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My Brother Is In Solitary Confinement As Are 80,000 People in American Prisons

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Oped By Mariam Abu-Ali
Today, my brother Ahmed turns 35.
He could have graduated from college. He could have started a career. He could have met a woman and fallen in love. He could have started a family.
Instead, he has spent the last 13 years behind bars, completely alone.
More than 1600 miles from home, incarcerated in the Supermax in Colorado, my family can only afford to make the trip out to visit him once or twice a year. My parents receive two 15 minute phone calls a month, either on a Tuesday or a Thursday.
My mom has spent every Tuesday and Thursday of the last decade, at home, sitting by the phone, patiently waiting for a call that sometimes did not come. And when the call does come, what can one even discuss in 15 minutes? Do you ask him how he’s doing? How can you even ask him how he’s feeling? Do you discuss his prison conditions? His legal case? How do you break the news to him when his aunt or grandfather has passed away? How do you  comfort him knowing he was denied any chance to even say goodbye? Every phone call and every visit is a traumatic event, a constant reminder that our government will go out of its way to break the prisoner, his family and loved ones.

Breaking the prisoner has been a consistent theme in the US criminal justice system

Last month I had the opportunity to visit the infamous Alcatraz.  Upon reaching the solitary confinement unit,  I overheard a young man telling his friend “can you imagine people had to live in this space day in and day out?” I don’t have to imagine. This is Ahmed’s reality day in and day out. It is the reality of thousands upon thousands of prisoners in US prisons, including adolescents in juvenile detention.

I stepped inside one of the dark solitary confinement cells during the tour and realized Ahmed is housed in a cell not very different from the ones at Alcatraz. Even in Alcatraz, solitary confinement was used for a maximum of a few weeks. Ahmed has been in solitary confinement in the “Alcatraz of the Rockies” for the past 11 years. Rather than progressing towards a more just and fair society, our government’s use of solitary confinement has been expanding and becoming routine. I walked out of the prison into the courtyard, sick to my stomach. The bright California sunlight nearly blinded me. I felt broken and defeated. I prayed and cried.

But prayer is not enough. Justice must be demanded by us. We must hold our government responsible.
I spoke to the wife of a prisoner recently. He spent eight years in solitary confinement. Three months ago, he was finally transferred out. After eight years, he was finally able to have contact with his family. With no  more Plexiglass window separating them, he was finally able to hug his daughters. Solitary confinement and general population are the difference between “heaven and hell,” as another former inmate told me. But after eight years in isolation and deprivation of human contact, he is having a hard time acclimating. He has anxiety attacks. He has difficulty coping with the social stimuli. This is what our government does to more than 80,000 human beings; it deprives them of all sensory stimuli and human contact until they become anxious, depressed, and suicidal. They strip them of their humanity. They break them down, and in the process tear apart their families.
How can we allow such injustice to happen around us? How can we allow any human being to suffer the monstrosity of isolation for years and decades?  Humans are social beings. To strip them of this right is not only cruel and criminal; it is inhumane. It is a human rights violation. It is without a doubt a form of torture, and we must put an end to it.
We visit Alcatraz, now a designated historic landmark, as if it were a relic of the past. But I lay in bed every night and my heart feels heavy with an unspeakable grief, knowing that my brother still languishes unjustly in prison and in isolation. And every time I write about what my brother and family has had to endure, I feel vulnerable. I open my heart and allow the world to see my pain, and I am met with deafening silence.
I try to imagine my brother in his cell. Can you imagine spending all the years of your youth in a room the size of a closet? Can you imagine receiving your food through a slot in the door? Can you imagine being strip-searched and shackled at the hands, waist and legs when you leave your cell to go to the recreational area or the visitation room? Can you imagine being stripped of even an iota of dignity? My world caves in and I can’t breathe.
And then I begin to pray, as I have every single night for the past 13 years, even on the days when my faith was shaken to its core, unsure and wavering. But today it is more firm and resolute than ever. I need it to be. I pray and plead to the Most High, the Most Just. I force myself to feel a sense of renewed conviction. I am still here. I can still write. I can still fight. I will continue to channel my pain until my brother is a free, victorious man.
I think about this quote by the author Yasmina Khadra with respect to what the government has done to Ahmed:
“They can take everything you own – your property, your best years, all your joys, all your good works, everything down to your last shirt-but you’ll always have your dreams, so you can reinvent your stolen world.”
I will keep dreaming of a world where Ahmed is free and where my family and I can help reinvent his stolen years, life, and world. I will also continue to dream of a world in which every human being is afforded their human dignity. I’m fighting an uphill battle, but I constantly remind myself of the words of the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish,
“We have on this earth what makes life worth living,” and for me, the fight for justice is, still, always, worth living for.”

Mariam Abu-Ali was born and raised in Northern VA. She graduated from Georgetown University with a major in Government and a minor in Arabic. After graduating, she worked as a Communications Manager at ICNA Council for Social Justice, where she helped manage projects countering Islamophobia. She is currently the Director of the Prisoners and Families Committee at the National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms. Mariam’s involvement in civil and human rights is very personal. She has been advocating on behalf of her brother Ahmed Abu-Ali, a victim of torture and extraordinary rendition and a US political prisoner for over a decade.

Read Hell is a Very Small Place: Voices from Solitary Confinement

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12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Maha

    March 20, 2016 at 11:13 AM

    This is truly a sad truth and I have prayed everyday since I heard of his story for his release my brother is friends with Ahmed and has nothing but good things to say about him no one believes what they say. Rabina yifok asru ya rab! Wa yonsuru wa yisabbarkum.

  2. Avatar

    Raya

    March 20, 2016 at 10:30 PM

    One of the biggest problems is that people forget the beauty and freedom of forgiveness. When someone commits a crime, most people will damn them for good, believing there will never be any good in them. But why can’t they think about themselves? What about when they do something wrong or commit a sin. They regret it and repent (if they’re religious) or at least they try to make amends. They rush to be forgiven, both by God and by those they wronged. So why can’t we extend that forgiveness and remember that we are on Ar-Rahman’s earth as brothers and sisters in humanity. Instead of keeping someone down, we need to try and build them up because that is how people can thrive and try to better themselves. Yes, Allah is there for them, but we also need to be because they are human beings. And they deserve mercy when they try to better themselves. Most prison inmates deeply regret their past, so why can’t we accept forgiveness and help them to rehabilitate and grow again? Well, perhaps it’s because we like keeping others down..
    And we need to keep in mind that if we were brought up in their living situation (most come from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, where from a young age they saw parents use drugs, have experienced abuse of various kinds, etc), we really don’t know where we would be right now. Think about that..

    As far as the families of the victims, then forgiveness for them is understandably very difficult. I’m not going to say anything that they should do. What I wrote is in regards to the rest of the population, who are not directly involved. With that said, may Allah open the families’ hearts to forgiveness as a means for their own healing as well.

    And another thing we need to keep in mind: their are MANY innocent people incarcerated. Even more of a reason for us to show acceptance and empathy.

    • Avatar

      Raya

      March 20, 2016 at 10:41 PM

      And may Allah keep your brother strong and close to Him. I can’t imagine what he is going through, or how you or your family feels. May Allah grant you all the serenity you need until the Day you will meet Him and may He give you all peace in the akhira and peace in your hearts in this life. Salam from a sister who cares.

  3. Avatar

    Tariq

    March 21, 2016 at 1:14 AM

    Allahumm-ajjurkum fee museebatikum wakhlufkum khayram-minhaa. Rabb-ighfir lanaa walkum.

  4. Avatar

    Nameless

    March 21, 2016 at 1:45 PM

    Inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi raj’ioon. I feel your pain since my husband is in the same prison as your brother serving close to a life sentence. May Allah hasten their release and all our imprisoned. Allah is able to change their conditions. There is khayr in what is happening and soon victory shall come. There is hikma in our trials and I have hope that Allah will aid our brothers and sisters all over the world. Keep making dua and istighfar surely Allah is with the believers. May Allah grant you sabr and ease your brother’s affairs.

  5. Avatar

    Arian Baig

    March 21, 2016 at 4:41 PM

    Inaalilahi wailayhi raajiyuun. Inshaallah Ahmed will be released. The american government does not have any right to take sociality and the connection of family away from them, it’s against the rights of a human. I will indeed pray for him.

  6. Avatar

    Bob Elmendorf

    March 22, 2016 at 7:35 PM

    Thank you so much for writing this article about your brother which must have been very difficult for you.
    There is no reason for solitary confinement. It is torture, pure and simple, robbing the prisoner and the administration of their humanity. I will keep you, your brother and your family in my prayers.

    • Avatar

      Bob Elmendorf

      March 22, 2016 at 8:33 PM

      I want to add to my comment. I am a Quaker who has advocated for imprisoned Muslims. Ahmed’s imprisonment and what the so called justice system has dealt him constitute a horrendous, illegal and immoral crime against him. Some remarks and some conduct of Gordon Kromberg, Ahmed’s federal prosecutor in the Eastern District of Virginia have been inexplicably barbaric, and I can only hope and pray that he has come to the good senses he started his career with. Ahmed never should gone to prison in the first place and should be released immediately with a full apology and indemnities to his family and reparations to his community.

  7. Avatar

    Sheeza

    March 23, 2016 at 3:44 PM

    Inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi raj’ioon

    *Name has been changed to comply to our Comments Policy*
    [Please refrain from using a ‘Name’ that is considered advertising]

  8. Avatar

    JF

    March 26, 2016 at 12:47 PM

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ahmed_Omar_Abu_Ali

    I don’t believe in solitary confinement. I think it is a form of torture. I also don’t believe that this man should be released from prison or allowed to live in anything but a very controlled environment in which he cannot influence others.

    In the past, the consequences for his actions would have resulted in execution, and we would not have to worry about how to humanely imprison him for the rest of his life.

    It is very sad that his parents chose to educate him at the Saudi Islamic Academy in Alexandra, VA, which has been a cause for concern for many years and taught a very violent and hateful religious curriculum. He then prayed at Dar al-Hijrah mosque, which has produced three other terrorists. Finally, he chose to study in Saudi Arabia, the hotbed of Wahhabism and a country known to torture prisoners. When he was imprisoned there, Abu Ali’s family demanded that he be extradited here. Now that he is here, they are still unhappy with his treatment.

    His parents failed him by bringing up a radical. The heart of the Islamic world, Saudi Arabia, failed him by teaching him violence and hatred. Very sad.

    • Avatar

      Alex Baxter

      March 28, 2016 at 2:35 AM

      Dear JF

      I know nothing of this case so I can not speak for or against…. but just had some questions from your comment:

      > Saudi Islamic Academy in Alexandra, VA, … taught a very violent and hateful religious curriculum.
      Have you looked at their curriculum or is this based on hearsay?

      > Saudi Arabia, the hotbed of Wahhabism
      How do you define ‘Wahhabism’?

      > His parents failed him by bringing up a radical.
      Interesting that they brought up a radical son but their daughter (who wrote this) apparently seems a very unradicalized person.

      >The heart of the Islamic world, Saudi Arabia, failed him by teaching him violence and hatred.
      How do you know it was Saudi Arabia that taught him this and not say some other local influence in his childhood?

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#Current Affairs

Confronting Internalized Islamophobia

internalized Islamophobia

Last semester, I was teaching Roxane Gay’s essay “Peculiar Benefits” to a class of college freshmen. Following Gay’s lead, I asked my students to reflect critically on their own lives, on when they benefited from certain forms of privilege and when they didn’t. Unsurprisingly, my students pointed out many intelligent things, such as how English-language skills and physical ability are often unacknowledged as forms of privilege. What surprised me was what all the Muslim students listed not as a privilege but as a source of marginalization: being Muslim.

My students are on to something. Being  Muslim American today means dealing with a president who recently expanded his travel ban to six new countries, all of which have sizable Muslim populations. Being Muslim American today means worrying if your own house of worship will be attacked by a white supremacist, as happened in New Zealand, and in states across America. Being Muslim American means belonging to a faith community that, according to the research, endures the highest levels of religious discrimination in the country today.

In other words, being Muslim means confronting an Islamophobia that is real, that is part of American government policy, and that can even be deadly. With this sober reality, you might assume that American Muslims  would be unified in collective opposition to the dangerous bigotry that is Islamophobia.

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New research, however, puts this notion into question. According to a study by the Institute for Social and Political Understanding (ISPU), a research organization that studies American Muslims in depth, Muslim Americans can themselves be Islamophobic.

The findings are as interesting as they are unexpected. Over the last two years, the ISPU and Georgetown University’s Bridge Initiative have used a measure tracking anti-Muslim sentiment that they developed. Called the “Islamophobia Index,” the measure is based on answers to specific survey questions regarding Muslims and their assumed behaviors.

Over the last two annual polls conducted by ISPU, the findings reveal that white Evangelicals hold the most Islamophobic attitudes of any faith group while Jews are among the lowest. In the 2019 study, only Muslims were less Islamophobic than Jews, but some Muslims still endorsed Islamophobic sentiments.

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Where does this internalized Islamophobia come from?

Some of it seems to be internalized shame. Muslims are the most likely faith community to “strongly agree” (44%) with the following statement: “When I hear that a member of my faith community committed an act of violence, I feel personally ashamed.” This compares to roughly a third of Jews (34%), Catholics (34%), Protestants (35%), and white Evangelicals (33%).

But that’s not all. Through crunching the numbers, the ISPU determined who’s more at risk in holding Islamophobic attitudes and what could protect someone from believing Islamophobic ideas. The least likely Muslims to hold Islamophobic views tend to be Democrats, thirty years-of-age or older, and self-identifying as Arab or Asian. Risk factors, meanwhile, include being between 18 and 29 years old, having experienced gender discrimination, either from within the Muslim community or from outside the Muslim community, and having experienced sectarian discrimination from within the Muslim community.

The least likely Muslims to hold Islamophobic views tend to be Democrats, thirty years-of-age or older, and self-identifying as Arab or Asian.Click To Tweet

What does all this mean? A fully formed picture may have to wait until a qualitative study puts some flesh onto these numbers, but it’s not difficult to see where the research is heading. It seems statistically likely that both gender discrimination and sectarian discrimination are pushing some young American Muslims into internalizing Islamophobia. According to ISPU’s 2019 Annual Poll, “as many as 41% of Muslim women experience gender discrimination at the hands of other Muslims at some frequency.” We should also note that sectarian discrimination with the American Muslim community has a racial dimension. The ISPU study identifies Black Muslims reporting much higher levels of sectarian discrimination (43% report it) than Arab Muslims (at 26%).

What does this mean for the community?

It’s time to state this plainly. We Muslim Americans simply must get our own house in order if we want to vanquish Islamophobia. Sexism and sectarianism have no place in the Muslim-American community. While outside factors such as negative media portrayals of Muslims certainly play a role in normalizing and promoting Islamophobic ideas, it’s also true—as this latest study makes clear—that Muslims who have personally experienced discrimination from other Muslims are the ones more likely to internalize Islamophobia.

And internalized Islamophobia, like all Islamophobia, is disastrous for everyone. People who score high on the Islamophobia index, Muslim or not, are also more likely to support discriminatory policies (such as the Muslim ban and the surveillance of mosques), curtailing civil liberties, and even the military targeting of civilians. On the other hand, those with the lowest levels of Islamophobia also exhibit high regard for African Americans, Jewish Americans, and LGBTQ Americans, proving that Islamophobia is but one part of how racism and discrimination work in this country.

Faith as a source of happiness

While internalized Islamophobia is real, it is also true that most Muslim women (87%) and Muslim men (84%) report seeing “their faith identity as a source of happiness in their life.” All the more reason why the onus of defeating internalized Islamophobia is on no one but us Muslims.

After all, as every Muslim reads in the Qur’an, “Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves” (13:11). Stopping internalized Islamophobia is also a necessary step to defeating all Islamophobia. And when that day comes, I suspect my Muslim students will consider their faith not as a stigma of difference but as a source of profound pride.

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#Current Affairs

A Warrior Against Genocide, Abubacarr Tambadou | Imam Omar Suleiman

Last night I had the pleasure of hosting His Excellency Attorney General Abubacarr Marie Tambadou, the Justice Minister of the Gambia and Imam Omar Suleiman at Honor Our Heroes in Washington DC. Imam Omar presented the Torch of Justice Award on behalf of Justice For All’s Burma Task Force and the American Muslim community to the Justice Minister for fighting genocide.

 I have been working on stopping this genocide in my role as the Director of Justice For All and the part Attorney General Tambadou has played in taking this evil regime to the world’s highest court on behalf of the Rohingya is the kind of leadership and courage we need to see on the global stage.

Here are Shaykh Omar’s remarks. – Hena Zuberi, EIC

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I would like to begin this presentation to His Excellency Abou Bakr Tambadou by reminding all of us of the greatest man to walk the face of the earth after the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), Abu Bakr As Siddique.

It was narrated that Qais bin Abu Hazim said:

قَالَ قَامَ أَبُو بَكْرٍ فَحَمِدَ اللَّهَ وَأَثْنَى عَلَيْهِ ثُمَّ قَالَ يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنَّكُمْ تَقْرَءُونَ هَذِهِ الآيَةَ ‏{يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا عَلَيْكُمْ أَنْفُسَكُمْ لاَ يَضُرُّكُمْ مَنْ ضَلَّ إِذَا اهْتَدَيْتُمْ}‏ وَإِنَّا سَمِعْنَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ ـ صلى الله عليه وسلم ـ يَقُولُ ‏”‏ إِنَّ النَّاسَ إِذَا رَأَوُا الْمُنْكَرَ لاَ يُغَيِّرُونَهُ أَوْشَكَ أَنْ يَعُمَّهُمُ اللَّهُ بِعِقَابِهِ ‏”‏ ‏

Abu Bakr stood up and praised and glorified Allah, then he said: ‘O people, you recite this Verse – “O you who believe! Take care of your own selves. If you follow the (right) guidance no hurt can come to you from those who are in error.”[5:105] – but I heard the Messenger of Allah ﷺ say: ‘If people see some evil but do not change it, soon Allah will send His punishment upon them all.’” 

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When Abubaccar Tambadou made his way from Gambia in West Africa, to the Rohingya refugee camps in Southeast Asia, he knew he couldn’t turn away from the evil he had witnessed.“

Listening to survivors’ stories he said the “stench of genocide” began drifting across the border into Bangladesh from Myanmar.

He said: “I realized how much more serious it was than the flashes we’d seen on television screens, Military and civilians would organize systematic attacks against Rohingya, burn down houses, snatch babies from their mothers’ arms and throw them alive into burning fires, round up and execute men; girls were gang-raped and put through all types of sexual violence.”

“It sounded very much like the kind of acts that were perpetrated against the Tutsi in Rwanda.”

In that genocide, up to a 1,000,000 Rwandans were killed with machetes and rifles, about 70% of the country’s Tutsi population. Sexual violence was rife, with up to 500,000 women being raped. 

At that time, His Excellency Abubaccar Tambadou worked as a trial attorney, where he was responsible for prosecuting violations of international human rights law in Rwanda. He secured the prosecution of four war criminals, including former Rwandan army general Augustin Bizimungu who called his victims cockroaches. 

Here Abubaccar was now, a decade later, witnessing the Rohingya genocide. More than 128,000 Muslims remain in detention camps in Burma today, where they have been confined since 2012, arbitrarily deprived of their liberty. More than 730,000 Rohingya have fled to neighboring Bangladesh since the military campaign of ethnic cleansing began in August 2017

Their villages have been burned down, their bodies discarded like waste, and the world has remained unwilling and unable to support them in their plight.

Simon Adams, head of the humans rights organization, Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, said there was only one man with the courage, skills and humanity to try to hold Myanmar accountable for the alleged atrocities.

“Some were afraid of retaliation from the Chinese” (who tried to stop the prosecution of Myanmar knowing that it may set a precedent for them being taken to court for their Uyghur  concentration camps).

Simon Adams continued to say, “Others said it wasn’t a good time, was too politically risky. [But] I was impressed by his fearlessness. He realized what would be coming pressure-wise but he was developing a strategy to deal with it.”

Abubacarr Tambadou

What is a hero?

Is it “an ordinary individual who finds strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles? Is it “someone who understands the degree of responsibility that comes with his freedom? Is it someone who uses their power responsibly to support the powerless? Is it the man of resilience who is braver for 5 more minutes than his fellow man?

To us, a hero is one who recognizes the truth when others deny it, lives by it when others abandon it, pursues it when others obstruct it, and upholds it when others oppose it.

Abu Bakr As Siddiq raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) was a hero because he not only refused to let falsehood stand in the way of his recognition of the truth when it was manifest to him, but also refused to let fear stand in the way of his pursuit of that truth when it challenged him. 

Abu Bakr As Siddiq raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) ran to the defense of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) when he was being persecuted for his beliefs and shouted: 

أَتَقْتُلُونَ رَجُلًا أَن يَقُولَ رَبِّيَ اللَّهُ

Would you kill a man for saying his Lord is Allah?

Abubaccar Tambadou rushed to the support of the millions being persecuted for saying their Lord is Allah.

Abu Bakr As Siddique said: 

لا يحقرن أحد أحدا من المسلمين فان صغير المسلمين عند الله كبير

Do not belittle any of the Muslims, for even the lowest of the Muslims is great in the sight of Allah.

Abubaccar Tambadou refused to belittle those brothers and sisters who had been deemed too insignificant by even the wealthiest Muslim nations to uplift

Abu Bakr As Siddique raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) said: 

الضعيف فيكم قوي عندي حتى أريح عليه حقه إن شاء الله والقوى فيكم عندي ضعيف حتى آخذ الحق منه إن شاء الله

The weak among you is strong in my sight, until I return to them that which is rightfully theirs God willing. And the strong among you is weak in my sight until I take from them what is rightfully someone else’s God willing.

Abubaccar Tambadou fought for the rights of the oppressed Rohingya to be returned to them, and refused to succumb to the intimidation of the government of Myanmar (Burma) and other strong governments that feared being held accountable for their own war crimes.Click To Tweet

When Abu Bakr As Siddiq raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) was with the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), it was only the 2 of them and the third was Allah. Imam Al Ghazali (ra) said the most blessed oppressed one to support is the one who has no one but Allah (man la naasira lahu ilAllah), and so when you choose to champion those who others find no political usefulness in supporting, you become a special agent of Allah sent to their aid in rare company.

Your Excellency Abubaccar, may Allah grant you a generous space under the shade of His Throne on the Day of Judgment, and a distinguished station next to the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) in the highest level of Paradise.

Justice For All’s Burma Task Force has filed a case on behalf of the victims of the Rohingya Genocide in the International Court of Justice- support the case by donating here. The Rohingya want justice.

 

Photo: Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid, Chair of Burma Task Force, His Excellency Abubaccar Tambadou, Imam Omar Suleiman and Karim Yaqub, Rohingya activist at the presentation of the Torch of Justice.

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#Current Affairs

WATCH: Bloomberg Claims Mass Surveillance Of American Muslims Was “The Right Thing To Do”

Former mayor of NYC Michael Bloomberg’s claims his mass suspicionless surveillance programs against Muslims were legal and the right thing to do don’t stand up to basic scrutiny as courts actually ruled against them. He should apologize to the Muslim community for his behavior as he did for stop-and-frisk.

Targeted Suspicionless Mass Surveillance of Muslims is Illegal

Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg claimed in an interview with PBS New Hour that the mass suspicionless surveillance of Muslim Americans was “exactly within the law” and “the right thing to do”.  The program was conducted as a joint effort between the NYPD and the CIA aimed at Muslims not only in NYC, but as well in Pennsylvania, Connecticut, New Jersey, and elsewhere.  It targeted mosques, university student associations, community leaders, cabbies, and more.  Informants and spies were sent to not only gather information on Muslims but to attempt to bait and entrap them as well. The program reportedly did not produce a single conviction.

Bloomberg’s assertion that “the courts ruled that it was exactly within the law” is false.  The NYPD was taken to court and forced to settle in Hasan v City of New York lawsuit after it was found that the First Amendment rights of the plaintiffs, among other rights, had been grossly violated.  The court stated:

What occurs here in one guise is not new. We have been down similar roads before. Jewish-Americans during the Red Scare, African-Americans during the Civil Rights Movement, and Japanese-Americans during World War II are examples that readily spring to mind. We are left to wonder why we cannot see with foresight what we see so clearly with hindsight—that “[l]oyalty is a matter of the heart and mind[,] not race, creed, or color.” Ex parte Mitsuye Endo, 323 U.S. 283, 302 (1944).

Hassan v New York Press Conference
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The ACLU, the NYCLU, and the CLEAR project hold a press conference with plaintiffs Asad Dandia and Imam Hamid Hassan Raza in their lawsuit against the NYPD mass suspicionless surveillance

Under the terms of the settlement, the NYPD agreed to the following, in summary:

  • Not engage in suspicionless surveillance on the basis of religion or ethnicity;
  • Permit plaintiff input to a first-ever Policy Guide, which will govern the Intelligence Bureau’s activities, and to publish the Guide to the public;
  • Attend a public meeting with plaintiffs so they can express their concerns about the issues in the lawsuit directly to the NYPD Commissioner or senior ranking official;
  • Pay businesses and mosques damages for income lost as a result of being unfairly targeted by the NYPD and pay individuals damages for the stigma and humiliation harms they suffered for being targeted on the basis of their religion.

The Human Impact of this Program

Bloomberg also asserted the NYPD’s conduct was “the right thing to do”, but not only was it illegal, it caused stress and harm to all those impacted.  Take Asad Dandia, for example:

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The consequences of this program were that it created a stigma on Muslims, it interfered with the ability of religious leaders to deliver proper sermons / khutbahs for fear of what could be taken out of context, it caused mosque congregants to be suspicious of newcomers and dissuaded attendance, it harmed political engagement in protests and public debates for fear of profiling, and it created major distrust of law enforcement and their ability to protect the community at large.

Make Bloomberg Take Responsibility

Mayor Bloomberg has apologized for stop-and-frisk claiming he reduced it by 95% after its problems came to light, though in reality, that’s simply not true – he was defending it as late as the month before his presidential bid, and it was reduced to due a court ruling he opposed.  It’s pretty obvious his apology is for his presidential run.  Likewise, his statement in the PBS interview “not all Muslims are terrorists, nor are all terrorists Muslim” as well as his support for the construction of the “Ground Zero” mosque are all commendable, but they are not enough to escape the charge of harming and discriminating against Muslims as a faith group.  Muslim Americans and Democrats, particularly those who think he’s a viable alternative to Sanders in the moderate/centrist lane should demand the former mayor also apologize for his actions against our community, and even if it is insincere, it should be understood that overt discrimination in policy or rhetoric against our community or any other should come with serious social and political repercussion.

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MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

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