Muslim Advocates protects the rights of American Muslims and defends our nation’s promise of freedom, justice, and equality for Americans of all faiths. In addition, Muslim Advocates provides American Muslims the legal knowledge, tools, and resources to understand their rights and defend themselves and their institutions from discriminatory policies and anti-Muslim hate. Our report issued this year, Losing Liberty: The State of Freedom 10 Years After the Patriot Act, catalogues the issues American Muslims face today and was covered by over 100 media outlets upon its release. The following are highlights from Muslim Advocates’ work in 2011. Winning Fair & Equal Treatment of American Muslims by Law Enforcement Muslim Advocates is focused on securing legal and policy wins that ban racial and religious discrimination by law enforcement.
- In response to religious and racial profiling by the New York Police Department (NYPD), Muslim Advocates filed public records request with the NYPD and a complaint with the U.S. Attorney General signed by more than 110 organizations seeking a federal investigation of the NYPD’s discriminatory and abusive surveillance practices.
- Muslim Advocates continued to work to expand protections in the End Racial Profiling Act to address FBI and Customs and Border Protection use of race- and religion- based profiling.
- Muslim Advocates filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice Inspector General calling for an immediate investigation into the FBI’s use of grossly inaccurate and bigoted trainers and training materials for its counterterrorism agents and other law enforcement. Muslim Advocates mobilized 57 Muslim, Arab, and South Asian American groups to send a joint letter to the White House outlining the bigoted law enforcement trainings conducted by the FBI and U.S. Department of Homeland Security. John Brennan, the President’s chief counterterrorism advisor, personally responded and ordered a review of training materials at all federal agencies.
- Muslim Advocates partnered with the law firm of Latham & Watkins to file an amicus, “friend of the court,” brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Kam-Almaz v. United States, supporting Majd Kam-Almaz’s lawsuit, which demanded compensation for the destruction of his laptop by the Department of Homeland Security. The amicus brief argued that individuals whose electronic devices are damaged or destroyed while in the possession of government agents should be compensated for their loss.
- Train lawyers in representing individuals contacted by the FBI: While we have continued reaching out to our network of Muslim lawyers, we have also begun more directly reaching out to allied legal groups such as the National Lawyers Guild and the ACLU to train lawyers interested in representing individuals contacted by the FBI. Through our webinar trainings and in-person trainings, our database of pro bono lawyers available to represent community members has grown to over 130 advocates across the country.
Combating anti-Muslim Bigotry and Hate Muslim Advocates works to push anti-Muslim bigotry and hate to the fringes of society.
- Muslim Advocates created a coalition of over 65 civic and faith-based organizations to combat a series of anti-Muslim hearings launched by Rep. Peter King (R-NY). Our coalition work provided the media and the public with an alternative, rights-based perspective to that promoted by King and his supporters. The visible and effective campaign included:
- Providing allied representatives with thorough, on-point research and data;
- Connecting committee staff to experts;
- Submitting written statements for the congressional record;
- Supporting the efforts of shura councils (regional umbrella organizations of mosques across the country) to draft and submit testimony; and
- Creating and distributing editorial packets, talking points, and other preparatory materials for Members of Congress and the U.S. House Homeland Security Committee to assist them in challenging the bigoted narrative promoted by King and his witnesses.
- Muslim Advocates leveraged the coalition’s accomplishments by launchingWhatUnites.Us, a successful campaign to rally Americans of goodwill to speak out against anti-Muslim rhetoric. This broad-based coalition moves forward in a campaign to end anti-Muslim bigotry and violence.
- Muslim Advocates Executive Director Farhana Khera testified at the first-ever congressional hearing on the civil rights of American Muslims. Convened by Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights, the hearing gave Ms. Khera the opportunity to highlight the consequences of rising anti-Muslim bigotry on the everyday lives of American Muslims and the need to protect the religious freedom of all Americans.
Strengthening American Muslim Charities and Civic Organizations Muslim Advocates’ charities education, evaluation, and accreditation program is the first and only program of its kind to provide Muslim charities with information, legal resources, and technical assistance to promote best practices in charity management and compliance with federal and state laws.
- In our work to strengthen Muslim charities and nonprofits, Muslim Advocates held its seventh seminar on legal and financial best practices for senior staff, officers, and board members of Muslim charities, nonprofits, and mosques. The number of organizations that have benefitted from our trainings is now over 500 and growing.
- Muslim Advocates produced resource materials for nonprofit leaders and donors interested in understanding legal requirements imposed on charitable organizations and protecting their legal rights. This included a tailored, state-specific resource workbook for all Muslim civic leaders who attended Muslim Advocates’ legal and financial seminar and presentations in California, New Jersey, Houston, and Washington, DC, throughout the year.
- Muslim Advocates conducted a two webinars during the month of Ramadan: the first for mosques and Muslim charities on the legal requirements for the collection, management, and distribution of fitra, donations that help the needy at the end of Ramadan; and the second for donors with guidance on domestic and international charitable giving.
- Muslim Advocates helped four Muslim charities—including Muslim Advocates—obtain re-accreditation with the Better Business Bureau–Wise Giving Alliance; these charities submitted to voluntary evaluation after originally receiving accreditation by BBB-WGA in 2009.
- Following revelations of FBI intelligence-gathering of Northern California mosques and Muslim organizations under the guise of “community outreach,” Muslim Advocates conducted a webinar for mosque and community organization leaders nationwide to learn how to interact with law enforcement while protecting their communities, families, and friends.
- Muslim Advocates provided dozens of charity leaders with one-on-one education, support, and assistance on questions ranging from nonprofit formation and IRS requirements, to electioneering activities and model policies.