ADC Communications Director on Democracy Now, MSNBC

ADC Communications Director Hussein Ibish reflected on how civil liberties have been affected by the “war on terrorism” at a teach-in for the United for Peace and Justice in Washington D.C. which was held on Saturday, May 31, 2003. This talk was broadcast on Pacifica Radio’s Democracy Now program on
June 4.
To listen to the talk, click here 
On June 4, Ibish also appeared on Joe Scarborough’s program on MSNBC, in a debate with John Leo who maintains that Arab-American and Muslim groups are systematically exagerating hate crimes for political gain. The transcript is reproduced below:
MSNBC SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY 22:00 June 4, 2003 Wednesday
SCARBOROUGH: Welcome back to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. It’s now that time of the show when we expose lunacy in politics, policy, with the headlines of the day in a little segment we like to call.
SCARBOROUGH: As you know, President Bush is in the Middle East for a historic meeting to help leaders of that region take the first steps on his road map to peace. But peace in the United States for Muslims has been an issue ever since the attacks of September 11.
But as my guest, journalist John Leo, wrote in the latest issue of “U.S.
News & World Report”, the number of hate crimes against Muslims is being exaggerated and exploited in order to drive an agenda, because, quote:
“the victim stance works. It attracts press attention. It encourages Muslims to feel angry and non-Muslims to feel guilty. It raises a great deal of money, garners a lot of TV time, and gets the attention of Congress. From a lobbying point of view, who would want to give up a set of advantages like this.” Also with us tonight is Hussein Ibish of the Arab American Anti Discrimination Committee. I would like to welcome both of you here. And John Leo, let’s begin with you. Those are pretty strong words. Make your case.
JOHN LEO, “U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT”: Well, the important news is that the Arab and Muslim Americans have decided to join the victim culture. This is a big disappointment. We thought after 9/11 that all groups in America would identify with the country and make common cause.
But the decision to go victim is a bad one because you take very minor numbers, you project them into a massive trend of bigotry, which there’s no evidence for it at all. There are a few scattered incidents, some of them horrible, but there’s no backlash and the rhetoric, both in the press and in the lobbying reports, indicates a nonexistence of a wave of terror against Arab and Muslim-Americans.
SCARBOROUGH: Certainly not a rising tide.
LEO: No.
SCARBOROUGH: But since the September 11 attacks, the FBI has made the prosecution of hate crimes against Muslims a top priority.
IBISH: As they should have.
SCARBOROUGH: As well as the protection of all five million Muslims and Arab Americans in the United States. As of the end of February, the FBI has initiated more than 400 hate crime investigations involving Muslims, Sikh, and Arab-American victims with 17 persons being charged with federal crimes. 129 charged with state and local crimes in connection with those investigations.
Now, I’ve got to tell you, Mr. Ibish, five million American-Muslims or so, 400 investigations. That really doesn’t add up to a huge problem, does it?
HUSSEIN IBISH, ANTI-DISCRIMINATION COMMITTEE: Well, I think there was a big problem with violence, but it was mainly confined mostly to the period immediately following the 9/11 attacks. I think that we have a problem that’s been recognized by the federal government, by the EEOC, by the FBI, by the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, by the DOT. You can just go to their websites and you can see they are dealing with it.
But you know, I want to address this accusation – this false accusation that groups like mine have been exaggerating and exploiting these figures. I want to read to you three sentences from the end part of the introduction of our major report, which we just issued on the subject of hate crimes and discrimination, a 150-page report. Let me just share this with you.
Our conclusion is, “throughout the period covered by this report, it’s been clear that the overwhelming majority of Americans remain committed to maintaining a tolerant and respectful multiethnic, multicultural, multi religious society. Through polling data, anecdotal evidence and grassroots activism, Americans” — no let me finish – “Americans across the country have demonstrated repeatedly that hatred of Arab-Americans and Muslims is confined to a distinct minority.”
IBISH: Now, this is not exactly…
SCARBOROUGH: … you are saying – OK, Hussein, you would agree, then…
IBISH: Does that sound like whining and victim status to you? I don’t think so.
SCARBOROUGH: … that you would agree with John…
LEO: No.
SCARBOROUGH: You would agree, then with John Leo then, that the attacks have not been widespread?
IBISH: What I would say is they are bad enough that we need to be concerned. That they are bad enough that the federal government has started focusing on this as a discrete problem, and that Arab Americans are exposed and vulnerable. But I would say that this is – as I did say when I wrote the introduction to this report, that this is “still a country where most Arab Americans and Muslims can live in without fear of being abused by their fellow citizens or the government.”
SCARBOROUGH: Respond to that, John.
LEO: Well, the numbers are quite small. And that rhetoric is in there, sure, but they lovingly detail every single event that seems to have happened to every Muslim…
IBISH: We monitor it. Well, we monitor it.
LEO: It sends…
IBISH: We’re a civil rights group, you know.
LEO: Someone calls…
IBISH: Well, should we ignore it?
LEO: If someone calls out, Arab swine. Well, that’s very rude but it’s not a hate crime.
IBISH: Yes, we don’t include that.
LEO: It’s a minor incident. That’s directly from your report.
IBISH: No. We don’t include those as hate crimes. That might be in a subject called harassment. But here’s my point. I mean, 451 might be a small number if you wanted the number or expected the number to be in the hundreds of thousands. I expect the number to be closer to zero. I think 451 is unacceptable. The government thinks so too.
SCARBOROUGH: Four hundred fifty-one out of five million, though, seems much better than what most Americans would expect.
IBISH: Of course, but if we had 451 cases of SARS at the moment, we’d be saying we have a problem. Look, this is problem.
LEO: But here is the bigâ?¦
SCARBOROUGH: Hold on a second. Hold it. You have got to stop talking for one second, OK, because we are going to play sides.
IBISH: All right, but you invited me on.
SCARBOROUGH: But again, the big difference is 451 cases of SARS spreads. It would be a rising tide. This doesn’t look like a rising tide. But immediately after the September 11 attack, leaders like Mayor Giuliani and President Bush told Americans they shouldn’t retaliate against our nation’s Muslim communities.
IBISH: That’s right.
SCARBOROUGH: Let’s listen to the president’s message during his address to the joint session of Congress on September 20, 2001.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I also want to speak tonight directly to Muslims throughout the world. We respect your faith. It’s practiced freely by millions of Americans and by millions more in countries that America counts as friends. Its teachings are good and peaceful. And those who commit evil in the name of Allah blaspheme the name of Allah. The terrorists are traitors to their own faith, trying, in effect, to hijack Islam itself.
SCARBOROUGH: Should Arab Americans who are Muslims be grateful that the president of the United States has been as proactive as he has?
IBISH: Of course, of course, as we have always said. And he repeated those statements many times, as did many other political leaders, many journalistic figures, the House and the Senate, both voted to this effect
numerous times. There is a lot to be praised here. And I agree the situation
could have been much worse, but that doesn’t mean we have a problem. Andif you disagree with us that there’s a problem, you also disagree with the
FBI, the DOJ, the EEOC…
SCARBOROUGH: Don’t you feel like Arab-American groups that go out and
crying wolf are doing a disservice to you and other Arab Americans who are
being responsible in their approach to this?
IBISH: Anyone who exaggerates the problem is definitely being
LEO: But that’s what’s happened.
IBISH: I don’t agree with that. I mean, I think if you look the largest groups,
like mine, we’re not exaggerating. We’re carefully documenting.
SCARBOROUGH: All right, John Leo, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) we will give you last
LEO: But 451 was not only very small, it was less than half the number of
anti-Jewish incidents that year, and yet it was accompanied by a rhetoric of
skyrocketing and soaring. That’s how you played the victim game. Wish you
wouldn’t play it.
IBISH: Look, we haven’t done it. I just read from our report. And everybody
can down load it from our website,, and the FBI agrees with us. The
EEOC agrees with us. This is a problem that needs to be dealt with. If you
just don’t care about discrimination, I can’t help that, I’m sorry.
SCARBOROUGH: OK, that’s not the message I got. And I think you may have
just made John Leo’s point.
IBISH: I think you and he made mine, that some people just don’t care.
SCARBOROUGH: But still to come — why some of the Illinois girls involved in
that hazing stunt would rather make money than graduate. Hey, that sounds
American to me.
And a Missouri court rules it’s unconstitutional to protect kids from violent
video games. SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY will be right back. Keep your hands
off those dials.

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