WASHINGTON (Sept. 7, 2011) — Members of the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders join all Americans in remembering and honoring those who lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001.
The horrific tragedy that occurred that day claimed the lives of thousands of people and deeply impacted all Americans, including many Asian immigrants and American Muslims. The immediate aftermath of 9/11 compelled many Americans, including AAPIs and American Muslims, to contribute heroically to relief and recovery efforts and serve their fellow citizens and communities.
The aftereffects of the 9/11 tragedy also saw a rise in hate crimes against American Muslims, Arab Americans, and those perceived to be Arab or Muslim. Specifically, the Federal Bureau of Investigation found a 17-fold increase in hate crimes against American Muslims immediately after 9/11. Tragically, this backlash included the loss of lives of American Muslims and those who were perceived to be Muslim.
In the wake of such acts, the government took steps to counter such backlash and make clear that the 9/11 attack was an attack on all Americans, including Muslims, Sikhs and persons of Arab and South Asian descent. President George W. Bush urged all Americans to treat their fellow American Muslims with respect. Likewise President Obama underscored the administration’s commitment to upholding America’s values in saying, “I consider it part of my responsibility as President of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear.”
Over the past ten years, the Department of Justice has placed a priority on prosecuting bias crimes and incidents of discrimination against Muslims, Sikhs and persons of Arab and South Asian descent. To date, DOJ has investigated more than 800 incidents involving violence, threats, vandalism and arson, obtaining 47 convictions. Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez has engaged in extensive outreach to Muslim, Sikh, Arab and South Asian communities, and has expanded the Civil Rights Division’s anti-discrimination enforcement efforts in this area.
Additionally, in the aftermath of 9/11, DOJ’s Community Relations Service provided technical assistance and targeted training efforts towards establishing dialogue between government officials and Arab, Muslim, and Sikh communities in the United States, working with community leaders to develop a Cultural Awareness Program for law enforcement officials. Thus far, CRS has provided this training to more than 500 law enforcement departments and agencies across the country.
CRS continues to respond to tension and conflicts related to allegations of disparate and discriminatory treatment faced by Arab, Muslim, and Sikh communities across the country by offering conciliation and mediation services, as well as appropriate training programs for law enforcement, government officials and members of the community.
This Commission is committed to ensuring the AAPI community has a voice in reaching that fundamental American aspiration of liberty and justice for all. We are resilient as a community and nation, but acknowledge that there is still work to be done to ensure America stays true to its ideals. As a Commission, as we mark the tenth anniversary of 9/11, we are doubly committed as proud Americans to ensuring that those who took American lives do not tear apart the fabric of our communities.