As the grassroot Muslim civil rights organization, we see a lot of cases of racial profiling of Arabs and Muslims in the state of Illinois. We are here to issue our testimony in support of the proposed legislation by the ACLU-IL regarding traffic stop statistics.
I wanted to present to you statistics on the racial profiling of Middle Easterners by police officers. Interestingly enough, there were none – which is alarming in a society where some political representatives make openly racist remarks advocating the racial profiling of Middle Easterners.
Considering the political climate of this country, it is no surprise that police officers feel permitted to profile Middle Easterners and Muslims as well. Quite disturbingly, the absence of any way to keep track of whether Muslims and Middle Easterners are subjected to profiling by police officers, as many testimonials from members of our community affirm, means that officers can potentially continue to abuse their authority and not have to be held accountable.
Stories such as that of the entire Muslim family that was arrested – from the 12 year old boy to the 60-something year old grandmother – because two of the children were playing with fireworks. Now if that sounds a bit excessive to you, imagine being the neighbor that walked out onto her back yard only to see several police officers kicking a mother of four while she was on the ground, yelling bigoted statements to her such as “go back to your country,” and “learn to f*n speak English” as her young children watched in fear.
Or the Muslim woman who was pulled over for a minor traffic violation only to be excessively ticketed, taken to the police station, fingerprinted and photographed without her religiously mandated headscarf by two male police officers – when even the US Department of Justice, in its photograph requirements, allow for religious headgear in photographs.
The statistical study asks for the racial classification of individuals stopped by the police based on the perception of the police officer. However, no field currently exists for people of Middle Eastern descent. Middle Easterners are instead categorized as Caucasians, although, clearly, the perception of them is that they are not. Even when police departments take the initiative of adding a classification for Middle Easterners, the data is entered into the state-wide study as Caucasian.
This is evidently inappropriate since a woman wearing the Muslim headscarf, or a man wearing a skullcap, or even somebody that looks like myself, is not going to be perceived by the officer making the stop as Caucasian. If the state is going to make a sincere effort to monitor and correct the issue of racial profiling, then data collection must be accurate and on-going.
The people in this room have placed their trust in this government, from the police officers commissioned to protect them, to everyone of you – to whom we are imploring to pass this legislation.
There needs to be a way to monitor the racial profiling of this group of people as well. As we have heard from the stories presented today and the testimonies being submitted in writing, the racial profiling of Muslims and Middle Easterners is an issue that challenges our commitment to civil liberties in this country. But how can we fix a problem if there doesn’t even exist a way to identify or monitor it?
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