslim communities across the country who continue to face violence and intimidation every day. SAALT calls on law enforcement to vigorously investigate all possible motives that led to this tragic loss of life.

“Given the pandemic of hate violence aimed at Muslim and South Asian communities in the United States, it is nothing less than tone deaf for the police to categorically dismiss hate as a possible factor in the tragic killing of a young Muslim girl who was attacked while walking out of her mosque during Ramadan,” stated Suman Raghunathan, Executive Director of SAALT. “The police have a sworn duty to protect and serve everyone, including Muslim and South Asian communities. A complete investigation into the facts is the only way to achieve justice for Nabra.”

SAALT has documented over 100 incidents of hate targeting Muslim, Arab, and South Asian Americans in 2017 alone. Shootings in Kansas and Washington State, along with vandalism and arson attacks of mosques, homes, and businesses across the country are only a few of the tragic incidents our communities have experienced this year.

Nabra’s killing is not the first incident that leads our communities, and communities of color writ large, to distrust law enforcement. In recent years the police have repeatedly brutalized our communities with impunity. In 2015 Sureshbhai Patel, a senior citizen with limited English proficiency, was partially paralyzed after being slammed to the ground by an Alabama police officer. During a traffic stop in 2016, Philando Castile was shot dead by a police officer while the entire incident was live-streamed by Castile’s girlfriend. Despite video evidence in both cases, the accused officers were acquitted of all charges.

On the other hand, the police are equally quick to the trigger when dismissing hate as a possible motivating factor in violence aimed at our communities. Our communities have experienced far greater hate violence than has been documented due to severe underreporting of hate crimes by local law enforcement. In 2014, the Bureau of Justice Statistics suggested the actual number of anti-Muslim hate crimes was likely 6,000 or more than what was registered, despite the FBI only reporting 154 hate crime incidents.

The federal government has also been wholly inadequate in protecting our communities. A May 2, 2017 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on “Responses to the Increase in Religious Hate Crimes” did not include a single Muslim or Arab organization or expert witness to provide testimony, despite dramatic spikes in anti-Muslim hate violence across the country that are nearing levels not seen since the year after 9/11. This erasure of reality and unwillingness to understand the problem on the part of our government is completely unacceptable.

Nabra’s tragic death rattles our already embattled communities, and should shake the entire nation. Parents should not fear for their child’s safety because they wear a hijab or attend a mosque. Every young person should be guaranteed a life free of hate. This is the promise our country continues to break every day. We as a nation must collectively pledge, early and often, with words and actions, that we are NOT going to compromise the principles of religious freedom out of fear or hate, and that we will protect the rights of all Americans always.

CONTACT: Vivek Trivedi – vivek@saalt.org

SAALT Welcomes Latest Court Ruling Blocking “Muslim Ban 2.0”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), a national South Asian racial justice and civil rights organization, welcomes the 9th Circuit decision to uphold a nationwide injunction on President Trump’s “Muslim Ban 2.0” executive order.

“What the President called ‘watered-down’, the Court of Appeals called unconstitutional,” stated Suman Raghunathan, Executive Director of SAALT. “The 9th Circuit, along with numerous courts, have made it abundantly clear that discrimination on the basis of religion and national origin are offensive to the ideals of our democracy. While welcomed, today’s ruling could not block the hate the President’s policies have already created and validated. Violence against our communities is on the rise. Visa issuances have slowed dramatically. These are the grim realities our communities experience in public every day.”

SAALT has documented increasing hate violence incidents since the President took office, numbering over 100 incidents targeting Muslim, Arab, and South Asian Americans alone. Tragic shootings in Kansas and Washington State, arson attacks and vandalism of mosques, homes, campuses, and businesses across the country, and anti-Muslim rallies in 30 cities over the weekend demonstrate the fertile environment for hate this administration has cultivated.

Data released by the State Department also suggests that the number of visas issued to people from six majority-Muslim countries targeted by the President’s executive order appears to be slowing down dramatically. The number of nonimmigrant visas issued to citizens from the six majority-Muslim countries in March and April have decreased by nearly 50% from the 2016 average.

Despite strong rulings by various courts on the “Muslim Bans”, hate and division continue to be a fact of life for our communities. SAALT maintains that immigration reform that upholds the rights of all, legislation such as the No Hate Act and End Racial and Religious Profiling Act that codify protections for all of our communities, and strong hate crimes laws in all 50 states are key priorities we must demand from all of our elected and appointed officials.

As the 9th Circuit noted, “immigration, even for the President, is not a one-person show.” Nor is the struggle for civil rights and liberties. We must applaud today’s order, but we must continue to demand justice and full inclusion in our America.

Contact:  Vivek Trivedi – vivek@saalt.org

58 South Asian organizations condemn today’s multi-city Islamophobic rallies

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

The National Coalition of South Asian Organizations (NCSO), a network of 58 South Asian American community organizations across the country, condemns the local anti-Muslim events organized by ACT For America on June 10. These events are an alarming part of a larger wave of white supremacy targeting our communities nationwide.

ACT for America, reportedly the largest anti-Muslim hate group in the United States, has branded their campaign a “March Against Shariah,” a divisive fear mongering effort to manufacture hatred against the nation’s already-embattled Muslim American communities. The organization’s founder, Brigitte Gabriel, has made her bias and opposition to an entire religion clear, stating “every practicing Muslim is a radical Muslim” and that Muslims are a “natural threat to civilized people of the world, particularly Western society.” While ACT for America remains a fringe organization, not representative of the majority of public opinion, the June 10 protests are a physical manifestation of the ongoing effort to sow hatred against our communities nationwide.

Gabriel’s statements are troubling and reminiscent of President Trump’s, who has declared on the record, “I think Islam hates us.” The President’s “Muslim Bans” and divisive rhetoric have validated and amplified the views and actions of violent white supremacists and white nationalist extremists in recent months.

Recently in Portland, OR, a known white supremacist, Jeremy Joseph Christian, spewed racist comments at two commuters, one of whom was a young Muslim woman wearing a hijab. When other passengers attempted to intervene, Christian stabbed two of them to death and injured another before being arrested. At his arraignment Christian reaffirmed his white supremacist beliefs, declaring, “Death to the enemies of America. Leave this country if you hate our freedom.”

This brutal bigotry builds on a rising tide of violence and intimidation that has defined much of the last several years and accelerated during the 2016 Presidential election cycle. Tragic shootings in Kansas and Washington State, ongoing arson attacks and vandalism of mosques, businesses, and homes across the country, and the persistent targeting and harassment of South Asian, Muslim, Sikh, and Hindu communities nationwide continue to be a fact of life.

“While white supremacists believe Islam is incompatible with Western society, we believe racism and fear mongering are incompatible with core American values,” stated Suman Raghunathan, Executive Director of South Asian Americans Leading Together. “ACT for America’s anti-Muslim rallies, scheduled during the month of Ramadan, are an affront to the core religious freedoms enshrined in our Constitution and encourages divisive rhetoric that paints Muslim communities in our nation as un-American, which couldn’t be farther from reality. We call on all elected and appointed officials to denounce ACT for America and its anti-Muslim protests as un-American and unacceptable.”

“Much of ACT for America’s gatherings are the sum result of existing practices and policies by local and federal governments that harm frontline communities such as surveillance, racial profiling, and collaboration between local and federal enforcement agencies that commit violence, accelerate deportations, and allow for continued unaccountability from law enforcement officers,” stated Roksana Mun, Director of Strategy at Desis Rising Up & Moving. “Racist, Islamophobic, and xenophobic actions like these are the reasons why all frontline communities need to join together and build our community defense which builds our own people power.”

“Many southeastern states such as North Carolina are on the frontlines of the juxtaposition of South Asian American population growth and the growth in white supremacist organizations,” stated Chavi Koneru, Executive Director of North Carolina Asian Americans Together (NCAAT). “Given these dynamics, it is critical for grassroots organizations like NCAAT to work with our local partners to support smart, inclusive public policies that take a stand against division.”

As grassroots organizations, NCSO members work on numerous issues including domestic violence, immigrant rights, civil rights, civil liberties, and LGBTQIA rights. We have confronted hate violence, advocated for major shifts in law enforcement, government documentation, and responses to hate crimes, as well as policy solutions to anticipate and prevent these horrible incidents. With South Asian Americans the most rapidly growing demographic group in the nation, the NCSO continues to work on inclusion and community building as we mobilize in the face of hate. In this urgent moment, we combine our voices and join our hands in opposition to the organized bigotry and racism targeting our communities every day. We demand our rights and freedoms.

During his arraignment, the Portland attacker declared with zeal, “You got no safe place.” This is the world that white supremacists, with their powerful allies, want to speak into reality. This is the world we will never stop opposing, because love must always trump hate.

Contact:  Vivek Trivedi – vivek@saalt.org

In Kansas, SAALT demands a response to hate crimes

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

On June 6, South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), a national South Asian racial justice and civil rights organization, participated in a critical hate crimes forum facilitated by the US Department of Justice Community Relations Service in Kansas. Representatives from government agencies, diverse community leaders, and advocacy organizations gathered at the Hindu Temple and Cultural Center of Kansas City to examine and address the bigotry and hate violence targeting our communities nationwide.

The Kansas community is still reeling from the February killing of Srinivas Kuchibhotla by a gunman who screamed “Get out of my country” before opening fire. This attack was neither the beginning nor the end of the epidemic of hate violence targeting South Asian, Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, and interfaith communities across the country.

“The United States was founded on religious liberty, yet our country is flooding with hatred and violence explicitly targeting communities based on their religion, race, nationality, and perceived identity,” stated Suman Raghunathan, Executive Director of SAALT. “The President’s responses to the tragedy in Kansas along with many others have been deeply problematic. Multiple attempts at a ‘Muslim Ban’, careless words or complete silence following attacks on our communities, and his failure to name white supremacy as a clear and present danger to our country all combine to signal the lack of necessary interest, will, and leadership to address these fundamental issues.”

SAALT’s latest report, “Power, Pain, Potential,” documented 207 incidents of hate violence and xenophobic political rhetoric aimed at South Asian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Arab, and Middle Eastern American communities during the divisive 2016 elections. While we know this number accounts for only a fraction of actual incidents aimed at our communities, 95% of the incidents documented were motivated by anti-Muslim sentiment.

Successive waves of hate continue to crash against our communities. On June 10 ACT for America, a noted hate group, is hosting a series of multi-city anti-Muslim rallies to manufacture fear and hatred of our communities. SAALT and our partners call on all national, state, and local leaders to denounce fear-mongering and xenophobia as unacceptable and demand the vigorous enforcement of our civil rights and liberties. These responsibilities are not optional.

With tragedy upon tragedy accumulating rapidly in our national memory, the time for our leaders to respond must be now.

CONTACT:  Vivek Trivedi – vivek@saalt.org