Know Your Rights as an American
Get Involved Locally
- Introduce yourself to your neighbors of all faiths, races, and ethnicities.
- Join your children's school's Parent Teacher Association (PTA) and similar organizations.
- Donate objective, well-written books and multimedia materials about Islam to local public and school libraries.
- Register to vote. There's a form below. Make sure to vote in all local, state and national elections.
- Join your local CAIR Alabama chapter.
- Attend school board meetings and city council meetings.
- Ask about putting together a Ramadan or ___ display at a local library or school. Invite your neighbors to an iftar.
- Submit a letter to the editor or a commentary to your newspaper about an issue of local importance.
- Invite local community leaders and the public to a mosque open house.
- Host civic events such as blood drives and health fairs for the public at your local mosque.
- Get yourself and your mosque involved in issues impacting all Americans.
- Invite local and national officials to speak about community issues at your local mosques.
- Contact the CAIR Alabama office and ask to speak at an event or host a "know your rights" presentation.
React to Anti-Muslim Hate Crimes
If you believe that you have been the victim of a hate crime, you should:
- Report the crime to local and federal law enforcement immediately. Ask that the incident be treated as a hate crime.
- Report the crime to CAIR. You can do this by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 202-488-8787.
- Document the incident. Write down exactly what was said and/or done by the offender (including dates, times and places). Save all evidence and try to take photographs.
- Decide on the appropriate action to be taken. Consider issuing a statement from community leaders, holding a news conference, organizing a peaceful protest, meeting with local officials, or starting a letter-writing campaign.
- Act quickly. Incidents must be dealt with right away, not when it is convenient.
- Mobilize community support. Make sure the local mosque is aware of your situation.
- Stay on top of the situation. Make sure you follow up with police, local media, and community leaders.
- Announce results. When the incident is resolved, make an announcement to the same people and organizations originally contacted.
Let your voice be heard! Complete the form below.
To a Senator:
The Honorable (full name), United States Senate, Washington, D.C. 20510. Dear Senator (last name).
To a Representative:
The Honorable (full name), House of Representatives, Washington, D.C. 20515. Dear Representative (last name).
Communicating with Congress
A letter is the most effective choice of communication with a congressional office. To improve the effectiveness of your letter:
- Think locally. Send letters to your local and state representatives. As one of their constituents, your voice matters and your vote counts.
- State your purpose for writing in the first paragraph. If the letter pertains to a specific piece of legislation, identify accordingly, e.g., House Bill: H.R. ______, Senate bill:______.
- Be courteous, to the point, and use examples to support your position.
- Address only one issue in the letter. Try to keep the letter shorter than one page.
- Close by requesting action that you want taken: a vote for or against a bill, or change in general policy.
Writing a Letter to the Editor
To increase your chances of publication:
- Check with the paper for their word count guidelines.
- React quickly to news of the day, negative coverage or views you support.
- Be authoritative. If appropriate, speak on behalf of a local organization in which you are involved.
- Pick one main topic and focus only on that one issue.
- Address the letter to "The Letters Editor."
- Be passionate or even controversial, but avoid rhetoric and defamation.
- Give background information on the issue from impartial sources.
- Offer a reasonable and fair solution to the problem you are addressing.
Make Your Voice Heard
The White House: 202-456-1414
House and Senate Switchboard: 202-224-3121
New York Times: 212-556-1234
Associated Press: 212-621-1600
Wall Street Journal: 212-416-2000
Washington Post: 202-334-6000
USA Today: 800-USA-0001
TV & Radio
ABC News: 212-456-7583
CBS News: 212-975-3691
NBC News: 212-664-4444
Fox News: 212-301-3300
Know Your Rights if Stopped by Police
- On the street: The police must have a specific reason to approach and question you. If you are approached and questioned, the police can pat you down over the outside of your clothing if they have reason to suspect that you are armed and dangerous. You do not have to answer any questions besides identifying who you are and showing government-issued ID. After the interaction, you will either be free to leave or under arrest. Ask the officer clearly if you are free to leave or if you are under arrest. If you are free to leave, consider just walking away.
- In your car: Keep your hands where they can be seen. If you are driving a vehicle, you must show your license, registration, and proof of insurance. You do not have to consent to a search, but police may have legal grounds to search your car anyway. Clearly say that you do not consent to the search. Officers may separate passengers and drivers from each other to question them, but no one has to answer any questions.
- If arrested or taken to a police station: Remember that you do not have to talk to any police officer even if you have been arrested or detained. Clearly ask for a lawyer and one phone call until they are provided. If you cannot afford a lawyer, the government has to provide one.
- If mistreated: Do not resist arrest or fight with any police officers. Write down the officer's name, badge number, and any other identifying information. Try to find witnesses and write down the contact information. File a complaint with CAIR as soon after the event as possible.
Know Your Rights if Law Enforcement Contacts You
American Muslims strongly support law enforcement and the protection of our national security. As Americans, we also value civil rights. All Americans have the constitutional right to due process and to be politically active.
If you know of any criminal activity taking place in your community, it is both your religious and civic duty to immediately report such activity to local and federal law enforcement agencies.
If you are visited by federal law enforcement agencies, remember:
- You have the legal right to have a lawyer present when speaking with federal law enforcement agencies. This is true even if you are not a citizen or have been arrested or detained. This is your legal right. Refusing to answer questions cannot be held against you and does not imply that you have something to hid. Answering a question incorrectly can hurt you more than not answering at all. An attorney is best able to protect your rights.
- You do not have to permit any law enforcement officer to enter your home or office if they do not have a warrant. Law enforcement agents must have a search warrant, except in emergency situations, in order to enter you house. If they say they have a warrant, politely ask to see it before allowing them to enter. If they have a warrant, be courteous and polite, but remember that you are under no obligation to answer questions without a lawyer present. You should tell the agents that you do not consent to the search so that they cannot go beyond what the warrant authorizes.
- You should never lie or provide false information to any law enforcement agency. Lying to law enforcement agents under any circumstance is a federal crime.
- Remember to ask any investigator who visits you for a business card so you can give it to your lawyer. At least get the name, contact information, and agency of the officer.
Know Your Rights as an Airline Passenger
As an airline passenger, you are entitled to courteous, respectful and non-stigmatizing treatment by airline and security personnel. It is illegal for law enforcement officials to perform any stops, searches, detentions, or removals based solely on your race, religion, national origin, sex, or ethnicity. If you believe you have been treated in a discriminatory manner, you should:
- Ask for the names and ID number of all persons involved in the incident. Be sure to write down this information.
- Ask to speak to a supervisor.
- Politely ask if you have been singled out because of your name, looks, dress, race, ethnicity, faith, or national origin.
- Politely ask witnesses to give you their names and contact information.
- Write a statement of facts immediately after the incident. Be sure to include the flight number, the flight date and the name of the airline.
- Contact CAIR to file a report.
- It is also important to note the following:
- A customs agent has the right to stop, detain and search every person and item.
- Screeners have the authority to conduct a further search of you or your bags.
- A pilot has the right to refuse to fly a passenger if he or she believes the passenger is a threat to the safety of the flight. The pilot's decision must be reasonable and based on observations, not stereotypes.
Individuals experiencing difficulties during travel at airports, train stations or U.S. borders may be on either the no-fly or selectee list.
- It is very difficult to determine if you are on one of these lists.
- You may be on the selectee list if you are unable to use the internet or the airport kiosks for automated check-in and instead have to check in at the ticketing counter. You should eventually be permitted to fly.
- The no-fly list, on the other hand, prohibits individuals from flying at all. If you are able to board an airplane, regardless of the amount of questioning or screening, then you are not on the no-fly list.
- If you are constantly subjected to advanced screening or are prevented from boarding your flight, you should file a complaint with DHS TRIP at www.dhs.gov/trip. Most people who file with DHS TRIP are not actually on a watchlist and that service can resolve most problems.
When Faced with Job Discrimination
- Remain calm and polite.
- Inform the offending party that you believe his/her actions are discriminatory.
- Report the discriminatory action in writing to company management.
- Document the discrimination by saving memos, keeping detailed journal, noting the presence of witnesses and making written complaints. Make sure to keep copies of all materials. It is important to keep a "paper trail" of evidence.
- Ask to be transferred to another department or job site.
- Ask for mediation.
- DO NOT sign any documents or resign from your position without first consulting an attorney.
- Contact CAIR.
- Contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) at 800-669-4000 or www.eeoc.gov.
Know Your Legal Rights as an Employee
Federal law makes it illegal for an employer to discriminate against an employee on the basis of religion, race or national origin. Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act guarantees your right to:
- Reasonable religious accommodation. The failure of an employer to reasonably accommodate your religious practices may constitute employment discrimination. "Religious practices" include wearing a hijab or beard, prayer breaks, going to Jummah (Friday) prayers, going to Hajj, etc.
- Fairness in hiring, firing and promotions. Your employer is prohibited from considering race, national origin or religion when making decisions affecting you at work.
- A non-hostile work environment. Your employer must ensure that you are not subjected to anti-Muslim insults, harassment, or unwelcome and excessive proselytizing.
- Complain about discrimination without fear of retaliation. Federal law guarantees your right to report an act of alleged employment discrimination. It is illegal for your employer to retaliate against you for your complaint.