US & UK Governments Reach out to Pakistani & Muslim Americans

 


Daniel W. Sutherland

Washington, DC: Within several hours of the London terror arrests, Daniel W. Sutherland, the US Department of Homeland Security’s Officer for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, convened an emergency telephone conference in Washington , DC with approximately twenty-five representatives of the Arab, Muslim, Sikh, and South Asian American communities.
The meeting was part of an on-going effort by several key United States government agencies to work closely with leading members of these communities. The purpose of the call was to provide these national leaders with the latest information on the arrests, to provide background information on the new security measures that are now in effect, and to reinforce the close bonds that are developing between the governments and these communities.
Representatives from the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the FBI, the US Treasury Department, and the Department of Justice participated on the call. In addition, an official from the UK Home Office briefed participants on the latest public information available from London. Of the twenty-five community leaders were a number of high-profile Pakistani Americans, including: Houston City Councilmember Masroor “M.J.” Khan; Farhana Khera, Executive Director of the National Association of Muslim Lawyers; and Hanif Akhtar, a prominent Pakistani American business leader. Also participating was Ambassador Akbar Ahmad, renowned academic and expert on Islam, who is the Ibn Khaldun Chair and Professor of Islamic Studies at the American University in Washington, D.C.
In response to the conference, Ambassador Ahmed commented, “This is precisely the kind of effort that I have been encouraging from the United States government since 9-11, and demonstrates that Muslims who live in American are increasingly engaged with their government and supporting their government’s efforts to secure the country.”
Following the attacks of September 11, there have been constant calls for greater interaction between the Federal government and all communities, including the American Muslim and American Arab communities. A June 2006 study published by the Vera Institute of Justice and sponsored by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) concluded that both community members and Federal law enforcement officials want improved relations. The events following the terrorism arrests in London suggest that both the government and the communities have made some progress in establishing strategic partnerships.
During the conference call, ethnic and religious leaders made clear their continuing commitment to working with government officials to protect the nation’s security. In turn, government officials also pledged to continue their work to protect all communities and uphold civil rights and civil liberties.
The Office for Civil Rights & Civil Liberties of the Department of Homeland Security led the call under the auspices of its Incident Management Team, a public-private partnership of government officials and community leaders who have committed to working together in aftermath of a homeland security incident. DHS Officer for Civil Rights & Civil Liberties Daniel Sutherland stated, “This call reflects our commitment to building strategic partnerships with the American Arab, Muslim, Sikh and South Asian communities.”
Brett Hovington, the Unit Chief of Community Relations at FBI Headquarters, made it clear that his agency supports such collaboration. “The FBI appreciates the cooperation of the American Arab, Muslim, Sikh and South Asian communities and the efforts of local community leaders as well as other members of the community to maintain an ongoing dialogue with us. They are essential partners in our efforts to protect all our neighborhoods from terrorism, crime, and the violation of our rights and civil liberties.”

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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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