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Question and Answer Session on Civil Rights and Liberties Held at Al-Huda Mosque

On Saturday, January 28, 2006, CAIR-Chicago, with other member organizations of the Civil Liberties Coalition of Illinois (CLCI) held a question and answer session on civil rights and liberties at Al-Huda Mosque in Schaumburg. Congresswoman Melissa Bean was invited to address her constituency but she did not attend and did not have a representative at the meeting. Bean (D), the 8th Congressional District U.S. House member, voted for the Patriot Act Conference Report in December 2005 though her constituency has expressed their opposition powers the legislation grants. The public forum was held to inform the 8th congressional district constituency of the status of their rights and liberties as well as provide an opportunity for residents to ask Congresswoman Bean about her position on civil rights and liberties. A panel of six speakers addressed the audience of the PATRIOT Act’s impact. “Individuals, law-abiding businessmen and women, academics, and other professionals, citizens of this country with no criminal background are questioned, strip searched, and criminalized for no other reason except that they are Arab and/or Muslim,” said CAIR-Chicago’s Civil Rights Coordinator Christina Abraham when talking about the impact of the PATRIOT Act on American Muslims.

The absence of Congresswoman Bean or a representative from her office made the question and answer session as especially educating one for her constituency, as many of them expressed their dissatisfaction with her voting patterns since she was elected to office in 2004. Congresswoman Bean voted for the REAL ID Act last year, which mandates a federally approved ID card for access to travel on airplanes, open bank accounts, and enter government owned facilities. In addition, she has voted for HR 4437, immigration legislation that passes stringent regulations on immigrants and provides virtually unchecked power to low level law enforcement agents. “It is our duty to bring light to such issues so that voters, when electing representatives, are able to make an informed decision” said Sadiya Ahmed, CAIR-Chicago Governmental Relations Coordinator. “Given the upcoming vote on the troubling provisions of the PATRIOT Act, it is incumbent on us, as concerned citizens, to speak publicly about what we feel needs to be done.”

Member organizations of the CLCI include: CAIR-Chicago, The American Civil Liberties Union, Chicago Committee to Defend the Bill of Rights, Chicago Council of Lawyers, Cook County Bar Association, Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, Japanese American Citizens League, Jewish Council on Urban Affairs, Muslim Bar Association, Muslim Civil Rights Center, National Lawyers Guild, and Independent Precinct Organization (IVI-IPO).

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