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A Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day in Trumpland and What You Can Do About It

Hena Zuberi

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Which deeds are most beloved to Allah?

Alhamdulillah, by the blessings of Allah (swt) and readers like yourself, MuslimMatters has been an independent platform for our best thought leaders to educate us in our faith and catalyze change through powerful, necessary conversations. Since our humble beginnings as a basic wordpress blog in 2007, our content has remained free.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support us with a monthly donation of $10 per month, or even as little as $1. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

I am having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day in Trumpland as hate crimes escalate and the youth in the Muslim community react to a President they feel they had no choice in electing. In a reflection of its diversity, the Muslim community has shown a variety of responses to the election. Some think we have elected a fascist, some think people are overreacting, and some are already normalizing the situation.

Despite the fact that 400 Muslim leaders held a crisis conference call and a national summit is in the works, there is a lack of shurah among the community. Some Muslim leaders have already begun reaching out to the President-elect with this weak, oddly worded letter. Others are releasing statements of cooperation with this administration, while grassroots activists who deal with those most likely to be affected are pushing for resistance.

Valid concerns are being raised about how Muslim civil rights organizations could be targeted using the Muslim Brotherhood stamp, and as we watch the shenanigans of Muslim leadership in this country, others of us are already unconsciously adopting the language of victimization.

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If Trump wasn’t enough, check out, his “KKKabinet,”- George Takei

While the past eight years were horrible, terrible, and very bad for Muslims at home and overseas under the Obama administration, we cannot take this new administration lightly. No matter where you stand on Trump’s election, the next four years will be a time of struggle with the potential appointments of John Bolton, Rudy Guiliani and Newt Gingrich for Secretary of State.

We have confirmed appointments of Lt Gen Michel Flynn as national security adviser and General Jeff Sessions as attorney general.  Moreso, Frank Gaffney and Kris Kobach and White Nationalist, former Breitbart executive Stephen Bannon have been placed as top advisors, giving the Ku Klux Klan’s David Duke thrills. That means rabid anti-Muslim thought will be at the head of the state.

As recently as 2001,  Gaffney Jr. was reported as saying ““We’re witnessing not just the violent kind of jihad that these Islamists believe God compels them to engage in, but also, where they must for tactical reasons, a more stealthy kind, or civilizational jihad as the Muslim Brotherhood calls it. We’re witnessing that playing out, not only in places in the Middle East but also in Europe, in Australia, in Canada and here in the United States as well.”
—Quoted by Newsmax, October 2011

Trump’s foreign policy team also includes Walid Phares, a Maronite Christian who trained Lebanese militants in ideological beliefs justifying the war against Lebanon’s Muslim and Druze factions.  “I can’t think of any earlier instance a [possible presidential] adviser having held a comparable formal position with a foreign organization,” says Paul Pillar, a 20-year veteran of the CIA and a professor at Georgetown’s Center for Peace and Security Studies.

“It should raise eyebrows any time someone in a position to exert behind-the-scenes influence on a US leader has ties to a foreign entity that are strong enough for foreign interests, and not just US interests, to determine the advice given,” writes Adam Serwer in his 2011 Mother Jones article.

Concerned about immigration

While No Fly Lists and The Terror Watch List are already in existence, Kobach has said ‘the immigration policy group could recommend the reinstatement of a national registry of immigrants and visitors who enter the United States on visas from countries where extremist organizations are active’. Kris Kobach helped craft the controversial Bush-era NSEERS program, which required immigrants from 25 countries to register themselves with the federal government, based solely on the country they came from—24 of which were Muslim-majority. He was also one of the architects of Arizona’s most racist law — SB 1070 —that gave local police the authority to stop folks based on the “suspicion” that they may be undocumented immigrants

“There were many Muslim immigrants who went to register because they felt if they didn’t do anything wrong, after all what could have happened,” says Darakshan Raja of the Washington Peace Center, who was a witness to NSEERs wrecking havoc in her community.

They were deported. Some were arrested. Others were thrown in prisons. Some were used for entrapments and preemptive prosecutions and the state successfully destroyed local communities.”

While allies have shared that they would show up to register if a registry was implemented Raja adds that “I would like to clarify, this has happened, and you didn’t show up. On the contrary many supported all of these efforts under the post 9/11 policies.”

Hassan Ahmad, an immigration lawyer in the DC Metro, gives more details about the program that is being implemented. We must focus on preventing such programs from starting at all.

 

Here are some concrete action items for families:

I find solace in the words of the Quran: “And We will surely test you with something of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth and lives and fruits, but give good tidings to the patient.” Instead of panicking and giving in to the fear, I need everyone to take this opportunity really seriously. No one can afford to sit back and take it easy. So here’s what you can do.

Go back to the Quran and Seerah. Relearn what standing for Justice means. Increase your adhkar, fortify your soul, reset your moral compass.
Write to your local elected officials, your school board, your PTA, school principal, college provost, newspaper editor, to make them aware of your concerns.

Make sure your paperwork, your masjid, your non profit organization or business’s paperwork is in order.

Check your health plan– sign up for next year. Make sure you use up your end of the year health benefits.

Check your immigration status. Generally, an application that you file is evaluated under law at time of filing. Make sure you file any missing paperwork as soon as possible. Follow up with your attorneys. If you are undocumented, don’t panic but make a plan. Know that there are many seasoned people actively strategizing for your safety.

Widen your social media. If you get all your news and opinions from your own age group or people who think like you then you are stuck in an echo chamber. Also sift through the noise so you don’t panic but get to real issues.
Report all acts of hate or aggression. Last year, I covered hate crimes in our county and county officials did not have any reports of acts against Muslims, because many Muslims do not report them.
Sign this petition and tell the Senate to vote no to Sessions and no to racism, and this one to tell Congress: reject Kobach or anyone who wants to bring us back to the days of Muslim registries. 

Use this spreadsheet so you use your money to boycott the Trumps.

Divest from banks that invest in DAPL. #NoDAPL
Donate to CAIR Muslim Legal Fund of America, Muslim Advocates, Project SALAM – Support and Legal Advocacy for Muslims, The Aafia FoundationNational Coalition To Protect Civil Freedoms (NCPCF) and other civil rights organizations. 

Here are some concrete action items for communities:

Invest in safety. As much as it I hate to say it (I get that many times funding is an issue), mosques and institutions need  video surveillance and outdoor lighting. A solid safety plan –  especially for sisters – needs to be implemented. Set up or pay for self defense classes for your community.

Check in on your community, especially the elderly. “My mother lives alone and rarely ventures out alone,” says Namira Islam, Executive Director of the Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative, who is of Bangladeshi descent. “Immigrant and Muslim identities intersect and Muslim women face a rabid kind of hate. It is harder for women, especially elderly women,” she says.

Call every Black and Latino church in your community and pledge your support. Make a coalition if one doesn’t exist. Spearhead this effort with your local masjid. We often wait around to have other people come to us. Remember those of us who do not belong to the following communities have not gone through anything like what the Black, Latino and Native communities go through.

Request a meeting with your local elected official from the mayor to the senator. There are ways to do this properly – ask local CAIR rep for talking points.

Set up a legal fund in your masjid. Don’t reinvent the wheel. Look at Project Salam, the Muslim Advocates, Muslim Legal Fund, Muslim Justice league, these organizations have been working on cases under the current administration and know the ins and outs of the legal challenges facing us.

Reach out to students and student organizations from other targeted groups. Don’t wait for them to reach out to you and yet hope that they will one day stand for you. Be there for them because you are Allah’s ambassadors.

Push policy changes. Get your masjid or organization involved with nonpartisan faith based community organizers such as PICO or Industrial Areas Foundation.

Push forward: In the words of Professor Cornel West, “I have always feared for the future of America, because every democratic experiment is very fragile and I come from a people who’ve been enslaved, jim-crowed, hated and lynched — but we never lost our spirit; we never lost our willingness to love, to laugh, to live and to embrace others.

Finally, remember this: We need to take a good hard look at ourselves. Fact is that things that we do not like in a person like Trump exist in our communities: Bigotry, racism, disrespect for women, corruption. Unless we make a commitment to weed these out of our own lives, our family, our friend’s circle, our communities, our claims are hollow, our cries hypocritical.

“If Allah should aid you, no one can overcome you; but if He should forsake you, who is there that can aid you after Him? And upon Allah let the believers rely”. Surah Aal Imran 3: 160 So we go through the bad days and appreciate the good days and roll up our sleeves and get organized, keeping writing, keep recognizing why Allah sent us to this Earth, keep praying, standing firm for the most poor and the most oppressed.

 نَصْرٌ مِّنَ اللَّـهِ وَفَتْحٌ قَرِيبٌ

National resources:

  1. The National Immigration Law Center
  2. The Political Asylum Immigration Representation (PAIR) Project
  3. Immigration Law Help
  4. United We Dream
  5. Immigrant Legal Resource Center

Hena Zuberi is the Editor in Chief of Muslimmatters.org. She leads the DC office of the human rights organization, Justice For All, focusing on stopping the genocide of the Rohingya under Burma Task Force, advocacy for the Uighur people with the Save Uighur Campaign and Free Kashmir Action. She was a Staff Reporter at the Muslim Link newspaper which serves the DC Metro. Hena has worked as a television news reporter and producer for CNBC Asia and World Television News. Active in her SoCal community, Hena served as the Youth Director for the Unity Center. Using her experience with Youth, she conducts Growing Up With God workshops. hena.z@muslimmatters.org Follow her on Twitter @henazuberi.

7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Kristy

    November 20, 2016 at 11:03 PM

    The Name of the Lord is Holy, as He is Holy. The Name of the Lord is a representation of His Glory, His Majesty, and His Supreme Deity. We are to esteem and honor His Name as we revere and glorify God Himself. To do any less is to take His Name in vain.

    Muslims say they worship the same GOD as Christians. Apparently Allah is OK with the expression “allah damn it!”
    Christians are not OK with using GOD’s Name in vain because GOD is not.

    • Hena Zuberi

      Hena Zuberi

      November 22, 2016 at 7:00 PM

      This page is from a children’s book, not written by a Muslim.

  2. Avatar

    RizKhan

    November 21, 2016 at 1:56 PM

    “We need to take a good hard look at ourselves. Fact is that things that we do not like in a person like Trump exist in our communities: Bigotry, racism, disrespect for women, corruption. Unless we make a commitment to weed these out of our own lives, our family, our friend’s circle, our communities, our claims are hollow, our cries hypocritical.”

    Well said!

  3. Avatar

    Rene

    November 21, 2016 at 10:33 PM

    Although Trump supporters and the electoral college help/ helping put Trump into the Whitehouse, God has all of the power and he cannot do anything without the Almighty’s permission.

    When Trump won the election, Im not going to lie,I was discouraged about the outcome wondering what will be up next? Then..in my case..picked up my Bible, read some scriptures of examples of people in there who was faced with these trials. One thing I’ve noticed with God is that he tells his followers to be faithful, not to run and fight the devil whether the situation goes our way or not( troubling opposition with Trump).

    Honestly, first impressions are lasting ones. Trump has..and continue to spew out words of pure bred hate.To prove his character, he’s hiring people who are just out right racists and they’re letting it known who they are.His supporters say give Trump a chance.I won’t.He’ll never be my president.

    I liken Trump to a person who I thought was a friend ..until you learn about their true character. You laugh,make joke and have the greatest time with them. Then out of the blue they make ” dark ” jokes.. telling you that they will do something bad to you and/ or another person. You freeze in disbelief while they go on to tell you ” Relax,it was only just a joke “.

    Let’s be honest here. If any of us heard someone talk like that,we’re not going to react to them favorably. We’re either going to tell to stop talking, walk away from them,call 911 or all three because words are concerning and scary. Dark jokes have literally cost people their lives or their own lives. With the darkness that Donald and his crew are spewing out,people cannot afford to be lax about talk like Donald’s.

    That is how Donald talks.He tries to confuse anxious voters and by his own admission, he’s an unpredictable person.It is also that unpredictably that makes him potentially dangerous. I don’t trust everyday people who talks like this and I certainly won’t trust a man in power like Trump. His history from his past and today proves why he shouldn’t be President.

  4. Avatar

    Hassan

    November 22, 2016 at 11:59 AM

    So far the people that Trump nominated, or are under consideration may disagree on economics, wall, gay marriage etc, but all have one thing in common, extreme hatred of Islam and Muslims. This is their unifying theme, if it was something else, but few had hatred of Muslims, then we could have hoped better, but if the whole cabinet agrees on one thing, it is quite likely that it will be worked on.

    Do not forget “Tulsi Gabbard” a democrat, socially liberal, Bernie supporter, who is being considered ambassador to UN. She may disagree on everything with rest, except Muslim hatred.

    • Avatar

      Trump a Blessing

      November 23, 2016 at 4:24 PM

      The biggest danger to Muslims in America is creeping assimilation spearheaded by Muslim Civil Rights Groups often allied with enemies of basic
      Islamic ethical teachings.

      The election of the Kushner ( son-in law) , Adelson ( cheif funder) Trump clique closely allied with Israeli Likud nationalism is both a punishment for such assimilation and an opportunity to be Noble and separate, and an ethical beacon of resistance to the demonic forces arranged to bear upon all orthodox believers in the United States. This is the path forward: alliance with the religiously orthodox of Christianity and Judaism. Sadly it also entails rejection and shunning of the ‘moderate’ agenda of the mainstream Muslim civil rights groups who hate Islam as much as the Shariah activists associated with Trump.

      In the end this election will be a blessing both for Muslims and America.

  5. Avatar

    Khasim Mohammed

    November 22, 2016 at 10:15 PM

    If Muslims could survive the extreme discrimination perpetrated by Israel, 4 years or less of Trump regime should not be a problem. Muslim community has endured much worse in it’s 1400 years of history.

    Let’s not fear the future. Fear itself is a malady.

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#Current Affairs

Muslims Leaders Who Are Also Foreign Agents

When American Muslim leaders are also foreign agents, you need to consider FARA, the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Ahmed Shaikh explores how this law may apply to American Muslim leaders who fall into “Team UAE” and “Team Turkey”

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Foreign Agents in the Muslim Community
Which deeds are most beloved to Allah?

Alhamdulillah, by the blessings of Allah (swt) and readers like yourself, MuslimMatters has been an independent platform for our best thought leaders to educate us in our faith and catalyze change through powerful, necessary conversations. Since our humble beginnings as a basic wordpress blog in 2007, our content has remained free.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support us with a monthly donation of $10 per month, or even as little as $1. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Foreign Agents in the US have a meaningful effect on Americans in the United States.  Should Muslims in the United States adopt the foreign policy narrative of the United Arab Emirates?  Should we be against calling the mass killing of Armenians during World War I “genocide?” Can American Muslim leaders and nonprofits be the voice of governments, give them public relations advice and do their bidding?

These questions are largely irrelevant as the American Muslim community already has some activists and Islamic Scholars who are foreign agents.

I am not claiming being a foreign agent is inherently wrong, unethical or somehow prohibited in Islam. In many instances, being a foreign agent is fine, or at least you can find examples where the activity is harmless and maybe even beneficial. Non-Muslims serve as foreign agents, peddling influence and giving advice. Why can’t ordinary Muslims, even Muslim leaders, activists, and Islamic scholars do the same? What we need though is transparency about these relationships, similar to how we keep tabs on people who carry hazardous waste. It’s often a useful and beneficial service, but also, well, hazardous. 

As we have seen from recent cases Imaad Zuberi, Mike Flynn, and Paul Manafort , it is reasonable to expect more prosecutions of unregistered foreign agents in the coming months and years.

American Team Turkey vs. American Team UAE

My purpose here is not to re-litigate events during the first world war or the UAE’s murderous worldwide batil-slinging foreign policy. It is also not to offer a further critique of American Muslim leaders and scholars who blow smoke for one foreign interest or another. For that, you can read my recent article. Instead, it is to help American Muslims involved with foreign entities to be aware of the law so they can prepare accordingly. 

The “Team Turkey” vs. “Team UAE” saga playing out among the Muslim community’s leadership, including nonprofits and religious leaders, is dangerous, and there is potential legal jeopardy to members of both “teams.” The law in an individual case is often complex, and I am not claiming anyone referenced in this article is a criminal. However, anyone who thinks aspects of this article applies to them should seek legal counsel post haste.

Pariah status may rub off

In the eyes of the US government, the UAE may be up one day, and Turkey may be down. Pakistan is pretty much always “down” no matter who is in power in the United States, so Muslims working with that government and various political parties and institutions in that country should be especially sensitive about being a law enforcement target, even if they believe they are working for a worthy cause. Keep in mind how the Muslim community has been treated historically by the Justice Department. For this or any future US Administration, American Muslim leadership may be low hanging fruit for prosecutors. 

Right now, the UAE, in particular, aggressively buys loyalty, buys people in positions to peddle influence on its behalf. It uses straw donors and funnels its money around the United States through various entities to get what it wants. These tactics work for them now, but it may not work forever. Any Muslim majority country can get “pariah” status and the social and political environment in the United States may turn against that country and its agents.

If the political winds in the United States change against the UAE, their leadership will probably not be affected. Things may be different for their agents in the United States, however. The same may well be true for agents of Turkey. We can learn from their best known non-Muslim foreign agent, former Trump National Security Advisor Michael Flynn

The United States has a long history, going back to its founding, of being suspicious of foreign influence in government and public opinion. Various clauses of the constitution and several laws exist to address this historic concern, though many are quite weak.  The one that Muslim leaders with ties to foreign governments should be most concerned with is the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).

Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) 

Anyone who closely followed the Mueller investigation into the 2016 Presidential election is likely somewhat familiar with FARA.  However, of more interest should be the prosecution and guilty plea last year of Dr. Nisar Ahmed Chaudhry, who was prosecuted for activities that are remarkably common for Muslim leaders, especially immigrants.

It’s not a crime to be an agent of a foreign government. The crime, as those paying close attention to current events, will understand,  is in not registering with the Justice Department. In short, it’s a federal crime for agents of foreign entities or people engaged in political or other activities in the statute, with some exceptions, to not register under this law. US Law defines the term ” foreign agent”- it is not necessarily pejorative. It does not mean being a spy.

Indeed, foreign influence-peddling is an entire industry. Often, people who engage in “influence peddling” are not especially sophisticated and may not be paid at all. They may simply be immigrant activists who love their homeland.

In the case of Chaudhry, he pleaded guilty to not registering an unincorporated group he created in his home, the “Pakistan American League,” and his work as a “foreign agent.” His crime? He spoke to officials in the Pakistani government, and worked in Pakistan’s interests in D.C. area government and “think tank” circles by organizing “roundtable discussions.” He was not paid for his work as an “agent” by Pakistan.  All of this is legal, except that he failed to register.

A Law About Transparency

Foreign Agents need to report on their activities or risk fine and imprisonment. Every six months, the US Attorney General issues a report on foreign agents who register under this law to Congress. You can find the most recent report here. These reports offer a helpful description of registered foreign agents operating in the United States, but anyone can take a deeper dive into the reporting if they want to. FARA is about transparency.

FARA does not prohibit speech or activities by anyone. The purpose is to inform the public and government about the source of information used to attempt to influence them. FARA is an old law that US Muslims need in our communities right about now. 

Enforcement of this law had been mostly dormant for years, and the Mueller investigation is said to have given it new life. Registrations under the law are up.

FARA is broader than you might think

FARA is not just for agents of foreign governments. Being an agent of a foundation, royal family, oligarch, or any other entity or person can trigger the same requirements and cause criminal liability for those who fail to register. Many registrations under FARA involve agents of entities and people that are not governments. 

As we have seen from Chaudhry’s case, Muslim leaders, activists, and scholars don’t need to be paid to be “foreign agents” under the law. Congress understood foreign agents could work for nonmonetary benefits. A foreign agent does not need to agree with everything the foreign principal does and says. A Muslim leader who gives certain kinds of advice to a foreign entity may need to register to avoid criminal liability. It does not matter if the foreign principal ignores the advice. FARA is not just a law about foreign lobbying, indeed lobbyists have a separate registration system and law.  Virtually any work to influence public opinion or give advice will fall under the law. There are many opportunities for Muslim leaders to get themselves into serious trouble

Religion or university affiliation may not save foreign agents 

There are exceptions to FARA reporting requirements. For example, diplomats, many journalists, and bona fide trade and commercial enterprises do not need to report.  Say Muhammad is the agent of a Turkish exporter of Turkish delight, selling delicious packaged desserts to grocery stores around the Midwest. Muhammad does not need to register under FARA. 

Similarly, those involved in bona fide religious, academic, or fine arts pursuits are exempt. So if Saad, a US Citizen, is hired by the Saudi government to teach Quran recitation to children of employees of the local Saudi consulate, Saad would not need to register. 

 If, however, the Turkish Delight company asked Muhammad to write op-eds and hold meetings to prevent tariffs on Turkey, well, that’s different. If Saad starts to give public relations advice to his Saudi employers, he should call a lawyer. It’s worth noting that FARA is not the only registration and disclosure statute. A lawyer with expertise in this area can help them sort it out. 

Learn from others

Carrying water for a foreign entity’s political agenda, a regular occurrence by some American Muslim leaders is not bona fide religious or academic activity. Such conduct falls squarely into a danger zone under the law. The US Justice Department has confirmed the religious and academic exception’s narrow scope. The Overseas Korean Cultural Heritage Foundation, for example, wanted an opinion they are exempt from registration.   They were working on developing a museum, which is an academic institution. However, the Justice Department advised the foundation must register under FARA. The reasons, among other non-nefarious sounding things, were exhibits on bilateral relations between South Korea and the United States.

In 2017, TV station RT America and news outlet, Sputnik, “both Russian-funded but with production companies in the US, registered as ‘foreign agents’ under pressure from the Justice Department.”

Muslim leaders with ties to foreign entities should also look to the example of the American section of the World Zionist Organization. The WZO has appropriately registered itself as a foreign agent. Its work seems reasonably standard for a Zionist organization, though. WZO “participated in workshops, seminars, and conferences and distributed materials to increase support for the foreign principal’s educational, cultural, and religious goals.” The foreign principal was the World Zionist Organization in Israel, not the government of Israel itself. Still, it needed to register. 

Even if someone falls into an exception to FARA, another related statute may well cause liability. So anyone who has to look around for exceptions should check with an attorney. 

Sunshine in the Muslim community

Much of the work against CVE involved learning what Muslim leaders working with governments were up to. Because of the federal “Freedom of Information Act” and state Public Records Acts, we have a better idea of what Muslim leaders have been collaborating with the war on terrorism against our community. The availability of public records has also kept some Muslims away from unsavory funding opportunities. There is always a risk they will be found out. Who needs that drama? As the late US Supreme Court Justice Luis Brandies famously said, “sunshine is the best disinfectant.” 

Some in the Countering Violent Extremism space have looked to foreign governments and organizations, particularly in the UAE. Working against the US Muslim community, which includes naming groups such as CAIR and MAS “terrorist organizations,” and investing in anti-Muslim surveillance is fundamental to UAE foreign policy. Foreign entities are not subject to the Federal Freedom of Information Act or state Public Records Acts.

Covertness can be beneficial when prosecuting the war on terrorism in our communities on behalf of a foreign master. However, security-state contractors working with foreign entities are engaged in an inherently political enterprise and should register. Unfortunately, nobody from the Muslim community in the CVE sector has. They should either start or quit foreign-sponsored CVE altogether. 

FARA is your friend

We have a strong need for transparency among Muslim leaders and organizations. Foreign interests have been looking to influence the US Muslim civil society for several years. It may well be that agents of foreign nation-states or entities in them have valuable things to say. The purpose of FARA is not to deny your ability to hear them and learn from them. However, knowing someone is a foreign agent will help us place the information provided by a Muslim leader, activist or scholar in a better context. 

Muslim leaders and organizations should strongly encourage each other to look at FARA when any foreign entity is involved. If for no other reason, to avoid potential criminal liability.

If you are a Muslim leader, activist or scholar working with a foreign principal, retain legal counsel. You need to know if registration is required. If it is necessary, and it often will be, provide a fulsome disclosure and keep updating it. You can be sure there will be at least a few Muslims reading it. 

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#Current Affairs

A Closer Look At The Congressional Hearing on Human Rights in South Asia

Hena Zuberi

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Kashmir hearing in Congress
Which deeds are most beloved to Allah?

Alhamdulillah, by the blessings of Allah (swt) and readers like yourself, MuslimMatters has been an independent platform for our best thought leaders to educate us in our faith and catalyze change through powerful, necessary conversations. Since our humble beginnings as a basic wordpress blog in 2007, our content has remained free.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support us with a monthly donation of $10 per month, or even as little as $1. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Expectations on Capitol Hill were pretty low going into the House Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific and Nonproliferation’s historic hearing on “Human Rights in South Asia”. Previously, hearings on India have not been critical and the Kashmiri Muslim point of view has not been discussed.

Chairman of the sub-committee Brad Sherman (D-CA) wasted no time setting the stage for where he wanted to go with this hearing, stating, ”the entire world is focused today on what is happening in Kashmir.” He also pointed to the state of the 2 million-minority population in Assam. Missing from his opening statements were remarks on the state of the rest of the minorities in India, esp. Christians, Sikhs, Dalits, and Muslims. Ranking member Ted Yoho (R-FL) was soft on the gross realities of the occupation, highlighting one case of a Kashmiri constituent, and referred to the abrogation of Article 370 as an internal matter of India. He also brought up the Indian talking point of economic progress in the region but this concept was thoroughly dismissed by later testimony and Q&A.

The State department veteran Alice Wells, Acting Secretary on South and Central Asian Affairs seemed woefully ill-prepared for the critical nature of the hearing. Both Wells and Assistant Secretary for Human Rights Destro could not or did not present solid facts and figures about detention and tried to explain away the oppression as “inconveniences”. They were unable to comment or provide clarity on the situation on the ground in Kashmir, with Destro saying, “we are in the same information blackout as you are.” Some of Sec. Wells’s comments were of direct Indian government persuasion.

Several of Justice For All’s talking points were raised during the hearing.

There was commentary on the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam. Congresswoman Ilhan Omar asked about the anti-Muslim program. She questioned the panel on the public statements by Indian officials that only Muslims have to prove their birth records. Rejecting the notion that a democratic ally cannot be policed, she said that the United States does that in many situations and “this should not be an exception.”The human rights abuse doesn’t cease to exist even if it is the law. Is it consistent with international human rights?” asked Chairman Sherman, along the same lines.

Destro observed that the appeals process “may disadvantage poor and illiterate populations who lack documentation”. “We are closely following this situation and urge the Government of India to take these issues into consideration,” he added.

”The human rights abuse doesn’t cease to exist even if it is the law. Is it consistent with international human rights?” asked Chairman ShermanClick To Tweet

Wells testified that “violence and discrimination against minorities in India, including cow vigilante attacks against members of the Dalit and Muslim communities, and the existence of anti-conversion laws in nine states” are not in keeping with India’s legal protections for minorities.

Congresswoman Alice Spanberger, (D-VA) a former CIA intelligence officer, asked whether India has shared examples of terror attacks and incidents that have been thwarted due to the communications blockade. When Wells stated that she could not comment, Spanberger asked for a classified hearing so that US officials could give their assessment on the validity of the national security argument of the Indian government. Chair Sherman associated himself with her questioning and vowed to take her suggestion seriously.

Chairman Brad Sherman, as well as several other Congresspeople both on and off the House Foreign Relations Committee, asked several pertinent and critical questions.

Questioning the Indian Government narrative Chairman Sherman asked if the United is “supposed to trust these government of India officials when the government of India doesn’t allow our diplomats to visit?” Representative Sheila Jackson asked if reputable Indian diplomats or journalists had ever been denied entry into any state in the United States?

Indian American Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) referred to a report about the detention of dozens of children in Kashmir and said detention without charges is unacceptable. She expressed her concerns about religious freedom in India and said that she proposes to bring a bipartisan resolution in Congress.

Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas and David Cicilline of Rhode Island both had a heavy human rights approach to the questioning. Congresswoman Lee asked Assistant Secretary Destro if he would describe the situation as a “humanitarian crisis,” Mr Destro said, “Yes, it is.” She then went on to call the United States government to stop a potential genocide.

Washington has not changed its stance on the designation of the Line of Control. Chairman Sherman brought up the issue of disputed territory to the State Department.“We consider the Line of Control (LoC) a de facto line separating two parts of Kashmir,” answered Wells. “We recognize de facto administrations on both sides of LoC.”

The subcommittee focused on personal testimonies as well as human rights organization Amnesty’s testimony during the second half of the hearing.

Though no Kashmiri Muslims testified, the panel presented electrifying testimonies from Dr. Nitasha Kaul, a Kashmiri and Dr. Angana Chatterji, an anthropologist at the University of California, Berkeley. Bearing witness to the rising fascism and Hindu nationalism’s grip on India, both witnesses brought up beef lynchings, with Chatterji raising the concern of the genocidal inclinations of the Modi government. 

“Hindu majoritarianism – the cultural nationalism and political assertion of the Hindu majority – sanctifies India as intrinsically Hindu and marks the non-Hindu as its adversary. Race and nation are made synonymous, and Hindus –the formerly colonized, now governing, elite – are depicted as the national race,” said Dr. Chatterji.

Kashmiri witness Dr. Nitisha Kaul stated in her testimony that “human rights defenders, who were already under severe pressure, since August 5 are unable to function in Kashmir. For instance, every year on 30 August, the UN Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearance, Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons led by Ms Parveena Ahangar, organises a vigil protest involving hundreds of elderly women and men whose sons had become victims of for instance, in the most recent parliamentary elections, the voters’ turnout was very low and in many booths, not a single vote was cast.”

Kaul emphasized the extension of the oppression, by highlighting that this year the peaceful gathering of elderly parents mourning and waiting for their disappeared sons was not allowed. She shared Ahanga’s quote: “This year we have been strangled, and there was no coming there was no coming together because, through its siege, India has denied us even the right to mourn.”

Ilhan Omar challenged Indian journalist Aarti Tikoo Singh’s take that the siege was in place to save Muslim women from “terrorists.” This is a trope that is often used to wage war and is especially used in the so-called “war on terror.” “It is a very colonial move on the part of the nation-states around it as if they are “liberating Kashmiri women,” said Dr. Kaul.

Chatterji bore witness to the woes of Kashmiri women who bear the brunt of the Indian occupational forces’ sexual brutality. “The woman’s body becomes the battlefield,” she said replying to a question by Congresswoman Houlahan from Pennsylvania. Dr. Kaul stated that the 1944 new Kashmir manifesto contained an entire section on gender rights. She spoke on the equity and equality in Kashmir: “They go to protests. Women become heads of households because of dead husbands.”

She also reminded the committee that BJP’s Amit Shah, also part of the government in 2002 and responsible for the program on Muslim community stated that Western human rights cannot be blindly applied here in India.

Representative Wild from Pennsylvania asked why the Indian government would not allow transparency. When human rights organizations and journalists can work in active war zones, she rejected the anti-terrorism narrative pushed by Ravi Batra, a last-minute BJP addition to the panel. “When there isn’t transparency something is being hidden and this is what really concerns me terribly,” said Wild.

A Sindhi-American witness spoke on minority rights in Pakistan, especially the forced conversion of Hindus. This is a concern that needs to be tackled by Muslims as there is no compulsion in Islam and is antithetical to the religion.

During the hearing, Amnesty International reported thousands in detention under the Public Safety Act while the State Department numbered it at hundreds. Dr. Asif Mahmoud, a key organizer, presented the health situation in Kashmir.

The overall situation of the Rohingya was covered and links were made to the start of the genocide in Burma and the parallels in India. The members of the House referred to it as genocide with the State Department still calling it ethnic cleansing.

Although the hearing focused on the current state of Jammu and Kashmir and not much was brought up about self-determination or the plebiscite, Kashmiri-Americans and their supporters left the hearing room satisfied that their voices were heard for the first time in the halls of the US Congress.

What was most concerning point of the entire hearing was that Kashmir was not brought up categorically as disputed territory and the issue was referred to as an integral matter of India. This needs deep, consistent and long-term work by advocates of Kashmir. With the continuous rise of RSS, Indian minority issues need a much sharper focus, and a regular pounding of the pavements of Congress to educate the Foreign Relations committees.

Some action items for American Muslims post-hearing.

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What We Should Know About The Slaying Of An Imam 10 Years Ago In Dearborn

Dawud Walid, Guest Contributor

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informant jibril imam Luqman
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October 28, 2019 marks 10 years since the tragic homicide of Imam Luqman Ameen Abdullah who was shot 20 times in Dearborn, Michigan by a special FBI tactical squad. The homicide of Imam Abdullah was the culmination of the FBI spending over a million dollars in a so-called counterterrorism investigation which included rental of a commercial warehouse and freight trucks, the purchase of expensive electronic items and payment to at least 3 confidential informants. The raid on that fateful day in which Abdullah was killed and some of his congregants were arrested had nothing to do with terrorism-related charges, yet the imam and by extension the Detroit Muslim community was smeared in the process.

The FBI and the Department of Justice (DOJ) claimed that agents were compelled to kill Abdullah because he purportedly shot a law enforcement canine during the arrest raid. CAIR-Michigan filed a lawsuit against the FBI for wrongful death and fraud in this matter because there was no forensic evidence that corroborated that Abdullah had a firearm much less shot an FBI dog, which the bureau considered a law enforcement officer. There were no proofs provided that any gunpowder was on Abdullah’s hand or fingertips which would have existed if he had fired a gun, and none of his DNA nor fingerprints were found on the alleged gun. In fact, there was not even a picture of a gun at the scene nor did the Dearborn Police see any gun. The FBI blocked the Dearborn Police from entering the scene of the homicide for over an hour after the shooting which allowed the FBI special tactical team to leave with the purported firearm. In other words, the shooters of Abdullah, who headed back to DC without even being questioned by the Dearborn Police, are the only source that he had a gun. We believe that the FBI used what is known as a throwaway gun in a coverup when they killed the imam.

To add insult to injury that tragic day when Abdullah was shot 20 times including in the back and groin, law enforcement used their helicopter to fly the injured FBI dog, which was most likely shot by friendly fire, to a veterinarian hospital instead of using it to fly the imam to a close-by hospital. When the Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Michigan and the Acting US Attorney held a press conference about the incident, it was followed up later with special recognition for “Freddy” the FBI dog while the imam was painted as a type of extremist who wanted to establish sharia in the Westside of Detroit.

To add insult to injury that tragic day when Abdullah was shot 20 times including in the back and groin, law enforcement used their helicopter to fly the injured FBI dog, which was most likely shot by friendly fire, to a veterinarian hospital instead of using it to fly the imam to a close-by hospital.Click To Tweet

The lawsuit which we filed against the FBI was dismissed not because of the merits of our arguments but due to the federal government during the Obama administration suppressing information. The FBI would not release the names of their shooting squad which forced us to name them as John Does. The DOJ countered that we did not have standing on behalf of the family because we did not name actual persons. When we refiled using the names of the Special Agent in Charge and the head of the tactical team, neither who were actual shooters, the DOJ argued that the statute of limitations ran out in our complaint. We submitted an appeal to the US Supreme Court regarding the coordinated suppression of evidence; however, our appeal was denied. We still hold to this day that the FBI wrongfully killed the imam which was followed up by a systematic coverup.

Since the homicide of Abdullah, we now know that government surveillance against the Muslim community and the suspected terrorist watchlists grew tremendously during the Obama years in comparison to the Bush era. Also, the Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) which further targeted the community began under the Obama administration. Government spying and the broad usage of confidential informants, some who act as agent provocateurs, in our community are still concerns of ours. Where Americans pray or who we associate with that may have unpopular political views should not be predicates for FBI surveillance. In many cases, this has led to young American Muslims being criminalized. For Imam Abdullah, it led to his demise.

During the 10th anniversary of this tragedy, I ask us all to recommit ourselves to standing for the civil liberties of all Americans to not be mass surveilled and for none of us to aid and abet any governmental programs that facilitate of the violation of our 1st Amendment rights falsely in the name of public safety and national security. Click To Tweet

As my mentor, the late Ron Scott with the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality said when he stood with us in this case, “We are not anti-police; we are anti-law enforcement misconduct.” It is not our position that law enforcement be completely abolished. We are, however, against the unethical usage of informants which is part and parcel of the prolific history of the FBI in targeting prominent Americans such as Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali, whose religious and political views were viewed as threatening by the status quo. During the 10th anniversary of this tragedy, I ask us all to recommit ourselves to standing for the civil liberties of all Americans to not be mass surveilled and for none of us to aid and abet any governmental programs that facilitate of the violation of our 1st Amendment rights falsely in the name of public safety and national security. We never want to see another homicide such as what took place to Imam Luqman Ameen Abdullah due to overzealous actions predicated upon misguided FBI policy.

Photo: Luqman Abdullah, second from left. FBI informant “Jibril,” third from left. Credit: Intercept

21 Shots and the Pursuit of Justice: An Imam (Luqman Ameen Abdullah) Dies in Michigan

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