Statement on House Judiciary Hearing on Discrimination and Civil Rights of Muslim Arab and South Asian Communities

Feb­ru­ary 25, 2022

Dear Chair­man Nadler and Rank­ing Mem­ber Jor­dan,

As orga­ni­za­tions that work with­in Mus­lim, Arab and South Asian com­mu­ni­ties at the local and nation­al lev­el, we are pleased to see the House Judi­cia­ry Com­mit­tee hold­ing an impor­tant March 1st Hear­ing on Dis­crim­i­na­tion and Civ­il Rights of Mus­lim, Arab, and South Asian com­mu­ni­ties. We rec­og­nize the tremen­dous work orga­ni­za­tions have done to advo­cate for con­gres­sion­al hear­ings that cen­ter the ero­sion of civ­il lib­er­ties for our com­mu­ni­ties.

How­ev­er, as orga­ni­za­tions who are work­ing with impact­ed com­mu­ni­ties, we are con­cerned about the fram­ing of the hear­ing. We write to offer rec­om­men­da­tions for future hear­ings per­tain­ing to our com­mu­ni­ties. Such hear­ings are part of the offi­cial his­tor­i­cal record and often end up paint­ing a nar­ra­tive and push­ing pol­i­cy rec­om­men­da­tions that fail to clear­ly name state vio­lence, struc­tur­al Islam­o­pho­bia, and the War on Ter­ror poli­cies as the dri­vers of indi­vid­ual acts of inter­per­son­al vio­lence. South Asian Amer­i­cans Lead­ing Togeth­er (SAALT) issued reports in 2017 and 2018 doc­u­ment­ing the direct cor­re­la­tion between polit­i­cal rhetoric, fed­er­al poli­cies, and the increase in inci­dents of hate vio­lence, which con­tin­ues today.

Increas­ing­ly, we have found that the lim­it­ed frame­work of civ­il rights and civ­il lib­er­ties that often focus­es exclu­sive­ly on secu­ri­ty and dis­crim­i­na­tion does not ade­quate­ly cap­ture the broad impacts of sys­temic vio­lence on our com­mu­ni­ties, which include eco­nom­ic, health, hous­ing, and edu­ca­tion, among oth­er social deter­mi­nants. This lim­i­ta­tion has con­tin­ued to fail in com­pre­hen­sive­ly and sub­stan­tive­ly address­ing the scope and mag­ni­tude of the vio­lence our com­mu­ni­ties have expe­ri­enced in the twen­ty years after 9/11.

We reit­er­ate the requests in our state­ment for the record to the House Judi­cia­ry Com­mit­tee in response to your April, 2019 Hear­ing on Hate Crimes and White Nation­al­ism to once again take the fol­low­ing rec­om­men­da­tions in plan­ning hear­ings:

  • Broad­en the frame of “civ­il rights and lib­er­ties” to bet­ter under­stand how state vio­lence, struc­tur­al Islam­o­pho­bia, and the War on Ter­ror poli­cies are the dri­vers of indi­vid­ual acts of inter­per­son­al vio­lence.
  • Engage more direct­ly and much fur­ther in advance with com­mu­ni­ty-based orga­ni­za­tions, grass­roots and advo­ca­cy orga­ni­za­tions at the local lev­el in devel­op­ing the frame­work for a hear­ing and iden­ti­fy­ing wit­ness­es.
  • Hold mul­ti­ple pan­els that cen­ter sur­vivors, impact­ed com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers, and com­mu­ni­ty-based orga­ni­za­tions.
  • Ensure such hear­ings are not gov­ern­ment plat­forms for Islam­o­phobes, big­ots, and racists to pro­mote their hate­ful agen­das as if they are a legit­i­mate jux­ta­po­si­tion to com­mu­ni­ty-based tes­ti­mo­ny.
  • Offer more lead time for orga­ni­za­tions to sub­mit state­ments for the record.
  • Cre­ate space to hear direct­ly from one group rather than group­ing Mus­lim, Arab, and South Asian iden­ti­ties togeth­er. Often in such group­ings, impor­tant racial, gen­der, eth­nic, class, caste, and reli­gious iden­ti­ties are erased.
  • Invite grass­roots and com­mu­ni­ty-based groups to speak who hold an abo­li­tion­ist and trans­for­ma­tive jus­tice frame­work to address state, insti­tu­tion­al, and inter­per­son­al forms of vio­lence. We want to ampli­fy the Mus­lim Abo­li­tion­ist Futures grass­roots pol­i­cy agen­da call­ing for abol­ish­ing the War on Ter­ror and build­ing com­mu­ni­ties of care and hope such hear­ings mov­ing for­ward include pro­gres­sive pol­i­cy rec­om­men­da­tions that tie togeth­er the var­i­ous, inter­sect­ing, and com­plex root caus­es of vio­lence rather than priv­i­leg­ing nar­row, reformist pol­i­cy agen­das.

As groups on the front­lines of defend­ing our com­mu­ni­ties tar­get­ed by puni­tive gov­ern­ment poli­cies, our orga­ni­za­tions hope there is a rad­i­cal shift in how such hear­ings are car­ried out. Sur­vivors of state vio­lence, hate vio­lence, and big­otry deserve hon­est inquiries and true jus­tice from their elect­ed offi­cials. Con­gress must hold sub­se­quent hear­ings that com­pre­hen­sive­ly and sub­stan­tive­ly con­front and address these issues.

Signed,
Jus­tice For Mus­lims Col­lec­tive
South Asian Amer­i­cans Lead­ing Togeth­er (SAALT)
Mus­lim Abo­li­tion­ist Futures Net­work

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