A video of Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice has been making the rounds. I first noticed in a post by Michael Totten. He calls it 'sordid' and describes it as showing a Mr. Perez refusing- 4 times in a row- to declare that the DOJ would never consider a law criminalizing blasphemy.
The video does indeed seem to show that, but I noticed as I watching watching it on Youtube that it was posted July 26, 2012, well before the current Egypt/Libya/video mayhem. Scanning the description posted beneath it, I learned that the clip emerged from a hearing motivated, in part, by an October 2011 report in the Daily Caller about a conference Mr. Perez had attended in which he allegedly embraced ideas about criminalizing blasphemy put forth by radical Muslims.
And the hunt was on.
It took me the better part of this morning, but I eventually located an October 19, 2011 conference at George Washington University titled "Confronting Discrimination in the Post 9/11 Era: Challenges and Opportunities 10 Years After." (PDF here.) It was a day-long event bringing together DHS and DOJ officials with various advocates and speakers.
I was never able to find the original October 2011 piece from the Daily Caller, but descriptions of the article kept referring to a lawyer named Sahar Aziz and an Imam named Magid, so I scanned videos of the event (available here) until I saw both of them on a panel. I also viewed the closing remarks made by Mr. Perez.
(Mr. Totten refers to him as "Edward Perez" and the official video refers to him as "Thomas E. Perez." It's very obviously the same person.)
During the panel discussion I watched ("Looking Forward: Remaining Challenges and Opportunities") the main topic seemed to be recent scandals caused by surveillance of the mosques and the use of police training materials that were allegedly bigoted and pushed stereotypes.
Ms. Aziz, an associate law professor at the Texas Wesleyan School of Law, argued that DHS/DOJ officials could use Title VI requirements to investigate police departments that used biased training materials. Title VI prohibits the use of Federal Funds by any organization practicing discrimination. During the discussion she urges officials to be "creative" and "aggressive" in finding ways to demonstrate that anti-muslim bias is the same as racial discrimination:
"The other interrelated issue is the DOJ's guidelines on the use of race and this is really a housekeeping issue, that has been on the civil rights agenda for 10 years...It essentially prohibits the use of race, only if it is the sole factor. It does not include national origin and doesn't include religion..."
She calls this limitation a "loophole," and suggests a strategy to close it by eliding race, religion and ethnic origin:
"And, I think a creative lawyer, I'd be willing to at least give a shot at it is to say that one, 'muslim' has become racialized, and that even if-- It's not just limited to religion...It's against the arabs because most of the images are of these racialized, these racial brown, dark, bearded men who axiomatically hate us. And so I don't accept this formalistic copout of, well, this is all about religion, we can't enforce Title VI."
Imam Magid referred multiple times to books and radio shows that he called "propaganda" and "preaching hate":
"We need more people to speak against the propaganda and islamaphobia that we see today on radio. Three hours, a radio talk show will speak negative toward Islam and Muslims. You think this go to deaf ears? There's millions of people listening to this. Some of them are the police officers, customs officers, immigration officers, teachers in the school. Words can really have great impact on people's perception about others, therefore we need more people to speak on this issue."
Later in the discussion the Imam says that Anders Breivik was motivated by such propaganda, and that those who produce it "have blood on their hands."
People can disagree about the merits of this type of reasoning. I include it here to give some background on the now-famous video snippet below:
Perhaps Mr. Perez was thinking about the controversial police manuals and so forth when Congressman Franks questioned him. I don't know.
But I do know that there is often more to these YouTube snippets than meets the eye, so for my own peace of mind I like to do a bit of digging.