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Sunday, December 3, 2023

Muslim bar associations demand action against islamophobia in US

13 national and regional Muslim bar associations have issued a stern call to over 100 leading law firms in the United States.

13 national and regional Muslim bar associations have issued a stern call to over 100 leading law firms in the United States, accusing them of contributing to Islamophobia and fostering a climate of fear within the legal community. The accusations center on the firms’ alleged failure to address Islamophobia, as well as anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian sentiments.

Fearful Atmosphere in Legal Professions

The coalition of Muslim bar associations, in a letter sent on Monday, highlighted the distressing environment faced by Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim legal professionals. The letter revealed that many attorneys, including those of color and Jewish descent, fear expressing sympathy for Palestinians due to potential retribution. Some professionals are reportedly hesitant to disclose their Palestinian, Arab, or Muslim heritage, reflecting a pervasive sense of intimidation.

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Unequal Responses to Recent Events

The letter drew attention to the disparities in law firms’ responses to the conflict between Hamas and Israel. While some firms promptly issued statements supporting Israel in the aftermath of the October 7th attacks, others allegedly refused to acknowledge the loss of innocent Palestinian lives, even when some employees had family members killed in Gaza. The Muslim bar associations expressed dismay at the lack of fundraising for humanitarian assistance for Palestinians, especially in contrast to significant sums raised in support of Israel.

Competing Narratives

The letter also highlighted a perceived imbalance in a previous communication from leading law firms. The firms’ November 1 letter, primarily focused on antisemitism, triggered concern among the Muslim bar associations for contributing to an environment that suppresses advocacy for Palestinian human rights. The associations argued that the message conveyed implies a prioritization of Israeli and Jewish lives over Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim lives.

Call for Action

The Muslim bar associations called on law firms to take concrete steps to address these concerns. Among their demands, the associations urged the firms to issue a new letter to law school deans specifically addressing Islamophobia. They also called for acknowledgments of the equal humanity of Palestinians and Israelis, condemnation of the killing of all civilians, educational programs on Islamophobia, and engagement in pro bono opportunities aimed at combating Islamophobia.

Firms’ Response

While the letter was sent to prominent law firms such as Davis Polk, Dechert, Kirkland & Ellis, Paul, Weiss, and Sullivan & Cromwell, Dechert declined to comment. The response from the legal community to these accusations is awaited, as the issue adds to the complex landscape employers are navigating amid heightened tensions following recent events in the Israel-Hamas conflict.

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The clash of perspectives between Muslim bar associations and leading law firms underscores the intricate challenges faced by the legal community in addressing geopolitical conflicts within their ranks. As the demands for acknowledgment, equality, and action reverberate through legal circles, the response from law firms will undoubtedly shape the dialogue around inclusivity, human rights, and the role of legal professionals in times of international strife.