WASHINGTON (JTA) — In a speech to the Anti-Defamation League, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder urged Americans to protect the rights of Muslims and other minorities in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing.
"The battle for the safety and rights of all Americans — all Americans — must be our common endeavor," Holder told a conference in Washington on Monday marking the group’s centennial.
He noted that the conference was held just weeks after the Boston bombing, which killed three and wounded scores.
The lead suspects are two brothers who are Muslims of Chechen origin. One was slain in the bombing’s aftermath; one is in custody.
"Our investigation into this matter remains ongoing, and I want to assure you that my colleagues and I are determined to hold accountable, to the fullest extent of the law, all of those who were responsible for this attack," Holder said. "But I also want to make clear that just as we will pursue relentlessly anyone who would target our people or attempt to terrorize our cities, the Justice Department is firmly committed to protecting innocent people against misguided acts of retaliation."
Holder praised the ADL for its role in combating anti-Muslim sentiment, noting that the organization initiated a friend-of-the-court brief filed by an interfaith coalition in the successful Justice Department lawsuit against a Tennessee county that sought to prevent the building of a mosque.
"This action, and many others like it, prove the department’s determination to safeguard the core constitutional protections that stand at the center of who we are as a nation – and that have always empowered the ADL to bridge divides and promote cooperation over conflict," he said. "As Americans, we must not allow any group to be stigmatized or alienated."
Holder also pledged his assistance in combating anti-Semitism, which he said remains a threat.
"We delude ourselves if we believe that the dark forces have been conquered," he said. "They continue to exist in this nation. They continue to exist in the leadership of other nations around the world who have pledged to do harm to Israel and to Jewish people in other countries. We cannot afford to dismiss this sad and dangerous reality."