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Rights panel backs effort to challenge anti-Arab bias

Associated Press

Grand Rapids — The Michigan Civil Rights Commission is backing a national campaign to challenge discrimination against U.S. Arabs and Muslims.

The commission last week approved a resolution supporting the Take on Hate campaign while meeting in Grand Rapids. The bipartisan panel that investigates discrimination complaints co-hosted a kickoff event for the campaign last year in Detroit.

Commission Chairman Arthur Horwitz said the group and the state’s Civil Rights Department are “proud to support” the campaign. Take on Hate is sponsored by the National Network for Arab American Communities. It’s a project of the Dearborn economic and social services agency ACCESS.

“Since 9/11, worsening attitudes toward Arab and Muslim Americans have manifest themselves in a 1,600 percent increase in reported hate crimes in these communities,” Horwitz said in a statement following Monday’s meeting.

“Misunderstanding and fear lead to unstable communities. The Civil Rights Commission and the Civil Rights Department are proud to support the campaign to end discrimination and violence against all groups.”

The commission also approved a resolution honoring former Gov. George Romney on the 20th anniversary of his death, which occurred July 26, 1995. Romney, who ran for the 1968 Republican presidential nomination and served as secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Richard Nixon, was chairman of the Michigan Constitutional Convention of 1963.

“Romney advocated strongly for including both civil rights protections and a commission to enforce them in the state constitution,” the Civil Rights Commission said in a statement.

“As a result, Michigan became the first state to create a civil rights commission with constitutional authority.”

Michigan’s civil rights law bans bias based on religion, race, color or national origin, sex, age, marital status, height, weight, arrest record, and physical and mental disability. It does not cover sexual orientation or gender identity.