Standing for Civil Rights

Category: Americas, World Affairs Views: 3218

Six Muslim groups based in Southern California have filed a Freedom of Information Act request on May 15, 2006, asking law enforcement agencies to release records about suspected monitoring of Islamic religious institutions and Muslim individuals.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California filed the request on behalf of CAIR, the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California, the Islamic Center of San Gabriel Valley, HADI, the Islamic Center of Hawthorne and Masjid Ansar, as well as six leaders in the Muslim community. They include: 

Muzammil Siddiqi, imam of the Islamic Society of Orange County in Garden Grove, Hussam Ayloush, executive director at CAIR. Sabiha Khan, CAIR spokeswoman. and Shakeel Syed, executive director of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California. More organizations and leaders may join later. 

The federal government has 20 days to respond to the public-records request, which seeks to learn whether area mosques and community leaders are being monitored and, if so, why, said Ranjana Natarajan, the attorney handling the matter.

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) was enacted by Congress in 1966 to give the public greater access to the federal government's records.

FOIA was not very popular in Washington, D.C., especially among federal officials, on whose shoulders the burden of compliance would rest.

When President Johnson signed the act into law on July 4, 1966, he chose to do so on his Texas ranch, far from the nation's capital, press conferences and television cameras. No one from the small band of legislators, lawyers and journalists who fought so hard for its enactment were on hand. 

The act had only one day to go before dying of presidential neglect in the form of a pocket veto. Hardly a positive beginning for a law that has spawned parallel "sunshine laws" in all 50 states.

FOIA has served as a model for nations around the world trying to make government more accessible and accountable to their citizens.

It is a law that sets out to manifest the Jeffersonian principle of an informed citizenry.

Natarajan said the ACLU decided to request FBI records after working with the Muslim community and conducting "know your rights" presentations at mosques.

Natarajan said worshippers at mosques have been asked what their imam is preaching, where they go and what they do on pilgrimages to Mecca, and for details about religious practices.

CAIR wanted the records request filed on the belief that no person or organization should be monitored because of peaceful religious practice. Since September 11 there has been a sweeping generalization of Muslims and it seems that law enforcement agencies are treating Muslims as primary suspects. A number of Muslims fear that their privacy is constantly being compromised and their places of worship are under constant watch. At airports and on streets Muslims are often stopped by local officials who use their own imagination to humiliate Muslims in whatever way they want. It appears that there is an undeclared policy of intimidating and harassing Muslims under the guise of national security.

On an average seven out of ten Muslim passengers are stopped at US airports for national security issues. This despite the fact that no Muslim American was involved in 9/11 related events as is evident from the congressional report on the subject.

Many Muslim organizations in general have been reluctant to take any significant action on civil rights issues. Even though various Muslim organizations have been working at different levels with law enforcement agencies, so far they have not succeeded in protecting Muslims' rights.

There is a serious attempt on the part of some law enforcement agencies to co-opt Muslim organizations and individuals willing to serve their interests. They have also succeeded in recruiting some. Obviously, no official record is available or will be available to substantiate this.

Regardless of what some of these individuals and organizations do, Muslims must take a bold stand on the issue of their civil rights. They must not allow anyone to intimidate and humiliate them. They must not allow anyone to suspect their loyalty to their country. Law enforcement agencies are there to protect them not to profile and prosecute them.

The treatment of Muslim civil rights is a litmus test for what the civil rights of all Americans will be in the future.

Dr. Aslam Abdullah is editor-in-Chief of the Muslim Observer and the director of the Islamic Society of Nevada as well as the director of the Muslim Electorates Council of America.

  Category: Americas, World Affairs
Views: 3218
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Older Comments:
As a Catholic American, I'm ashamed at how my fellow Muslim Americans have been discriminated against, selectively harassed and villified by xenophobic segments of both the right-wing Christian media and the left-wing secular media. Unfortunately, in light of the increasing polarization between the Islamic world and the United States, I can only see popular American perceptions of Islam and Arab-Americans deteriorating even further with an ever-increasing threat of violence. As a believer, I would exhort both Christians and Muslims alike to pray for peace and justice not only here at home but abroad as well. There can be no true and lasting peace if justice for all is absent from the equation. May all Americans regardless of their background exercise without prejudice their civil rights; otherwise, we stand on the brink of tyranny. I wish both the ACLU and the Muslim American groups that it represents a speedy and just ruling in your favor.

TOMMY said:
Faisal is right, and Imran tells us why!

But I feel very strongly about the part about loyalty.

Muslims owe loyalty to ALLAH (SWT) alone. anything else is to associate partners with HIM.

See Sura 33 for a better understanding of this.

33:48 And incline not to the disbelievers and the hypocrites. Disregard their noxious talk, and put thy trust in Allah. Allah is sufficient as Trustee.

Its their right to monitor anyone they want. These agencies are responsible for national security and its their job to pre-empt any move against nation. We have already seen the results of preaching hatred and we must cooperate with them to expose all such elements (regardless they are imams or whatever).

Thank you Dr. Abdullah for writing such a timely article about such a timely issue. As an American Muslimah who wears the hijab, I have been reviled, treated rudely, and called such names as "towel head" and worse as has many other sisters! Now we are being watched? I for one am tired of this nonsense! I encourage all muslim americans to contact their elected official in the Congress at and protest such behavior! If we are silent, they think we are afraid or even guilty of things we have no reason to feel about!