By Kameelah Mu’Min Rashad
In Aug 2011, Associated Press journalists Chris Hawley, Adam Goldman, Eileen Sullivan and Matt Apuzzo began publishing a series of detailed reports exposing a decades long secret surveillance program. This program was engineered by the NYPD (with assistance from the CIA) to gather intelligence on entire Muslim communities. Operating under the auspices of the “Demographic Unit”, law enforcement spied on American Muslim citizens all along the Northeastern seaboard— from New Haven, CT to Philadelphia, PA. The extent and reach of this suspicion-less spying extended far beyond the boundaries of New York City; with local officials and police departments seemingly unaware that the NYPD was conducting such far-reaching clandestine activity outside of its jurisdiction.
This series of Associated Reports revealed the surreal and sordid details of a program that read more like a Hollywood Spy/Crime drama- filled with informants, undercover police officers (“rakers and mosque crawlers”), monitoring of masjids, bookstores, homes, cafés, halal meat markets, and other businesses. Muslim Students’ Associations were also targeted for surveillance –including Yale MSA, City College of New York, Rutgers New Brunswick and UPenn MSA. NYPD informants infiltrated MSA student meetings, chat rooms, online forums and group outings. Based on information obtained by the Associated Press “Student groups were of particular interest to the NYPD because they attract young Muslim men, a demographic that terrorist groups frequently draw from. Police worried about which Muslim scholars were influencing these students and feared that extracurricular activities such as paintball outings could be used as terrorist training.”
Mental Health Repercussions on Youth
To read clear, irrefutable evidence that law enforcement was engaging in such despicable activities is mind-boggling and absolutely frightening. The legal, political and economic ramifications of these covert operations may seem clear. However, there has been insufficient attention paid to the emotional and psychological toll this program had, and continues to have on the psyche of American Muslims – both those who were targeted and those who (as far as they know) were not being monitored. Imagine finding out that, for not reason other than your faith, you were being watched, the details of your daily life being recorded in a file? Imagine going to Jummah prayer and the person sitting next to you is secretly taking notes on everyone in the musallah? Jotting down names of those who seem particularly ‘devout’? Those who may be ‘susceptible to extremist ideology’? Imagine attending a Ramadan iftar at a neighbors house and this gathering viewed with suspicion?
These revelations induced feelings of anxiety, trauma, stark vulnerability and powerlessness. A 2014 research study entitled “Under Surveillance and Overwrought: American Muslims ‘ Emotional and Behavioral Responses to Government Surveillance” found that heightened levels of psychological distress, anxiety and avoidance of discussions that may increase the likelihood of future surveillance were prominent.
Now imagine being 20 year old college student, president of the MSA at the University of Pennsylvania, whose “aim and focus was to put on meaningful and fun events for my friends and peers. Our biggest concerns were getting summer internships”. Imagine now being told that your student group, your friends, those you cared for, were being targeted by the NYPD due to “possible terrorist activity”? This was the reality for Mohammed ‘Mak’ Hussain – thrust into this controversy and wholly unprepared to deal with the injustice of religious profiling. Mak shares his intimate personal reflections and emotions experienced during that time.
“Three years later, remembering the events of that week elicit feelings of confusion, frustration, and powerlessness that I haven’t felt since then. Old scabs are being pulled back to reveal wounds that were only partially healed.
As the president of the student group targeted for surveillance by the NYPD, I felt responsible for the well-being of its members. As a 20-year-old trying to lead a club, I found myself in a position where I felt I needed to safeguard hundreds of my peers from the very people who were meant to protect us. I had advisers and mentors, but at the end of the day, there was no one else who could take the responsibility from me for the safety of my organization’s members. Or rather, there was no one who would.
It’s one thing to be aware that you are probably being watched for your skin color, name, or religion. It’s another to have to confront that reality, and ask the associated questions: Why are they doing this? What did we do? What else will they do? Questions that seemed irrational from a distance suddenly became all-encompassing and impossible to dismiss. Students who were previously not involved in the MSA came forth to express their concerns and fears. And for a college student, that was a lot of pressure, leaving me feeling isolated and helpless. I didn’t know what I was doing, and I felt alone and overwhelmed in my responsibility to the community.
When faced with the threat of a government abusing its power, how could I trust any other authority to act without ulterior motives? Could a university support its students unconditionally? Could allied organizations care about us as individuals, and not just another opportunity to make a statement? People cared about our rights, but not about the kids pushed into making public statements because they felt they had to, even when they seemingly fell on deaf ears. There was little concern for college students who appeared on hostile talk radio shows because they felt they needed to represent the community, whatever the forum; those who had to negotiate with administrators for support that they assumed was the right given to any student; those who had to protest in the middle of campus, not driven by the spirit of an activist or a desire for justice, but because the feelings of frustration and helplessness were too much to take sitting down. Those who wept openly during Friday prayers because they hadn’t taken a breath for a week and weren’t prepared to shoulder the responsibility of the safety of a community.
The NYPD’s surveillance damaged my sense of security. My sense of trust in those I thought I were supposed to be able to trust. The resulting cynicism and escapism lasted the rest of the semester and into the summer. I’m ever grateful to those who got me through it with their concern and small kindnesses, from mentors to peers…but in the end, myself, and I feel the community, were exhausted.
Taking Care of Our Communities
Mak’s experience underscores the need for us as a community to address the short and long term mental and psychological impact and toll of Islamophobia, violence, racism, xenophobia, fear-mongering, racial and religious profiling. As a community, we rush to enter into an odd pageant of punditry, critique and analysis of “Good Muslims” vs.“Bad Muslims”. We appear to have become very adept at issuing apologies and condemnations, offering khutbahs explaining the “true essence” of Islam, denouncing murderers and renewing calls to engage in ‘counter-terrorist’ dawah (disseminating information about Islam designed to neutralize the spread of extremist ideology).
However, it is critically and equally as important that we learn to engage in radical self-care and self-compassion. Imagine how young people like Mak Hussain feel – ‘undersurveillance and overwrought’. For the majority of their lives, Islam and Muslims have been characterized more often than not as a religion of blood-thirsty callous killers. Imagine the psychological wear and tear on a soul and spirit. As the Muslim Chaplain at the University of Pennsylvania, I will be facilitating a series of conversations (‘Healing Halaqas’) designed to offer safe space for young people to process the anxiety and trauma experienced by recent local and national headlines and controversies – from #CharlieHebdo to Boko Haram’s brutal slaughtering of over 2,000* Nigerians. It is important that we stay connected with one another, strengthen our community, remain resilient and discuss healthy ways to cope in the midst of troubling public events and dialogue. I urge community members to have these discussions openly and honestly. We must take care of one another emotionally because the ongoing dialogue related to religion, extremism, and terrorism assaults ALL our spirits.
Kameelah Mu’Min Rashad is the Interfaith Fellow and Muslim Chaplain at the University of Pennsylvania. She is also the founder of Muslim Wellness Foundation and lead organizer Muslims Make It Plain, a coalition of concerned Muslims working to inspire, empower and support grassroots mobilization and direct action to address police brutality, racial and religious profiling, unlawful surveillance and the over policing of America’s Black and Brown communities. Kameelah graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a BA in Psychology and M.Ed in Psychological Services and is currently pursuing her doctorate in Clinical Psychology at Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia.
Mak Hussain graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 2013, with a degree in biochemistry. He now lives in San Francisco, working in data analytics. He’s passionate about nature, education, and increasing accessibility of high-quality locally-raised, organic halal meat
Federal Case Against NYPD Spying Program To Be Heard In US Court of Appeals (Philadelphia)
More info: muslimadvocates.org/endspying
*numbers are unverified due to lack of information from region
Malaysians Ask China To Free Uyghurs, Close The Camps
By Gulnaz Uighur
Muslims are standing up for Uyghurs, protests held in Malaysia.
5th of July could be just like another day for people but for Uyghurs, it brings back dark memories of a bloody past. This day, in 2009, thousands of Uyghur students were massacred by Chinese police in Urumqi. These young students were demanding an investigation into the rising number of homicides in a toy factory. These people only wanted justice. They were also upset by the ongoing discrimination in the employment sector. Graduates were denied jobs because of their Uyghur ethnicity. After the protests, China started abducting the Uyghur youth and no one knows where the missing went. Its been 10 years since that horrifying incident and the condition of Muslims have devolved in a genocidal nightmare.
Communist Government in China Has over 2 Million Uyghurs in Concentration Camps
Beijing has now locked over 2 million Uyghurs in concentration camps. People in these places are forced to denounce Islam, forget the teachings of Quran, prohibited from praying, asked to learn Xi Jinping’s speech and tortured for not obeying these orders. Sadly, Islam is being treated as a disease in China and most of the Islamic nations are turning a blind eye to it.
So Malaysia came as a breath of fresh air when Muslim NGOs organized an anti-China protest against Uyghur persecution.
On 5th July 2019, a coalition of 34 Malaysian NGOs gathered outside the Chinese Embassy in Kuala Lumpur to protest the persecution of Uyghurs. The organizations prepared a memo of protest to be submitted to Chinese officials. In the memo, they demanded Beijing to ‘Respect the human rights of the Uyghur people, in particular, their right to life and freedom of religion and belief.’ , ‘immediately stop the persecution and extreme repression of the Uyghur people.’ and close the camps. They also called upon the International community to increase the voices of protest and disfavour upon the Chinese government and to work together to improve the situation for the Uyghur people through concrete actions.
The protesters shouted slogans like ‘Me Too Uyghur’ and ‘Save Uyghur’. In a media interview, president of the Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia (Abim), Mohamad Raimi Abdul Rahim asked immediate freedom for all those who have been detained in concentration camps.
Malaysians Stand With Uyghurs
Abim secretary Muhammad Faisal Abdul Aziz accused the Chinese government of concealing the plight of the Uyghurs by offering NGOs and government agencies free trips and painting a rosy picture of the camps. Mohd Azmi Abdul Hamid, chairman of the Malaysian Consultative Council Of Islamic Organizations (Mapim), said the atrocities committed against the Uyghurs could not be denied or disguised. The Group of NGOs also included Ikram Association and the Malaysian Youth Council among others.
Though no Chinese official came out to accept the memo, the message was clear that now people won’t keep quiet about the Uyghur persecution. There is a dire need for Muslim countries to break their silence on this issue. There is enough evidence to prove that something unholy and inhumane is happening with Uyghurs. If these countries consider China their friend then ask it to stop being a Shaitan. The leaders must realize that their first duty is towards the Ummah and not towards China.
Now is the time to stand for Uyghurs before nothing is left to be saved.
This protest in Malaysia has proved that people in Muslim countries do support Uyghurs even if their governments are silent and are upset with Beijing’s policies. This event proved that governments may fail to fight but people won’t.
The Environmental Cost Of War With Iran
Report after report shows how planet Earth may reach a point of no return. An analysis written by Ian Dunlop claims the planet cannot be saved by the mid-century if we continue on this path. And yet here we are marching towards a war with Iran.
When we think of climate change, we rarely think of war. On June 12th, 2019, Brown University released a report declaring the Department of Defence to be “the world’s largest institution to use petroleum and correspondingly, the single largest producer of greenhouse gases (GHG) in the world.” Burning jet fuel for transportation of troops and weapons make up 70 percent of the Pentagon’s emissions. Ironically, earlier this year the Pentagon released a 22-page report to Congress stating the ⅔ of their mission-essential installation in the US are vulnerable to flooding, and ½ are susceptible to wildfires. To no surprise, Trump rejected those findings at the time. The Pentagon is now concerned with the impact climate change has on their “foreign missions.”
With tensions high with Iran, and several thousand troops are expected to be deployed, if war with Iran is to happen, it may lead us to a more damaged planet that may not recover. This makes the Pentagon guilty of killing people and the earth. The Department of Defense has consistently used between 77-80% of the entire US energy consumption. We see spikes during times of massive war (since America is in a constant state of war), like in 1991, 2001, and so on.
Here is a list of the seven significant sources of greenhouse emissions done by the Department of Defense:
- Overall military emissions for installations and non-war operations.
- War-related emissions by the US military in overseas contingency operations.
- Emissions caused by US military industry — for instance, for production of weapons and ammunition.
- Emissions caused by the direct targeting of petroleum, namely the deliberate burning of oil wells and refineries by all parties.
- Sources of emissions by other belligerents.
- Energy consumed by reconstruction of damaged and destroyed infrastructure.
- Emissions from other sources, such as fire suppression and extinguishing chemicals, including Halon, a greenhouse gas, and from explosions and fires due to the destruction of non-petroleum targets in warzones.
This impact on the climate is just the portion from America, in the Iraq war, 37 countries fought alongside America, and 60 are allied against ISIS. There is a way to calculate those emissions as well.
The Rules of War
Before engaging in battle, the Prophet Muhammad instructed his soldiers:
- Do not kill any child, any woman, or any elder or sick person. (Sunan Abu Dawud)
- Do not practice treachery or mutilation. (Al-Muwatta)
- Do not uproot or burn palms or cut down fruitful trees. (Al-Muwatta)
- Do not slaughter a sheep or a cow or a camel, except for food. (Al-Muwatta)
- If one fights his brother, [he must] avoid striking the face, for God created him in the image of Adam. (Sahih Bukhari, Sahih Muslim)
- Do not kill the monks in monasteries, and do not kill those sitting in places of worship. (Musnad Ahmad Ibn Hanbal)
- Do not destroy the villages and towns, do not spoil the cultivated fields and gardens, and do not slaughter the cattle. (Sahih Bukhari; Sunan Abu Dawud)
- Do not wish for an encounter with the enemy; pray to God to grant you security; but when you [are forced to] encounter them, exercise patience. (Sahih Muslim)
- No one may punish with fire except the Lord of Fire. (Sunan Abu Dawud).
- Accustom yourselves to do good if people do good, and not to do wrong even if they commit evil. (Al-Tirmidhi)
A verse in the Holy Qur’an
4:75 (Y. Ali) And why should ye not fight in the cause of Allah and of those who, being weak, are ill-treated (and oppressed)?- Men, women, and children, whose cry is: “Our Lord! Rescue us from this town, whose people are oppressors; and raise for us from thee one who will protect; and raise for us from thee one who will help!”
How does this potential war against Iran play into all this?
Our first call to action is to organize an anti-war rally. This type of work is weak in America, and virtually non-existent within the Muslim community.
فَقَالَ أَبُو سَعِيدٍ أَمَّا هَذَا فَقَدْ قَضَى مَا عَلَيْهِ سَمِعْتُ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم يَقُولُ “ مَنْ رَأَى مُنْكَرًا فَلْيُنْكِرْهُ بِيَدِهِ وَمَنْ لَمْ يَسْتَطِعْ فَبِلِسَانِهِ وَمَنْ لَمْ يَسْتَطِعْ فَبِقَلْبِهِ وَذَلِكَ أَضْعَفُ الإِيمَانِ ” . قَالَ أَبُو عِيسَى هَذَا حَدِيثٌ حَسَنٌ صَحِيحٌ .
Abu Sa’eed said: ‘As for this, he has fulfilled what is upon him. I heard the Messenger of Allah saying: ‘Whoever among you sees an evil, then let him stop it with his hand. Whoever is not able, then with his tongue, and whoever is not able, then with his heart. That is the weakest of faith.”‘
War with Iran will be a Greater Mistake than War with Iraq
Historically, anti-war sentiment in America has grown over the years. When the Iraq war first started only 23% thought it was a mistake, today it is close to 60% that believe the war is a mistake. Yes, this is in hindsight, but that it is also growth. The reason the anti-war movement is feeble in America is that there is no platform for the campaign to grow. Both parties are guilty of starting wars or taking over the wars from the past administration. Whether we do it alone as an individual or as a group, we should do everything we can as privileged members of this planet to save and protect those that can’t defend themselves.
There is a famous quote of the famed boxer Muhammad Ali when explaining why he wasn’t fighting in the war. He said, “…I am not going ten thousand miles from home to help murder and burn another poor nation simply to continue the domination of white slave masters of the darker people the world over. This is the day when such evils must come to an end. I have been warned that to take such a stand would put my prestige in jeopardy and could cause me to lose millions of dollars which should accrue to me as the champion.”
With that said, there is a significant interest in the region for more than just fuel and resources. It is truly a problem, our operations in the Gulf is to address our dependency on Persian oil, and the fuel that is used to address our dependence is to protect those resources and access to them. One estimate is that America spends $81 billion annually defending the global oil supply. They do this because the DOD feels its dependency will make it vulnerable on a larger scale.
In 1975 America decided to take away the fear of losing the resources and developed the “Strategic Petroleum Reserve,” and in 1978, they created the Rapid Deployment Force (RDF). Their only purpose was to defend US interest in the Middle East. This, in turn, leads to extractivism of resources and supplies. (Which will be explained in a future article).
This war can be the end of all wars as it can accelerate us to the point of no return in regards to climate change.
A war with Iran is a war with Earth and all who live on it.
5 Quick Things Americans Can Do For Uyghurs Today
“I may die, but let it be known that my nation will continue their struggle so long the world continues to exist.” Kazakh leader Uthman Batur. He said these words as Chinese authorities executed him for resisting the communist occupation. Currently, China has, one million Uyghurs (Uighurs), Kazakhs, and other Muslim minorities held in concentration camps in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) (East Turkistan) in northwestern China.
Their struggle surpasses the 10 or so years since we have become aware of it. Just like the Rohingya genocide, we waited till the last minute. We are always late and say, “Never Again.” It happens again and again.
In my lifetime, there have been horrendous genocides that could have been prevented to stopped. As a child, I remember Rwanda in the headlines, then a year later Bosnian genocide. Then we hear these demonic stories after the fact. I remember stories from survivors from Bosnia, and thinking to myself, “How are you here and functioning?”
Let us not be fooled to why this is happening now. It is related to economic advantages. The Chinese government’s present signature foreign policy initiative is the “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI) that seeks to connect the PRC economically to the rest of the Eurasian continent through massive infrastructure projects that will stimulate international trade. The western and south-western components of the BRI require the XUAR to serve as a transportation and commercial hub to trade routes and pipelines that will join China with Central and South Asia, the Middle East, and the entirety of Europe. As a result, the XUAR has become an important strategic region for the Chinese, and the state views its indigenous populations as an obstacle to developing its vision for this future critical center of international commercial networks.1
The expansion of their trade route also ties in Iran hence the sanctions placed, but that’s a different report for a different time. China, of course, has defended their actions by claiming its an anti-terrorism plan. Getting reliable information is hard. China has made it a point to make things difficult for reporters. Yanan Wang, a China-based journalist from the Associated Press, has reported extensively on and from Xinjiang.
In a ceremony at Asia Society on Tuesday commemorating AP’s 2019 Osborn Elliott Award for Excellence in Journalism on Asia, Wang described the subtle ways government minders worked to thwart her reporting: “(Both of the times we went there we arrived at the airport, we had a welcoming committee from the local authorities. They’re always very polite and professional. They say that “you’ve arrived in Xinjiang and we’re here to assist you in your reporting. Tell us what you’re working on so we can help you.” They offer us drives in their car and plenty of hospitality.
Basically, from the moment we arrive, we’re followed by at least one car. There are a bunch of interesting scenarios that we came across. You can see that the local handlers are trying hard to be professional. They are members of the propaganda department, so they’re PR professionals. They don’t want to make it appear like it’s so stifling. At one point, we were taking photos, and someone suddenly appeared on the scene to say he was a “concerned citizen.” He said he’d seen us taking photos and that it was an infringement of his privacy rights. He had this long monologue about privacy rights and about how it wasn’t right for us to take photos of him without his knowledge. We asked him, “Well, where are you in these photos?” and he’d go through all of them. He said we had to delete all of them. He’d say, “This is my brother,” or “This is my place of work, you have to delete it.”
They had all of these interesting tactics to work around the idea that they were trying to obstruct our reporting and make it appear that someone who claims to be a concerned citizen.)”2
On top of that, locals that talk to journalist are punished, sometimes go missing.
I decided to do something this time around; I got in touch with an Uyghur community near my residence to see how an individual could help. It started at a Turkic restaurant, and from there, I have been involved in whatever capacity I am able. Through this effort, I got in touch with a Turkic professor in Turkey who has students stranded as they are cut off from contacting family back in Xinjiang. He helps them out financially; my family and friends help with what they can.
As Muslims in the West, there is no doubt we should act. Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, said “Whosoever of you sees an evil, let him change it with his hand; and if he is not able to do so, then [let him change it] with his tongue; and if he is not able to do so, then with his heart, and that is the weakest of faith” (Muslim).
How Can You Help Uyghurs
Here are a few things you can do to help:
1. Ask Congress to pass To pass S.178 & H.R.649 Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2019. Urge your senator and representative to support this cause. It has been introduced. This bill can help the Uyghur community to be treated like Tibetans (another region oppressed by China).
2. Stay informed. The mainstream media is not the place to get accurate information on the situation. Be skeptical of where the data is coming from, stick to reliable sources that are verified. As mentioned above, journalists find it difficult to report.
4. Boycott or reduce buying Made in China products
5. Follow these links for updated information: facebook.com/Uyghur-Human-Rights-Project-227634297289994/ and facebook.com/ChinaMuslims
This crisis is an ethnic cleansing for profit. These are dark days as we value profit over people.
1.Statement by Concerned Scholars on mass detentions | MCLC …. https://u.osu.edu/mclc/2018/11/27/statement-by-concerned-scholars-on-mass-detention s/
2.Why It’s So Difficult for Journalists To Report From …. https://asiasociety.org/blog/asia/why-its-so-difficult-journalists-report-xinjiang