Thank you Rizwan, Imam Magid, and the ADAMS center for holding this important event. The partnerships and community building that the ADAMS Center have invested in month after month and year after year are crucial to keeping our communities safe and ensuring a thriving and just society for all.
It is a great honor to accept this award on behalf of the Civil Rights Division. You have been strong partners with us since shortly after the 9/11 attacks, working with us on educating communities about hate crimes and other civil rights laws, and building relationships with federal law enforcement.
As you know, hate crimes against Muslims remain at elevated levels. We saw a sharp jump from 2014 to 2015, with a 67% increase. While we will not have the 2016 FBI statistics until November, in our daily work we continue to see an unacceptably high level of hate crimes.
Combatting hate crimes is among our highest priorities at the Civil Rights Division. It is a high priority for three reasons. First, hate crimes are particularly pernicious because they typically are meant to intimidate and terrorize whole communities. Next week we are going to trial in a case of man who left a phone message threatening to shoot members of the Islamic Center of Greater Miami. And we are currently prosecuting a man for burning down a mosque in Victoria Texas.
The second reason hate crimes are a priority is that perpetrators use them to deny people their basic civil rights to equal housing, equal employment, and other fundamental civil rights.
Earlier this year, we successfully prosecuted a man in Bakersfield, California who fired a shotgun toward a Latino family as they stood in their front yard, and yelled for them to move out, then drove down the road and fired on a market owned by a Middle Eastern man. Likewise this year we successfully prosecuted a Florida man who threatened two Muslim store owners with violence if they did not close and move. In the United States we rightly treasure religious liberty. But that liberty means little if we cannot gather for worship, or simply walk down the street or live in our neighborhoods, without fear of attack because of our faith.
And third, hate crimes are a priority because hate crimes are violent crimes, and any serious effort to combat violent crime in America must include hate crimes. In June, for example, we indicted a man for shooting two Indian men at a bar in Kansas, killing one, because he thought they were Iranian. He is also charged with wounding a bystander who tried to intervene.
When Attorney General Sessions rolled out his Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety at the end of March, he made hate crimes one of the pillars of this effort. He said:
“We will not tolerate threats or acts of violence targeting any person or community in this country on the basis of their religious beliefs or background. Accordingly, the Hate Crimes Subcommittee will develop a plan to appropriately address hate crimes to better protect the rights of all Americans.”
In June, the Hate Crimes Subcommittee held a summit in Washington, bringing together community stakeholders from around the country, including ADAMS Center, to develop ideas for improving how we identify, investigate, and prosecute hate crimes, including more effective training for law enforcement and communities and better data collection.
We look forward to continuing to work with you on hate crimes, as wells as other important civil rights issues facing our society. Thank you again for this award, and for your ongoing partnership.