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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 7/4/16

Blanket surveillance of Muslims in Japan

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Message Abdus-Sattar Ghazali
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Japan's Supreme Court has rejected a second appeal by the country's Muslim community against nationwide surveillance of Muslim groups, mosques and even halal restaurants.

This may not be surprising to America's seven-million-strong Muslim community which has been under real and virtual surveillance since 9/11.

After 15 years of broadly targeting the community and extensively monitoring its activities, the FBI declared an end on June 18, 2016 to its surveillance of Muslim Americans, saying "its exhaustive study of their beautiful culture was finally complete." The Onion News Network quoted the FBI sources as saying, the harvesting of internet data, widespread racial profiling, and the nationwide mapping of Muslim communities have allowed agents to closely observe the followers of Islam.

Not surprisingly, on April 15, 2014, the New York Police Department announced that it has abandoned a secretive program that dispatched plainclothes detectives into Muslim neighborhoods to eavesdrop on conversations and built detailed files on where people ate, prayed and shopped. The police mapped communities inside and outside the New York city, logging where customers in traditional Islamic clothes ate meals and documenting their lunch counter conversations. The Police Department's tactics, which were the subject of two federal lawsuits, drew criticism from civil rights groups who said they harmed national security by sowing mistrust for law enforcement in Muslim communities.

Hence the mass surveillance of the Muslims in Japan was not very astonishing, shocking and surprising.

Interestingly, seventeen Japanese Muslim plaintiffs had complained that the government's security measures constituted "an unconstitutional invasion of their privacy and freedom of religion."

The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal as unconstitutional. The justices concurred with a lower court that the surveillance was "necessary and inevitable" to guard against international terrorism. The Supreme Court also concurred with the lower court that the plaintiffs deserved a total of 90 million ($880,000) in compensation because the leak violated their privacy.

However, the justices did not weigh in on the police profiling or surveillance practices.

Police file leaked

The case was brought after a 2010 police leak revealed officials were monitoring Japanese Muslims at places of worship, halal restaurants and Islam-related organizations across the country.

Japanese-born Muhammad Fujita (not his real name), who converted to Islam more than 20 years ago, told Al-Jazeera the Muslim community had been unfairly targeted for surveillance. "They made us terrorist suspects," he said. "We never did anything wrong."

Fujita says he and his wife have been spied on since the early 2000s. The police documents revealed that tens of thousands of individual Muslims had been extensively profiled, with files detailing their personal information as well as their place of worship.

114 police files were leaked in 2010. The leaked files revealed profiling of Muslims across Japan. The documents included resume-like pages listing a host of personal information, including an individual's name, physical description, personal relationships and the mosque they attended, along with a section titled "suspicions".

The files also showed by the time the 2008 G8 summit was held in Hokkaido, northern Japan, at least 72,000 residents from Organization of Islamic Conference countries had been profiled - including about 1,600 public school students in and around Tokyo.

Police in the capital had also been surveilling places of worship, halal restaurants, and "Islam-related" organizations, the documents showed.

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Abdus-Sattar Ghazali Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

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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