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US Attorney General Eric Holder Addresses Detroit Community, Arabs, Muslims

The Arab American News, News Report, Nick Meyer Posted: Nov 24, 2009

DETROIT It was an event 11 years in the making as the Advocates and Leaders for Police and Community Trust (ALPACT) organization held its first annual awards banquet at the Detroit Marriott Hotel in the Renaissance Center on Thursday, Nov. 19.

Fox 2 News Anchor Huel Perkins served as emcee for ALPACT co-chairmen Nabih Ayad, a Canton civil rights attorney, and Andrew Arena, Detroit FBI Special Agent in Charge.

Arena spoke about the importance of ALPACT, which was founded in 1998 to build bridges between law enforcement and the communities it polices.

"There is no other organization like this anywhere in the U.S. and we're very proud," he said. "We get loud sometimes (discussing the issues) but we respect each others' opinions."

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder served as the keynote speaker and took time to address the various concerns of Arabs and Muslims in metro Detroit in a time of uncertainty.

Left: US Attorney General Eric Holder, giving Keynote address in Detroit, last Thursday. PHOTOS: Nafeh AbuNab

"Recent events have tested the Arab and Muslim communities," he said. "But our resolve must not waver to return to open conversation even when we disagree."

Outside of the Renaissance Center, protestors waved signs in support of Detroit Imam Luqman Ameen Abdullah, who was killed in an FBI raid two weeks ago. The killing, along with recent mosque seizures across the U.S. and the fatal shootings of 13 people by American-born Nidal Malik Hasan, a Muslim of Palestinian descent, at the Fort Hood U.S. military base in Texas, have combined to increase tensions between law enforcement agencies like the FBI and both Arabs and Muslims over issues of discrimination and profiling.

Holder, the first African American to hold the post of attorney general, talked about the current climate.

"While these incidents tend to divide us, I can assure you that the Department of Justice will work to enforce all laws with equal attention," he said.

Holder added that his department has listened to complaints from Arabs and Muslims that they have been denied certain rights and responsibilities of American citizenship.

"This is simply intolerable, and the tension that arises (between the groups and law enforcement) is unacceptable," he said.

Holder also said that his department "stands with the Arab and Muslim communities in condemning the Fort Hood shootings in the strongest terms."

Three awards were presented during the event. Barrie Schwartz received the Excellence in Youth Leadership Award, while FBI Agent Paul Sorce, who died in a car accident while on duty, received the Excellence in Law Enforcement Leadership Award for his work with at-risk youth; his wife Joy Sorce accepted for him. NAACP Detroit branch President Reverend Wendell Anthony also was honored.

After the dinner, Arena spoke about the killing of Imam Abdullah, responding to concerns about improper FBI conduct from local civil rights groups like the ACLU and Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and calls by the groups for an independent investigation.

Arena said that an investigation is currently being conducted by the Inspections Division of the Department of Justice and that the matter will ultimately reach Attorney General Holder's office.

Arena, who made the decision to conduct the raid, said he stands behind his decision and described as "false... misinformation" reports that an FBI dog allegedly shot by Abdullah was flown out for medical attention while Abdullah was not given the same level of attention.

Arena added that both the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) and ALPACT have said they plan to wait until the facts of the situation come out, and that he has taken a similar stance regarding the incident.

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