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‘Ideological jihad’ remark was offensive

I am writing in response to the article authored by reporter Ed Sealover titled “Colorado House panel gives initial OK to tougher anti-discrimination remedies.”

The article generally covered the issue of House Bill 13-1136, a civil rights and employee rights law that was argued before the House Judiciary Committee during the late evening of Feb. 14.

As Sealover and the DBJ correctly reported, one of the opponents of the bill, Merrily Archer, founder of EEO Legal Solutions and former attorney with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), testified that those supporting HB 13-1136 were part of an “ideological jihad.”

However, the article failed to elaborate on the significance of Archer’s comment.

I am the employment law co-chair for the Colorado Trial Lawyers Association, a member of Colorado’s Plaintiff Employment Lawyers Association and an attorney who represents employees in employment matters. I am also general counsel to the Colorado Muslim Society (CMS), which is a 30-year-old Colorado nonprofit organization, an employer and the largest mosque in this part of the country.

CMS offers an array of human and social services to everyone, including Colorado’s estimated 35,000 Muslims. I am also a small-business owner. I testified in support of the bill just moments before Archer’s testimony, and I was present for its entirety. Her “ideological jihad” comment was met with gasps by many in attendance.

Archer’s anti-Islamic statement precisely underscores the tremendous need for HB 13-1136. According to The New York Times, although Muslims make up less than 2 percent of the U.S. population, they accounted for about one-quarter of the 3,386 religious discrimination claims filed with the EEOC in 2009.

Complaints filed by the Jewish community rose slightly in fiscal year 2009, while complaints filed by Catholics, Protestants, Sikhs and Seventh-day Adventists declined. Claims of race, sex and age discrimination also fell.

The New York Times quoted Mary Jo O’Neill, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Phoenix office, as stating, “I’ve been doing this for 31 years, and I’ve never seen such antipathy toward Muslim workers.”

No matter what your position may be on the issues of civil rights and employee rights in Colorado, we can likely agree that there is no room for this type of hateful dialogue in the democratic process.

Archer’s offensive anti-Islamic rhetoric highlights the need for, and further empowers those in support of, civil rights and legal remedies for Colorado’s workers.

— Qusair Mohamedbhai

View this post online at the Denver Business Journal