CCRA to Campaign for Constitutionally Guaranteed “Unalienable Rights” Fremont, CA:

The California Civil Rights Alliance (CCRA), on December 20, met with Steve Waterhouse, editor of the Argus, a newspaper serving the tri-city area of Fremont, Newark and Union cities. The meeting was held to compare notes about local politics, the erosion of civil liberties, the reintroduction of SJR 22 - California’s statewide civil rights resolution, and the growing Islamophobia as evident from a recent survey reported by the Associated Press on December 17.

The survey conducted by Cornell University, found that nearly half of all Americans believe the US government should restrict the civil liberties of Muslim-Americans. The survey also found that “Republicans and people who described themselves as highly religious were more apt to support curtailing Muslims’ civil liberties” than the so-called, less religious people, or Democrats. Based on the belief that the curtailment of liberties for some, in effect curtails the liberties of all, the CCRA- a statewide coalition, is launching a full campaign geared to defend and preserve the constitutionally guaranteed “unalienable rights.” The CCRA, formed in Jan 2003, includes 25 mainstream organizations from diverse backgrounds, races, religions, and economic status.

It provides voter information on the position of candidates vis-a-vis issues affecting civil liberties, and engages with legislators to repeal the USA Patriot Act and subsequent unconstitutional provisions. The meeting with the Argus Editor Steve Waterhouse, was attended by many CCRA group members including Jo Chamberlain, Co-Chair of the national Green Party; Mark Hinkle, former chair of the California Libertarian Party; Moina Shaiq, a local activist who works closely with a number of legislators; Hazem Kira a CCRA representative; and Dr. Agha Saeed, national chair of the American Muslim Alliance. The two hour meeting explored ways to foster understanding among the diverse local communities. It focused on the American Muslim vote in 2004 and its significance to the San Francisco Bay Area where a large American Arab and Muslim community lives, and reviewed reports of the erosion of civil liberties in the US in the wake of 9/11. Dr. Saeed emphasized the need to build a culture of hope and opportunity by promoting the culture of the “ballot versus the bullet” to achieve a peaceful coexistence and mutual benefit. He also underlined the crucial role of the legislators and the media in encouraging the mutual exchange of ideas and a defense against curtailing the rights of any one community.

Dr. Saeed also highlighted the global significance of the Muslim vote. When Muslims around the world see t hat American Muslims are accepted as full citizens and engaged in the democratic American process, then those constitutional values will be adopted more easily, he explained. Nearly 93% of Muslims supported Senator Kerry contrary to the 70% that supported President Bush in 2000. This represents the largest bloc vote in the nation for any one presidential candidate. He cautioned that actions taken by the US government must follow their rhetoric if there is to be a free society, the rule of law, and protection of civil liberties for its entire people. The next few years will either reinforce those Democratic values or add to a heightened sense of polarization. What is done on the local, state and national level by legislators, and voices in the media - who express frustration and concern through a nonviolent medium, will determine the outcome of that relationship.

Visibly engaged in the discussion, the Argus editor, encouraged increased communication with the Muslim community to present as precise a representation of the American Muslim community as possible, especially those living in the tri-city area. He also recommended the CCRA continue its multiparty approach, and be as articulate in its objectives as possible. The CCRA provided Mr. Waterhouse with documents of a statewide resolution it is formulating, a report that it requested from Senator Figueroa on the impact of the USA PATRIOT Act on California Muslims, and informed him of upcoming statewide hearings. CCRA plans to hold similar meetings with other members of the media and pledges to remains a steady voice for the rights of the few and the many against any constitutional encroachments. Those interested in supporting the statewide civil rights initiative may call the California Civil Rights Alliance at: 510 252 9858.


Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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