Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson delivered an impassioned speech Saturday night at the annual Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) conference in Chicago, holding forth on the subject of Muslim empowerment in America.
Many American Muslims have been critical of his department and federal law enforcement agencies for what they view as discriminatory surveillance and prosecution of American Muslims. In his speech, Johnson did not speak to surveillance practices directly but acknowledged a common experience of discrimination and disrespect among American Muslims.
Johnson was the first sitting Cabinet secretary and the highest-ranking U.S. official to address an ISNA conference. He told the crowd of hundreds of Muslim religious and political leaders, activists and professionals that he hoped his appearance at the conference serves as a precedent for future appearances by officials of his rank. And he compared the Muslim American struggle for recognition, respect and equal rights to that of other American religious, racial and ethnic communities. He spoke of his grandfather, an accomplished African American sociologist who lived and died in the Jim Crow South but whose grandson is now the secretary of homeland security in the administration of a black president.