“There must be a clear statement from the Department of Justice that such unconstitutional business practices will not be permitted,” wrote the communications director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a civil rights group.
WASHINGTON — Alarmed by the growing number of businesses in America declaring themselves to be “Muslim-free zones,” a civil rights group is demanding an investigation from the federal government into the legality of this practice.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is the country’s largest and oldest advocacy group for Muslim rights and equality. According to CAIR, the practice of businesses banning Muslim customers is spreading rapidly, and may violate both civil rights laws and the Constitution, which guarantees Americans the right to freely practice their religion without interference.
“The Department of Justice has the ability to block this illegal and un-American phenomenon on a nationwide basis and to prevent it from harming the right to religious freedom and equality that we all hold dear,” Ibrahim Hooper, communications director of CAIR, said in a statement released last week. “There must be a clear statement from the Department of Justice that such unconstitutional business practices will not be permitted and that business owners who deny service to anyone based on their faith will face legal action.”
A New York gun store declared itself a “Muslim-free zone” last month. After announcing his new policy on Facebook, store owner John Swartz explained his reasoning in an interview with local media.
“My Facebook post, I thought about this and I said well, there’s only one organization that is advocating for the killing of Americans, trying to get local homegrown terrorists, and somewhat succeeding. They’re not Canadians. They’re not French. They’re Muslims,” Swartz told Albany’s WNYT, ignoring the fact that terrorist extremists represent only a tiny percentage of the world’s estimated 1.6 billion Muslims.
Swartz’s move drew mixed reactions, and WNYT’s Samantha DiMascio noted that within a week of writing the post, Swartz had “backtracked a bit, saying he wouldn’t sell guns to anyone he doesn’t feel comfortable with, no matter who they are.”
Many experts agree that homegrown terrorism, driven by white supremacists and right-wing extremists, poses the greatest threat to safety. In January, Heidi Beirich, director of the Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), told MintPress News: “Obviously, the rise in the number of hate groups is a reflection of a backlash in this country against changing demographics.” And in June, New America Foundation, a Washington-based nonpartisan research center, released a study showing that more people have been killed in the United States by right-wing terrorism than attacks by Muslim extremists since 9/11.
According to CAIR, businesses in Kentucky, Florida, Arkansas and New Hampshire have also instituted policies that ban Muslims. Yet the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it a crime for any place of “public accommodation” to deny service to anyone based on religion, race, color, or national origin.
Indeed, Hooper compared “Muslim-free zones” to racial segregation and the historic practice of businesses banning black customers.
“These bigoted declarations are no different than ‘whites only’ signs posted in businesses during a period of our nation’s history that we had hoped was over,” he said.
Watch “CAIR-Cincinnati Rep Says Kentucky ‘Muslim-Free Zone’ is Illegal, Un-American” from the Council on American-Islamic Relations: