American Muslims deserve the same opportunities as all Americans: to build better futures for our families and children and participate actively in mainstream society. There are about 50,000 American Muslim medical doctors saving lives every day, and American Muslim women are the second highest educated group of religious women in the U.S.
American Muslims give back as volunteers in fire departments, PTAs and food banks, and share the same American values and freedoms that we all cherish, knowing that we are all in this together. More than 10,000 American Muslims serve in our armed forces, and many have made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation. American Muslims believe in the right and freedom of all U.S. citizens to live and worship in their own way, and uphold the Constitution of the United States.
But bad things can happen to good people.
In 2015, we saw one to two daily reports of anti-Muslim hate crimes, the highest number ever reported to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). During most of these, attackers uttered or expressed the same anti-Muslim slurs repeated daily in mainstream headlines and by commentators. According to surveys, 80 percent of American Muslim youth have reported being targets of taunts and harassment, often in front of teachers and school administrators.
CAIR-Washington State takes complaints including harassment at school, workplace discrimination and violent anti-Muslim hate attacks. We do what’s needed to deliver justice for victims, including meeting with the offending party and litigating.
It often takes significant follow-up by CAIR staff to get authorities — managers, school administrators and law enforcement officials — to treat complaints of anti-Muslim discrimination, harassment or crimes with the seriousness they deserve.
That is why we recently released a 1-minute video — and will soon release versions in different languages — with three simple steps to follow when they are harassed, threatened or attacked. Step one: Get to a safe place and call 911. Step two: Make sure to get a police report. Step three: Contact CAIR-Washington State by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 206.367.4081.
We urge community members to report incidents to cair-wa’s office in Seattle no matter how small it might seem to them at first.
If you’re a manager, school administrator and, especially, law enforcement leader, there are simple steps you can also take when responding to reports of anti-Muslim discrimination or hate incidents.
Ensure that authorities respond to calls for help. A school principal or an HR manager at a workplace should take a detailed complaint, document the details and ensure prompt action. In the case of a hate incident, 911 operators should respond to calls by having police officers meet the caller to file a comprehensive police report even if the complaint might initially sound small.You might find upon further investigation that it may be much more serious or, by documenting each complaint, discover a pattern of discrimination or hate incidents that need action to be stopped.
Proactively contact CAIR-Washington State, or your local CAIR chapter, so that we can assist authorities including law enforcement and ensure that, in addition to a full investigation, victims of discrimination or hate incidents receive appropriate services.
Ensure a diligent comprehensive investigation of the case to bring forth facts and information that help the victim and community understand the circumstances. In cases where an offense might be committed, take decisive, appropriate action and use your platform to deliver the message that anti-Muslim discrimination and hate incidents will not be tolerated in your jurisdiction.
By doing this, we give hope to millions of American Muslim children growing up across the country that they have the right to the same hopes and dreams as any young American. We also remind our fellow Americans that we are, and always will be, Americans, united as one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
Raised in a middle-class American Muslim household in North Seattle, Arsalan Bukhari is executive director at CAIR-Washington State, a chapter of America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization.