Remarks as prepared for delivery
Thank you, Anwar, for inviting me to participate in tonight’s magnificent celebration of the start of Ramadan.
We in the Department of Justice and the Civil Rights Division are honored to have a strong and productive partnership with Islamic Relief. Islamic Relief is helping the Department and the Division extend our outreach into Muslim communities all across America.
My Muslim friends tell me that the fast of Ramadan is a time for self-reflection—a time to look inward, to work to reform those things that need reforming, and to strive for peace with one’s self, one’s community, and the entire world. This pursuit of peace reflects the noblest and most benevolent of all the human instincts, and resonates with people of all faiths and people with no faith at all.
If you stop to think about it, there are few places on earth where a gathering like this is even possible, let alone could take place in a government building. Yet here in America, we are blessed to live not only in the most prosperous nation in the history of the world, but also in a nation that for more than 240 years has been built on an unparalleled commitment to freedom, equal rights, and opportunity for all. Here in America, we can proudly say that this gathering reflects the highest of our ideals: that people of diverse backgrounds, histories, heritages, religions, and even political persuasions can come together in the common cause of strengthening our country and our communities.
One of the most important areas where the Civil Rights Division is working tirelessly day in and day out to achieve a more free and fair country for all Americans is the fight against hate crime. Hate crimes are a particularly pernicious form of violent crime because they terrorize victims, their families, and entire communities. Hate crimes also strike at our most basic American values. As Attorney General Sessions recently said, targeting people because of who they are and what they believe “target[s] the bedrock principles on which our nation was founded.”
That is especially true of religiously-motivated hate crimes. The freedom of religion is the first freedom that the Founding Fathers enshrined in the First Amendment of the Constitution. So when criminals target victims because of their religion, they are targeting the bedrock of our Bill of Rights.
My message to you today is simple: in the fight against hate crimes, your Department of Justice stands with you. Combatting hate crime is, and will continue to be, one of the Department’s top priorities.
- On February 27, we obtained a guilty plea from a man who threatened to burn down a house that a Florida Muslim family had contracted to buy, in an attempt to disrupt the sale. The defendant now faces up to ten years in prison.
- In April, we obtained convictions of three men who plotted to bomb an apartment complex and attached mosque occupied by Somali Muslims in Garden City, Kansas. The men now face up to life imprisonment.
- And just last week, the Department secured an illegal firearms conviction connected to a man’s plot to shoot and kill worshippers at the Islamic Center of Northeast Florida.
These crimes are un-American, and our commitment to zealously prosecuting them will never falter. We are proud of what we have accomplished in the fight against hate crimes. But we realize that much, much more remains to be done. We need the support of strong partners like Islamic Relief and all of you to help us eradicate hate crimes from our communities and our country. Join with us, and help us make the country more free, more fair, more open, more equal, and more just for all Americans.
Thank you for having me here today. Ramadan Mubarek!