racialjusticeprogram

"A good read."

Those are the words that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) official Bruce Norum used to describe an anti-Arab and anti-Muslim screed supposedly penned by a former American Airlines pilot. Norum recently forwarded that essay to a fellow ICE employee and Helena immigration attorney Shahid Haque-Hausrath, a Muslim Arab-American.

"Good" isn't the right word to describe the reactionary and bigoted diatribe titled "YOU WORRY ME!" "Appalling," "ignorant," and "discriminatory" would be better descriptors. That someone charged with enforcing our immigration and customs laws would forward such rhetoric along with a recommendation is deeply troubling. Now we're the ones who should worry - worry about Norum's prejudices in his duties of overseeing deportations and about federal immigration law being justly and fairly applied in Montana.

The author of the e-mailed essay demands loyalty oaths for Muslim-Americans. For us, that recalls dark days in American history. Japanese-Americans were forced to take loyalty oaths during World War II. Such oaths were also commonly ordered during the oppressive McCarthy era of rooting out communists (real and imagined). Here are examples from Nebraska, and the University of California. History has never looked kindly on these violations of civil liberties, and we shouldn't take demands for loyalty oaths lightly today, especially from government officials.

Haque-Hausrath certainly isn't sitting back. He's fighting back. He filed a civil rights complaint with ICE over the e-mail.

We, too, want ICE to take this e-mail seriously, investigate and take appropriate action.

The ACLU works hard to protect the religious freedom of Muslims across the country, by opposing unnecessary and inflammatory bans on Sharia law, fighting discrimination based on appearance,  supporting the rights of Muslims building mosques and community centers and combating surveillance of Muslim and Arab-American communities.

If only this ICE employee was alone in his views. Unfortunately, we've witnessed too many federal employees and even entire departments taking similar views of Muslims and Arab-Americans. Take the March 2011 Congressional hearings on the so-called "radicalization" of American Muslim communities or the anti-Muslim and anti-Arab counterterrorism training in the Department of Justice and FBI.

Discrimination against Muslim-Americans is a pervasive problem our government must immediately face head-on if we are to uphold the First Amendment right to freedom of religion.

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