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Report Sheds Light On Anti-Muslim Bias Incidents In California

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July 6, 2015 1:10 p.m.

Report Sheds Light On Anti-Muslim Bias Incidents In California

GUESTS:

Hanif Mohebi, executive director, Council on American-Islamic Relations, San Diego chapter

Oscar Garcia, deputy district attorney, San Diego County

Related Story: Report Sheds Light On Anti-Muslim Bias Incidents In California

Transcript:

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

Our top story on midday edition, the rumors of terror attacks over the for the July weekend did not come true those rumors are a reminder of just how often Americans are warned of threats and potential enemies. As tensions rise, one group of Americans usually feel the brunt of a suspicion and hostility.
According to a report incidents of discrimination against Muslims in California most doubled between 2013 and 2014.
To hear about the new report and how San Diego law enforcement is addressing incidents against the Muslim minute. Joining me is executive director of care. Welcome to
Oscar Garcia is a deputy district attorney with hate crimes unit and also sending a regional hate crimes coalition. Welcome to the show.
What are the types of this commission against Muslims this report documents?
We have Islamic phobia and hate incidents, employment, school bullying. Law enforcement and FBI harassment and workplace dissemination and many others.
It really addresses a wide range of descriptive practices. What are some of the biggest problems? Is that in employment?
Last year it was. Last year, one of the top categories was employment. This year, we see the employment dissemination cases have gone down, decreased by 26%. On their hands, the law enforcement and FBI incidents have increased by about 21%.
Report comes to care about a Muslim American who feels they have been discredited against in the work place, what kinds of incidents, what kinds of situations do they report?
Let's talk about the case of John hurt. Here is an individual that loves the Navy. Honors the Navy's core values, courage, commitment, serving the country for the freedoms it provides us. He lists in 2002. Serves the country for about a decade honorably, his gut many recognitions, he's a diluted very well. Promoted. At a certain point in 2011, he asked if he's able to grow his beard because of that's part of his Islamic religious understanding.
He is not only denied, she is essentially -- his loyalty is questioned. His harassed. His taken off specific job duties and finally, he is denied reimbursement to serve the country again.
That care report says incidents of bias doubled between 2013 and 14. What are the reasons for that?
The reasons are complex. We live in a world that is a village. Whatever happens in other countries plays a role. Sometimes it's internal what our politicians say and how people react to that and how the media portrays the Muslim community. Any one of these essentially causes can trigger an individual or someone who is Islam a phobic to react. We have seen many cases right here in San Diego. A man walks into a mosque and essentially threatens to kill people.
Could it be part better documentation more in the Muslim community know they can bring these reports to care be listened to?
I think so. I think that could be part of it. I don't think it's significant because we have been around 20 years, San Diego office this is our 10th anniversary. We have been serving the 24 about 10 years now.
Oscar Garcia, to see an increase in incidence in the San Diego region?
It's difficult to say because we don't categorize it until the end of the year which we report to the target of justice. I have seen a number of cases involving Muslims being targeted because of their religion or because of the way they appear.
We have hate crime cases occurring here in San Diego.
For instance, the incident that was just talked about. Someone going into a mosque and threatening people there. With that person be arrested and charged with hate crime?
Just the fact that they terrorize someone, common threat is a violation of the Penal Code section. On top of that, if we can demonstrate there's sufficient evidence to show substantial motivation for the crime of the threat was an bias or prejudice against the victim is characteristic in this case against the victims of nationality or religion, yes we can charge that. The person would be investigated and likely arrested.
That's terrifying. It happens -- it reminds us about what happened in Charleston. Someone going into place of worship and not just any people that actually killing people. Is there here in the Muslim community here in San Diego?
There is a level of fear although we have a lot of great to members and neighbors that support our committee. It is interesting that it was just days before that incident that we had an internal workshop on how to keep our centers secure and safe. Care does have a publication on that and I would actually offer to any institution what is the church, synagogue or anybody else, if they need it to contact us and it is very important for us to be proactive and make sure we keep our centers safe and secure.
San Diego ranked fourth in the state for bias reports against Muslims, which region ranked number one?
I don't have the exact regions but I know San Diego County is more than Imperial County. My office is in charge of both of the counties.
You have a good working relationship with the hate crimes unit here in San Diego. Does care document that there's a good working relationship and most of the counties in California or are there areas that relationship is not what it should be?
I can only speak about my office. Our office has a great relation with the office of Oscar Garcia. We have been working about five years and before that he was working with our office as well. I have great respect for him and his office and the work he does. I truly honor his work.
Orange county is the county that has the dubious distinction of having the most discriminatory practices reported in this report or California.
Oscar, how does the regional hate crimes coalition work to prevent bias incidents?
We meet quarterly. It's accommodation of both law and for -- enforcement as well as committee-based organization leaders.
We meet to discuss strategies when the statistics come out, we discuss those. We also discussed the types of hate crime cases after the fact, actors concluded in open public setting, I talk about those cases to the members so they can be apprised of what's currently going on in San Diego what the trends are.
Part of our coalition was formed more than 15 years ago. Was basically because there were a number of church bombings and burnings throughout our country during that period. There was a call throughout the country to form these coalitions to partner on enforcement and committee-based organizations so we can have that relationship with the committee-based organization which we know is so important with what's going on in other areas.
We have this working relationship with members of the committee, we put on a yearly unity in action contest the public schools to highlight programs they have towards anti-bullying, appreciation of diversity, that type of thing
And yet there is a lot in this care report that actually targets law enforcement. I'm thinking of the case in Santa Clara with the police are being sued for illegally searching the home of a Muslim family. The FBI and the CPB are criticized in this report.
I can only speak about local. My office was the district attorneys office. I wouldn't dare to start commenting on cases I don't have any personal information about
In regards to the DAs office, we have a great relationship, we worked together on many cases that arise. We are proactive with the hate coalition we have.
There are issues that we do have with the specific Leawood FBI and sometimes other law enforcement. We have good relationship with FTP and I end of that. There times we go back and forth. I think our job is to balance security and safety versus civil liberties and our rights.
Support to have rights and their TVs and make sure our 20 is safe and secure.
I would highly encourage the FBI to work with each minute a little bit more. To build that trust that is not there currently.
Right here in San Diego, just not long ago, FBI walks into someone's office and essentially announces their FBI and they're looking for this individual. A week or so later, the man was fired. There is no evidence of criminal doing.
There has to be a better way. I'm not criticizing, I just want to bring this up that we as a community organizations and law enforcement must sit together, come up with positive ways to serve our committee, keeping them safe while securing our rights and liberties pick a
When we hear about homegrown terrorists that the intelligence officials say they are now most concerned may pull off one level attacks. We hear that a lot. It must increase suspicions against the entire Muslim community. How is it the community dealing with that both the Muslim American committee and the larger committee in San Diego?
There is a lot of mistrust because even in our mosques, we know there is a lot of agent provocateur's that are spying and sometimes spying on innocent people that have nothing to do with criminal acts. We must be very vigilant about rights. Once political opinion, once religious views must be respected regardless of what it is and where they come from. I can tell you for example, sometimes they will question individuals and they were asked about what mosques do go to? How many times to pray? Do you know this or that individual?
What does that have to do with the safety and security?
In your average efforts, is there great deal of misunderstanding with the public in general in San Diego of the Muslim committee and their Muslim neighbors? How would you assess the claimant Rex
I think we can continue to increase awareness among the public.
.Just for the Muslim committee but other committees that are targets of hate crimes. And get them to understand that obviously my role as a prosecutor is to increase public awareness of what hate crimes are about. I tried to educate why we even have these laws.
I think it support for the public to understand this is something that's passed nearly all the states. As a federal counterpart as well. Victims of hate crimes often take twice as long to recover emotionally, such as -- and the trauma it's the type of thing that can happen to anybody who has that targeted characteristic and they're not engaging in risky behavior, they're just at a park with the family and many of those types of cases. When they show that with their community, they realize it could happen to them as well. They weren't doing anything to provoke the attack.
We want to increase that awareness, for the Muslim committee, but also throughout -- all targeted character six, those types of people.
Also want to extend that awareness, education and awareness goes both ways. The law enforcement needs to learn a little bit about the QT, the religion and so on and so forth, enough so they can treat them in a way that is respectful.
Also the community must learn that essentially law enforcement is not their enemy.
We must work together to educate the committee that the law enforcement is there to provide safety, security, all of us.
I want to thank my guests. First I want to let you know you can read the 2015 care California civil rights report. It's on our website@KPBS.org.
I've been speaking with executive torture of care and Oskar Garcia deputy district attorney.