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American Muslims Seven Years after 9/11

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Not surprisingly, in March, a United Nations report said that the US law enforcement is guilty of discrimination in its use of racial profiling to target Arabs and Muslims since the attacks of Sept 11, 2001. The UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination “is deeply concerned about the increase in racial profiling against Arabs, Muslims and South Asians in the wake of the 9/11 attacks,” the report said. The report urged the US administration to “review the definition of racial discrimination used in the federal and state legislation and in court practice”.

A COINTELPRO operation

Muslims are virtually facing a new FBI counter intelligence program similar to the COINTELPRO operation against the African Americans during the 1960s. Harassment through the legal system was one of the methods employed by the FBI at the height of the COINTELPRO operation and the same method is being employed now with high profile trials of Muslim leaders.

Dr. Sami Al-Arian, a Palestinian political activist and former professor of the University of South Florida, released on bail in Virginia on September 2 after more than five years in federal custody, faces criminal contempt charges despite a plea agreement that he would not have to testify in any other case. In 2005, a Florida jury rejected federal charges that Al-Arian operated a cell for the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Al-Arian later pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and was scheduled for release and deportation in April this year. However, he was subpoenaed and jailed for refusing to testify against others. To borrow Dr. Al-Arian’s lead Counsel, Professor Jonathen Turley, “Having lost the case in Florida, the Justice Department has openly sought to extend his confinement by daisy-chaining grand juries.” His trial to criminal contempt begins in December.

In a similar high profile trial, in November 2007, Dr. Abdelhaleem Ashqar, a Palestinian-American former professor at Washington's Howard University, was sentenced to more than 11 years in prison for refusing to testify in 2003 before a grand jury investigating the Palestinian militant movement Hamas. Dr. Ashqar was convicted of criminal contempt and obstruction of justice. Tellingly, in February 2007 a jury had acquitted Dr. Ashqar of all terror-related charges.

In another high profile case, the trial against the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development what - once the nation's largest Islamic charity - ended in a mistrial on October 22, 2007 as federal prosecutors in Dallas, Texas, were unable to gain a conviction on charges that the group's leaders had funneled 12 million dollars to the Hamas militants. After two months testimony and 19 days of deliberations jurors returned no convictions against any of the five former leaders of the Holy Land. Mohammad El-Mezain, the Holy Land's original chairman and endowments director — was acquitted on most of the counts by a unanimous jury. HLF retrial will begin later this month.

Such high profile trials are draining the resources of the Muslim community while giving bad publicity. In short, seven years after 9/11 Muslims in America remain under siege. Profiled, harassed, reviled, attacked, peeped at by the CIA and the FBI, interrogated and permanently controlled at airports, the whole community is virtually excluded of American society. Muslim have experienced a large volume of negative reprisals from sectors of the American public in the form of violent hate crimes, defamatory speech, attacks on hijab-wearing Muslim women and discrimination and harassment at work place.

In the post-9/11 America they find themselves on the defensive and struggling to convince at times skeptical fellow citizens that they can be both Muslims and loyal U.S. citizens.

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Author and journalist. Author of Islamic Pakistan: Illusions & Reality; Islam in the Post-Cold War Era; Islam & Modernism; Islam & Muslims in the Post-9/11 America. Currently working as free lance journalist. Executive Editor of American (more...)
 

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