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Holder vows to Arab Americans to prosecute hate crimes

By Terry Frieden, CNN Justice Producer
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • U.S. attorney general vows to prosecute hate crimes against Arab Americans, Muslims
  • Eric Holder marks anniversary of President Obama's address on U.S. Muslim relations
  • Holder: Justice Department investigating several hate-fueled crimes

Washington (CNN) -- Attorney General Eric Holder on Friday vowed to prosecute hate crimes aimed at Arabs, Muslims and Sikhs in the United States, as he marked the anniversary of President Barack Obama's speech in Egypt on American and Muslim relations in Egypt, urging peaceful and civil connections.

Holder said the Justice Department has opened several investigations aimed at hate-fueled crimes. He mentioned only one -- and drew applause-- as he noted the FBI is involved in the investigation of last month's pipe bomb attack on a Jacksonville, Florida, mosque.

"This case is a top concern for the FBI," Holder said.

About 60 Muslim worshippers were inside the building when the bomb exploded, but nobody was injured.

Holder said he has heard from Arab Americans and Muslim Americans who are uneasy about their relationship with the federal government.

"They tell me that too often it feels like us versus them," Holder said.

"The era of us versus them that some of you have experienced must end. At long last it is ending," he said.

Holder did not mention terrorism in his address to the annual gathering of the American-Arab Anti Discrimination Committee. He made only one oblique reference to a plot aimed at U.S. citizens.

"Let us not forget, it was a Muslim-American man who first alerted the New York police to a smoking car in Times Square. And his vigilance likely helped to save lives," Holder said to applause.

The attorney general also said he is continuing to monitor an internal Justice Department review designed, if necessary, to tighten President Bush's 2003 policy which prohibits racial profiling.

"I want to be clear about something. Racial profiling is wrong. It can leave a lasting scar on communities and individuals. And, it is quite simply bad policing," Holder declared.

In his June 4, 2009 address at Egypt's Cairo University, Obama delivered a long-awaited and wide-ranging speech on American and Muslim relations, offering a hand of friendship to Islam and addressing an array of quandaries and conflicts dividing the two cultures.

Obama quoted from the Quran as he expounded on Islam's glories and rights, the legitimate rights of Israel and the Palestinians, Iranian nuclear aspirations, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, women's rights, economic development, and religious rights and democracy in the Muslim world.

The address, billed as a fence-mending mission between the United States and Islam, urged those present and the people across the globe viewing the speech on television to enter a new, productive and peaceful chapter in their relationship.

"I know there are many -- Muslim and non-Muslim -- who question whether we can forge this new beginning," Obama said, emphasizing that "it is easier to start wars than to end them. It is easier to blame others than to look inward, to see what is different about someone than to find the things we share."

Obama reiterated a statement that "America is not -- and never will be -- at war with Islam."

"We will, however, relentlessly confront violent extremists who pose a grave threat to our security -- because we reject the same thing that people of all faiths reject: the killing of innocent men, women and children. And it is my first duty as president to protect the American people."

 
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