The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) in Chicago has joined local and national organizations calling on federal officials to drop immigration fraud charges against Chicago Palestinian community leader Rasmea Odeh.  AFSC is concerned that this indictment is further evidence of government harassment of Arab and Muslim residents in the United States, and adds fuel to Islamophobic and anti-Arab discrimination that has spread through our country and influenced our nation’s policies since 9/11.

“It is upsetting that someone with a strong history of community service for the most vulnerable in her community would be a target of government investigation,” said Jennifer Bing of the Chicago office of AFSC. “Rasmea’s decade of work with women and children in Chicago is what we should be lifting up as a model for positive civic engagement by new immigrants in the United States.”

On October 23, 2013, AFSC joined over 60 organizations in signing a statement originating from the Center for Constitutional Rights  soon after Ms. Odeh’s arrest.

During its 96-year history, AFSC has often spoken out on civil liberties and the need for ending discrimination against immigrants. In 1925 AFSC published “Exclusion: Its Cause and Cure,” outlining the roots of racism and the reality of Japanese-Americans’ contributions to the U.S. economy. Three years ago, AFSC joined several faith groups in Chicago denouncing FBI raids of the homes of anti-war activists in Chicago and Minneapolis; in those raids, the FBI seized computers, cell phones, printed materials, and personal belongings under the pretext of investigating terrorism. 

“A government must not be allowed to cultivate a climate of fear as justification for denying basic rights to a scapegoated group. Unfortunately, the U.S. has a history of exploiting fears around security as an excuse for selective persecution of Japanese-Americans, Native Americans, Jews, civil rights advocates, political dissidents, and most recently, U.S. citizens and residents of Arab descent,” said AFSC General Secretary, Shan Cretin, in reference to another recent case of a Chicago Palestinian. Muhammed Salah who was finally removed from the U.S. “Specially Designated Terrorist list” after 17 years of persecution in 2012.

The American Friends Service Committee’s programs touch a wide range of issues, countries, and communities. What unites AFSC’s work is the unfaltering belief in the essential worth of every human being, nonviolence as the way to resolve conflict, and the power of love to overcome oppression, discrimination, and violence.

Click here for more background on the case of Rasmea Odeh.