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CAIR-Florida Directors attend Eid Reception at White House

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(TAMPA, FL, 7/22/16) - The Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Florida) today announced  that it's Chief Executive Director, Hassan Shibly and Legislative and Government Affairs Director, Laila Abdelaziz attended the 2016 Eid Reception at the White House marking the end of Ramadan.

CAIR-FL Government & Legislative Affairs Director, Laila Abdelaziz; CAIR- LA Executive Director, Hussam Ayloush; Outreach Manager for CAIR-Maryland, Zainab Chaudry; CAIR-FL Chief Executive Director, Hassan Shibly; and CAIR Sacramento Executive Director, Basim Elkarra . (Not pictured CAIR National Chapter Dev. Director, Lori Saroya)

At the event, CAIR-Florida's Chief Executive Director, Hassan Shibly delivered the following letter to the President of the United States, Barrack Obama:

President Barack Hussein Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

July 21, 2016

Dear President Obama:

My name is Hassan Shibly, an American Muslim Syrian immigrant who came to our great country at the age of four, and while still under 30 am the Chief Executive Director of CAIR Florida, one of the largest and most active civil rights organizations in the South East United States.

Last year our office received over 1,050 calls for help and opened up over 400 new cases, offering millions of dollars' worth of free legal help to the community. Our diverse team offers pro-bono legal assistance to any victim of discrimination, harassment, or abuse regardless of race or religion.

Over the last year we have also had the privilege of working directly with some of your advisors from Ms. Valerie Jarrett to Melissa Rodgers and Cecilia Munoz and others. We tremendously appreciate your administrations outreach and engagement to the American Muslim Community, which has essentially become the canary in the coal mine.

As you see yourself from the increasingly hostile anti-Muslim political rhetoric, Islamophobia poses an incredible threat to our country. It makes us less safe and less free. It is a tool used to undermine unity, and civil rights, and even engage in unjust wars like the illegal invasion of Iraq under the previous administration.

My office regularly deals with the impact of what may often at best be facially neutral policies but have a disparate impact on the American Muslim community. For example, right now about half the individuals stopped for secondary inspection at CBP crossings in NY are often Muslim. They are often held for 4-6 hours in humiliation. This sends American Muslim children the wrong message: that they are unwelcome second class citizens. It feeds into the narrative of extremist groups like ISIS who wish to turn Americans against each other.

Our enemies can never destroy us: we can only destroy ourselves if we allow fear and hatred to turn us against each other and undermine the principles of liberty, diversity and justice that make our nation so great.

Every day we hear of increasingly shocking and troubling un-American attacks against the Muslim community by leading GOP figures: Calls to increase spying on Muslims, ban Muslims, and outright deport Muslims have become common place with troubling acceptance by many in the GOP base.

We therefore urge you to do what you can in the remaining months of your administration to challenge some of ineffective and unjust policies and practices currently within the government that unfortunately would set the stage for further targeting of American Muslims in future administrations.

The heart of the problem appears to be the Watch List process which allows federal agencies like the FBI to nominate with little oversight American Muslim to the watch lists, which then result in great difficulties for the individual with multiple federal agencies, from the CBP and TSA.

The White House can play a central role in pushing back against the increase in anti-Muslim sentiment which is generating a rise in hate crimes and acts of discrimination against Americans perceived to be Muslim.

We ask the White House to challenge the disproportionate targeting of Muslims by some federal agencies to help turn the tide against anti-Muslim sentiment and protect the principles of liberty and justice that make our nation so great.

Although statistically there is no greater amount of crimes or terrorism coming out of the Muslim community, the disproportionate focus by law enforcement on American Muslims creates the perception of a greater threat which then is used to legitimize anti-Muslim hate crimes and discrimination by the public.

We are finding that about half the active members of the Muslim community face enhanced scrutiny when travelling, and half of those in secondary inspection CBP ports are Muslim. This reinforces the Trump/ISIS narrative. Many American Muslim leaders and activists often find themselves targeted by CBP and TSA.

The FBI has also invested a lot of resources in create-and-capture operations targeting American Muslims. See http://bit.ly/1W8TXVl - This creates the perception that there is a bigger threat from the Muslim community than actually exists. Every day we receive calls from law abiding American Muslims who are inappropriately targeted by the FBI for interrogation.

This is then used to legitimize anti-Muslim hate crimes. FBI leadership have admitted that some of the tactics they use, like visiting law abiding American Muslims at their place of work for low level investigations (something we have documented), only serve to perpetuate fear, hate, and distrust, without serving a worthwhile security interest.

In personal conversations, FBI agents have also admitted to us that the DOJ has engaged in baseless terrorism prosecution. As US District Judge Presnell recently wrote in an opinion last year: "The prosecution has taken snippets of information from various sources, out of context, to weave together a narrative of terrorist ideation by Robertson. Notwithstanding the vast investigative resources of the United States, and years of effort, the prosecution's proof is woefully inadequate. The Court finds that the prosecution has not even come close to proving by a preponderance of the evidence that Robertson's relatively minor income tax fraud was intended to promote a federal crime of terrorism. Thus, the enhancement suggested by United States Sentencing Manual § 3A1.4 does not apply, and the Court will sentence Robertson based on a guideline score of 8-II."

In that case, the DOJ was trying to use possession of books and teaching of the Quran as evidence that a white color crime punishable by one year in jail should be punished by 20 years as terrorism. Upon investigation of how the DOJ could prosecute something so baseless it became apparent this was a problem stemming from DOJ HQ in DC. That referenced case is the perfect example of abuse and what leads to distrust and I would love to discuss it with you in more detail.

We have documented multiple cases where the DOJ prosecutes Muslims with terror charges without any basis, and this serves to undermine the US Constitution and community trust in government. See also: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/09/21/the-imams-curse for another such example. Note that in both the Robertson case and the Khan case, we warned the DOJ it was engaging in baseless prosecution, that would only undermine the Constitution and community trust, in both these cases our complaints were ignored, and thankfully the DOJ failed, and there has been no accountability or change.

Please be aware that CAIR has documented a consistent pattern of American Muslims facing systemized profiling and mistreatment by federal law enforcement agencies. This serves to reinforce the narrative of ISIS and undermines our nation's liberty and security. We must work together to put an end to such ineffective un-American practices.

Imagine if someone like Trump were to have the presidency with the loopholes and precedents set or reinforced by a rather friendly administration.

We also urge the administration to reconsider its use of Killer Drones which have an overwhelmingly large percentage of civilian causalities, and reconsider its approach on Syria that has allowed for the killing of over half a million Syrian civilians due to a conflict made possible in large part by the mistakes of the previous administration.

Be careful of being blinded by our own sense of ethics and morality: That is, we all consider ourselves ethical and moral people, and therefore would never condone inappropriate behavior, therefore we accept the false notion that all the policies agencies we are involved with execute must naturally be ethical and moral, because we are an ethical and moral people. When we make the mistake of adopting that line of thinking we become blinded to the many questionable practices and policies that are detrimental to our nation's liberty and safety. We begin to justify unjustifiable actions to reconcile it with our own high standards of morality.

That is how a drone strike that kills 80% civilians, or prosecuting an Imam for 1st amendment activity, or waterboarding [previous administration of course], becomes possible by otherwise moral people.

To be fair, the American Muslim community, comprising of less than 1% of the population has a long way to organize the data and political willpower to push for the change it needs. But just because a minority is not strong enough to protect itself does not mean those in power should not protect it.

CAIR-FL has documented a 500% increase in anti-Muslim hate incidents in Florida over the last year. This toxic environment is legitimized not just by certain politicians, but by government actions that result in disproportionate targeting of our community.

As always, you can count us as partners to keep our nation free and safe.

God bless,

Hassan Shibly, Esq.
Chief Executive Director

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