Nawar Shora was born in Syria in 1977 and was raised in Huntington, West Virginia. He graduated from Marshall University in 1997, and from the West Virginia University College of Law four years later. In 1999 he joined the the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) as an intern. In 2001 he became a legal advisor for ADC, and in 2002 he founded that organization’s Law Enforcement Outreach Program (LEOP) to train U.S. police officers how to deal effectively with members of the Arab-American and Muslim communities in “the wake of the post-9/11 backlash.”
Toward that end, LEOP produced a series of instructional DVDs specifically for Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) employees. As LEOP’s director from 2001-2010, Shora championed ADC’s effort to recast the war on terror as a narrative of ethnic discrimination perpetuated by America’s intransigent bigotry. For example, when the FBI in 2003 raided the offices of the International Institute of Islamic Thought and the homes of several individuals with suspected ties to terrorism, Shora said: “I would like to believe that the four homes that were hit today were not raided purely because they were Muslim homes.”
Also in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, Shora—along with representatives from the Council on American Islamic Relations, the Sikh American Legal Defense Education Fund, the Arab American Institute, and the Muslim Public Affairs Council—became a founding member of an Arab, Muslim and Sikh advisory council established by Joseph Persichini, Jr., former head of the FBI’s Washington field office. This council served as a forum wherein Muslims could give voice to their concerns about hate crimes, the USA Patriot Act, FBI terrorism investigations, and other issues that affected their lives.
Shora himself made nearly 50 appearances before FBI agents, training them to develop greater sensitivity to the needs of Arab and Muslim Americans. During a September 2006 training session for some 500 agents, Shora said: “You say ‘FBI’ to the average Yousef out there, and they picture a middle-aged white guy talking in their sleeve. Recent immigrants don’t have the comfort level, because in their countries oftentimes the equivalent of the FBI is the secret police.” In another training session, Shora informed the FBI agents in attendance that the the literal meaning of the term jihad is “struggle”—specifically, “the daily struggle to be a better person, to resist temptation.”
In 2003 and 2007, Shora appeared in training videos for the Justice Department Community Relations Service and the DHS Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. Further, he joined a group organized by the American Society for Industrial Security International, dedicated to security issues for Jews, Muslims, Mormons, and other Christians.
Instead of promoting stringent security protocols, Shora has traditionally complained about the American government’s unfounded mistrust of Arab Americans and Muslims. “Perhaps one of our greatest challenges as a society has been a lack of trust and lack of understanding,” he said in 2009 regarding U.S. homeland-security measures. When DHS’s Transportation Security Administration (TSA) — in the wake of a Sudanese al Qaeda operative’s attempted airliner bombing in December 2009 — called for greater scrutiny of air travelers hailing from any of 13 predominantly Islamic countries in particular, Shora not only depicted the new protocols as “extreme and very dangerous,” but also complained about ethnic profiling: “All of a sudden, people are labeled as being related to terrorism just because of the nation they are from.”
In March 2010, the Obama administration appointed Shora as a senior advisor to the TSA’s Civil Rights and Liberties Office. Characterizing his new job as an opportunity to change public policy, Shora said: “It’s about time I cross over to the government and start working within the system. That’s the beauty of our society: Anybody can work with the government.”
In 2008, Shora authored and published The Arab-American Handbook, which he describes as “the easiest and best introductory guide to truly understanding the Arab, Arab-American, and Muslim cultures,” including their “social and behavioral norms and mores, religious dictum and language, cultural concepts and pop culture perceptions.”