NSA spying on prominent American Muslims should trouble us all


JUL 10, 2014, 10:30 AM

NSA spying on prominent American Muslims should trouble us all

Journalists Glenn Greenwald and Murtaza Hussain just released a story based on the Snowden leaks that the National Security Agency (NSA), in conjunction with the FBI, has been spying on thousands of law-abiding Americans, including a former Senior Policy Advisor for Homeland Security under the Bush administration, a criminal defense attorney and a prominent civil rights leader.

This piece, differing from other stories about pervasive NSA surveillance, shows for the first time five American faces who were targeted, all five being American Muslims. One of them, Nihad Awad, is the Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which I am of course affiliated with.

I’d like to point out three issues regarding these new revelations that should disturb all Americans.

First, all five men appear to have been targeted for their political positions or activism in the Muslim community, not due to credible national security concerns, which is supposed to be the NSA’s scope.

Keep in mind that after years of intrusive surveillance, the government did not bring even a single criminal charge against any of those five. Hence, the Greenwald – Hussain story described them as being Americans who continue to maintain “highly public, outwardly exemplary lives.” If there were any doubts before, this can happened to any American, since it happened to them.

Second, the leaked documents also show that racism is clearly in play in how some senior intelligence analysts view the Muslim community. This is clear given NSA officials used an example to instruct agents on how to properly record Muslims under surveillance in their files under the title of “Mohammed Raghead.”

In response, a White House spokesperson said that the usage of the slur is “unacceptable and inconsistent with the country’s core values.”

Condemning the use of slurs and seeking to eliminate their usage in official government programs is fine and dandy. My major concern pertains to the pervasive spying of the American Muslim community and its leadership, which is informed upon in part due to bias, not just using slurs in official government databases.

Last, such surveillance has a basic chilling effect on citizens’ religious practice and political engagement.

As in the era of former FBI head J. Edgar Hoover during the 1960s and early 1970s, activists’ intimate communications are being captured by government.

History shows that our intelligence services have used embarrassing moments in the leaders’ personal lives as a form of blackmail.

This tactic was used against Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. pertaining to his extra-marital relations. More recently, an informant in California named Craig Monteilh used pillow talk with Muslim women on behalf of the FBI.

People may fear not getting involved in religious organizations or in forms of political dissent out of fear that a personal indiscretion could be used against them by their own government. This did not happen in the case of the five Muslims in the highlight in the story, but easily could have given different circumstances.

The KGB-style surveillance informed by the political and religious persuasions of American citizens must end. I hope that these recent revelations with spark more discussions by the public and in Congressional hearings, which leads to true NSA and FBI surveillance reform.

Perhaps this all may be sorted out in federal court, given that these five men have what appears to be strong legal standing to bring forth a lawsuit.

Protecting undocumented children is an American value BY DAWUD W


JUL 9, 2014, 6:00 AM

Protecting undocumented children is an American value

The need for comprehensive national immigration reform has become glaringly more evident with recent events. It’s also apparent that the pesky problem of xenophobia, which cannot be legislated away, is alive and well among many of us.

Recent protests in Murrieta, California which blocked buses carrying undocumented immigrants to a Border Patrol station typifies how our country is divide on this very American issue of the status of immigrants.

Tired memes were exclaimed by protestors as to why these women and children should be immediately sent back to Central America. We’ve all heard the arguments: Immigrants will spread infectious diseases, increase crime and the old standby, they will make communities unstable.

The irony of the complaints of these protestors and the remarks of some Republican Congressmen is that it was actually a late President George W. Bush-era policy, supported by some Evangelical groups, that helped open the doors for the excess of undocumented children at our southern border. It was the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 that gave substantial legal protections to children entering America alone, who are not from Canada or Mexico.

Aside from the young girls who escaped capture by sex traffickers, many of the undocumented teens who come across the border are fleeing areas of extreme poverty and gang violence, in which refusal of gang initiation equals death.

Similarly, there are mothers who have been forced by unbearable circumstances to leave all worldly possessions and family members out of fear of their lives — not to leech off of tax-paying Americans, as many have falsely framed the situation. These are people who came here out of extenuating circumstances, not to break the law. Many Americans, who have won the geographic lottery by being born here would do the same if roles were reversed.

For centuries, America has absorbed women and children seeking asylum from dangerous areas. They’ve been accommodated and eventually contributed to the social fabric and economy of our society. Labeling these undocumented immigrants as criminals and blaming President Barack Obama for the influx of children seeking the shade of America are easy scapegoats, but in reality this cuts against the values America stands for. Perhaps it’s a mixture of where these immigrants are from, given the steady browning of America, and a black president who gets blamed for this Bush-era policy that compounds the xenophobia.

I wish that those who are keen on deporting at-risk children back into danger zones were as concerned for them as they are about the lives of the unborn in not being aborted. Unfortunately, that seems not to be the case.

In the meantime, those of us who care about the moral integrity of America have to continue to push back against this recent xenophobia that has been parlayed into more political ammunition against President Obama. This issue should not be about Democratic or Republican, or people of color or white folks, but about getting the proper aid and protection to these children in the short term and fixing our broken immigration system in the long term, outside of mass deportation.

CAIR Condemns ISIS Violence and Rejects Calls to Join Extremists Fighting Abroad


CAIR Condemns ISIS Violence and Rejects Calls to Join Extremists Fighting Abroad

Last Updated on Monday, 07 July 2014 18:58

CAIR-logo(WASHINGTON, DC, 7/7/2104) — The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, today condemned as “un-Islamic and morally repugnant” violence and hostilities perpetrated by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and repudiated those who encourage Americans to join that and other extremist groups.

In a statement, CAIR said:

“American Muslims view the actions of ISIS as un-Islamic and morally repugnant. No religion condones the murder of civilians, the beheading of religious scholars or the desecration of houses of worship. We condemn the actions of ISIS and reject its assertion that all Muslims are required to pay allegiance to its leader.

“CAIR strongly urges American imams and other community leaders to continue to speak out against American Muslims traveling abroad to join extremist groups and sectarian militias. While ISIS uses romanticized imagery in its propaganda materials, its human rights abuses on the ground are well-documented.”

CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

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CONTACT: CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-744-7726, ihooper@cair.com; CAIR Communications Manager Amina Rubin, 202-341-4171, arubin@cair.com

CAIR-MI welcomes zoning approvals for places of worship

CAIR-MI welcomes zoning approvals for places of worship
| Thursday, 07.03.2014, 11:41 PM


WARREN/MACOMB COUNTY — Within the past week, the Council on American Islamic Relations of Michigan has advocated on behalf of two Islamic organizations regarding zoning approvals.
CAIR-MI Staff Attorney Lena Masri represented the Muslim Community of Macomb before the city of Sterling Heights’ Zoning Board of Appeals and was instrumental in obtaining a use variance that allows the group to worship and conduct religious services in Sterling Heights.
CAIR-MI Executive Director Dawud Walid spoke on behalf of the Islamic Organization of North America (IONA) before the Warren Planning Commission regarding land usage approval for an expansion project.
In the Warren case, there was some interfaith support for IONA; however, there was significant opposition to the expansion project. One planning commission member read letters against the Muslim community, including a highly inflammatory submission from an alleged anonymous concerned resident.
A series of Warren residents subsequently gave public comments against the expansion project, many of them in coded language such as their wanting to “maintain a quiet, peaceful community” and voicing unfounded concerns about potential “depreciating property values.”  Others made more direct making reference to “these people.”
CAIR-MI has assisted a number of Islamic centers and is currently representing the Michigan Islamic Academy (MIA) in a lawsuit against Pittsfield Township in a zoning denial case. It said it realizes these cases are part of a trend of the institutionalization of Islamophobia, where government officials and residents use procedural matters and coded language to block the construction and expansion of Islamic schools and centers.
CAIR-MI plans to issue a brief report in the near future on the trend of opposition of the construction or expansion of Islamic centers and schools in Michigan, and how this trend is influenced by the Islamophobia network outside of Michigan.