Homeland Security Department
Cementing Positive Relationship with Muslim Americans
By C. Naseer Ahmad
Daniel Sutherland with a group of Pakistani-American
Washington, DC: Homeland
Security Department ’s (DHS) Office of Civil Liberties
and Civil Rights seeks to cement a positive relationship with
Muslim Americans. Through the training material distributed
to its vast number of employees across the many agencies within
the Department, DHS leadership under Secretary Michael Chertoff
is working to preserve freedom, while protecting America.
Recently, DHS engaged the Pakistani-American Community in
a constructive dialog.
During a special meeting on October 17, 2005 with Pakistani-American
business leaders in Washington, Daniel W. Sutherland, DHS
Civil Rights Officer, outlined the initiatives taken by his
Department to educate the public and train employees on America’s
Frontline. He distributed pamphlets and posters providing
guidance to Transportation Security Administration (TSA) employees
for performing searches of people from different ethnic and
The initiative for arranging this meeting came from Pakistani-American
leaders like Hanif Akhtar and Faisal Gill with Secretary Chertoff
and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales at an Iftar party hosted
by European Union Ambassador John Bruton recently. “We
want to voice our concerns and hear what DHS has to say,”
said Akhtar prior to the meeting.
During the meeting, Pakistani Americans representing a variety
of professions – engineering, dentistry, medicine, insurance
and information technology – expressed their concerns.
Ifran Malik, a Maryland resident expressed the common concern
of being stopped - or the fear of being singled out - frequently
and the associated delays. Dr. Maqsood Chaudhry, a dentist
based in Falls Church, Virginia, mentioned the concern of
being questioned if a Pakistani American stopped in Saudi
Arabia on the way back from Pakistan. “While performing
Haj is a fundamental part of faith, many American Muslims
of Pakistani origin visit Saudi Arabia to perform Umra –
a religious rite – whenever an opportunity arises,”
The Pakistani-American delegation requested DHS to find ways
to reduce the level of questioning for Pakistani Americans
who visit Saudi Arabia for legitimate religious reasons. Also
participating in the discussion were Dr. Mohammad Akbar –
a Northen Virginia physician, and Dr. Akbar Khawaja –
a former World Bank employee.
One idea floated by Ifran Malik was to request the Saudi officials
and Saudi Embassy to issue special color-coded visas for people
who perform Umrah. In his opinion, such a visa might make
it easier for the inspectors. “The inspectors are very
polite,” said Malik. “But, since the problem is
the time lost while waiting for some inspector who can read
the Saudi issued visas written in Arabic,” he added.
The leaflets and the training material provided by DHS clearly
discourage the invidious use of race or ethnicity as a criterion
in conducting stops, searches and other law enforcement investigative
procedures. “Show RESPECT, explain why you need to conduct
search, offer private room for search if available and searches
should be conducted by a screener of the same gender as the
passenger being searched”. These are the points TSA
wants its employees to keep in mind while searching not only
Muslim Americans but also Sikh Americans.
Racial profiling is "wrong and we will end it in America."
This quote from President George W. Bush’s February
27, 2001 address to a Joint Session of Congress sets the theme
of a mandatory training course “Guidance Regarding the
Use of Race for Law Enforcement Officers” for DHS employees.
The computer-based training includes some tests to measure
the employee’s understanding of the guidelines.
“It is notable that an agency that has a largely law
enforcement and military mission has a civil libertarian in
the senior leadership,” said Civil Rights Officer Sutherland
in a speech on May 28, 2005 at the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination
Committee’s Silver Anniversary National Convention in
The increased level of engagement between the government and
the Arab-American and Muslim American communities is evident
from the mandatory video training course “The First
Three Seconds.” The Muslim Community Center in Silver
Spring, MD as well as some other familiar sites and personalities
are featured in this course, which was produced with the help
of Muslim Americans and Arab Americans.
The commitment to “protecting American, while preserving
freedom” is demonstrably taken seriously by DHS leadership.
In a pro-active approach Officer Sutherland requested the
Pakistani-American leaders to meet him again in 60 days to
review the progress and requested help in communicating his
message to the community.