Arab profiling fears focus of conference

The Detroit News
2 October 2001

By Oralandar Brand-Williams

About the meeting 

* What: Public conference on racial profiling, specifically related to concerns of people of Arab descent. 
* When: 6 p.m. Oct. 17. 
* Where: Office of ACCESS, a social service organization assisting Arab Americans, at 2651 Saulino Court in Dearborn. 
* Call (888) 647-3710. 

DEARBORN -- Fears of racial profiling of people of Arab descent after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks have prompted a public meeting later this month in Metro Detroit. 

Local Arab-American activists say the Oct. 17 conference, organized by State Rep. Samuel Thomas, D-Detroit, will shed light on an issue that has been a problem. 

"The importance of it has increased tenfold since what happened at the World Trade Center," said Ismael Ahmed, the director of ACCESS. "It's important that we work to ensure that nobody is profiled because of the color of their skin, their ethnic background or religious beliefs." 

Even before the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., Arab Americans have complained of being targeted for security screenings and additional baggage checks at Detroit Metropolitan Airport. Since the attacks, complaints of harassment and profiling of people of Arab descent have been on the rise, both here and nationally. 

"We can't characterize all Arabs as a threat to our society," said Thomas, who in June introduced an anti-profiling bill in the state House that would force police to record the race of motorists they stop. The legislation is still in House committee. 

"I don't believe anyone should be detained or stopped solely on the basis of race," Thomas said. "(This country) is founded on the principle of liberty and justice." 

Dawn Clenney, FBI special agent and spokeswoman, said the department is sensitive to Arab Americans' concerns. 

"The investigation we've had to do is certainly not an indictment of the Arab-American community, because the vast majority of Arab Americans are law-abiding," she said. 


Oralandar Brand-Williams can be reached at (313) 222-2690 or bwilliams@detnews.com.


 


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