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Who is Anila Daulatzai? Students Urge Boycott of Southwest Demanding Justice For Muslim Professor

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A video of Professor Anila Daulatzai being forcefully removed from her flight by law enforcement personnel, who were called in by Southwest Airlines employees, recently went viral. Professor Daulatzai, who is a Pakistani American Muslim, is pregnant and was hospitalized after her traumatic experience. She said on ABC’s “Good Morning America” that she was mistreated after she told the crew on a Sept. 26 flight to Los Angeles that she was allergic to dogs in the cabin.

She said the crew initially agreed she could sit far away from the dogs, but later told her they were concerned about her being on the plane. Southwest Airlines said Daulatzai told flight attendants she had a life-threatening allergy. Daulatzai denies this and has filed a lawsuit. Maryland Transportation Authority Police (MDTA) charged her with disorderly conduct. South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and signatories from several national organizations have called for changes in policy and practice on the part of Southwest Airlines and the MDTA. The letter stated, “Ms. Daulatzai’s mistreatment by Southwest Airlines is part of a pattern and practice of profiling. Between 2015 and 2016, over a period of just six months, several Muslim, Arab, and South Asian passengers reported incidents of being rebooked for their appearance, removed from a flight for speaking in Arabic in a private phone conversation or simply for asking to switch seatsSAALT terminated its 7-year relationship with Southwest and gave back $10,000 in grant funding. 

This following post was written by Amara Majeed, a student at Brown University, and a former student of Professor Anila Daulatzai, who created the Boycott Southwest Campaign.

– Editor

This past spring, as I took “Towards a Critical Muslim Studies” taught by Professor Daulatzai, one of the myriad of topics that we learned about was institutionalized racism and Islamophobia and the ways in which Muslims have been racialized and criminalized during the War on Terror, and prior.

Watching a pregnant Anila being grabbed from her seat by her belt loop, so violently that her pants had been completely ripped open, was heartbreaking and painfully emblematic of the systems of oppression that Anila teaches her pupils to critically understand.

Arguably even more painful was Southwest’s shameful, disgusting cover-up. The incident was never about Professor Daulatzai’s nonexistent “life-threatening pet allergy.” Anila is a person often racialized as of a Middle Eastern descent; one of the very few images of her that existed on the internet was of her wearing a hijab. In other words, this was never about a fictitious allergy: this was about profiling, racism, and Islamophobia.

For Southwest to flip the narrative so completely, to paint Anila as a crazy, “combative” passenger and themselves as the kind-hearted organization that simply wanted to save her from a life-threatening allergy is absolutely disgusting, deceptive, and is reflective of the orientalist tropes about Muslims that the airline espouses.

The news has been saturated with stories of this particular incident – but I think it’s important for the world to know the answer to the question: who is Anila Daulatzai?

Professor Daulatzai isn’t just any professor. She is undoubtedly one of the most influential and remarkable individuals in my life.

I remember feeling extremely impressed when I first heard about Professor Daulatzai’s qualifications. She did three Master’s degrees: in Public Health, Anthropology, and Islamic Studies, and then, a PhD in Anthropology. Finally, she did five years of fieldwork in Afghanistan.

As I walked into her office, I remember feeling slightly intimidated. I didn’t even have a specific question to ask her – I felt that I was likely taking away from the schlew of other important appointments she needed to have, papers that she needed to grade, books that she needed to write.

Professor Daulatzai spent three and a half hours with me that day. Three and a half hours of helping me explore my Muslim identity, of making me feel that I had a safe space as a visible Muslim woman in Trump’s America. This is just one anecdote. This is just one, singular narrative that is emblematic of the type of professor- not even, the type of person that Anila Daulatzai is. The type of character and ethics that she has is truly remarkable, and I can honestly and without doubt say that I have met very few people that I admire as much as her. I’m not sure if this seems a little exaggeratory or superfluous, but I can only say that she is someone that you need to know to believe.

And I know that I am not the only student that feels this way. Many of Professor Daulatzai’s students, myself included, have fought their universities for her to secure a more permanent position. At Brown, we wrote letters to the administration, saturated with our individual experiences with Anila. We scheduled meetings with university officials while we were all swamped with exams during the pinnacle of finals week – to express how crucial of a role Professor Daulatzai played in our collegiate experience, to let them know how much pain it caused for us to see her go. And that’s the thing about Anila Daulatzai: there’s just something exceptional about her. Something so exceptional that her students are more than willing to spend their time and energies fighting for her, because we know that ultimately, the bodies of knowledge and understandings that she has imparted on us are things that we could never repay her for.

And we will not stop fighting for her: not then, not now.

During one of my last conversations with Professor Daulatzai, I remember her telling me that we people of color should not get too comfortable in this country. That at the end of the day, we mean nothing to this nation, this government, this institutionalized system. How our blood is too cheap, our bodies are too worthless – they will easily and without hesitation be discarded.

How heartbreakingly ironic this conversation seems now, as I rewatch her body, which officials knew to be one carrying a baby, being violently grabbed, thrown, and dragged around.

Southwest Airlines prides itself for its cheap national flights, which are especially appealing to students. Southwest, here is what I want you to know: we are not interested in cheap flights if that entails that the bodies of people of color and Muslims are also so cheap.

If our bodies are able to be yanked out of our seats so violently, if even the mention of pregnancy is not enough for undue violence to be used against us, if our narratives are erased and subject to whitewashed cover-ups: then we do not care for your cheap flights.

We do not care for your so-called Southern hospitality (which is either fictitious, or only applicable to a certain kind of people).

We do not care for your service.

We demand that Southwest Airlines issue an official apology, not some staged cover-up, to Anila Daulatzai, acknowledging the racist and Islamophobic roots of this horrible incident.

We demand that Southwest Airlines condemn police brutality.
We demand that Southwest Airlines implement anti-racism, anti-Islamophobia, and implicit biases trainings for all of its employees working on its aircrafts.

We demand justice for Anila Daulatzai. We demand justice for passengers of color, Muslim passengers, and passengers racialized as Muslims that are subject to this form of institutionalized Islamophobia and racism.

Until these demands are met, we refuse to fly on an airline that treats people of color and Muslims in this way. We refuse to be profiled. We refuse to be complicit in and happy consumers of institutionalized Islamophobia and racism: systems of oppression that result in violence against black, person of color, and Muslim bodies.

Please sign onto the Boycott Southwest campaign that I have made for her.
 Amara Majeed can be reached at amara_majeed@brown.edu.

15 Comments

15 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Ali Zaidi

    October 23, 2017 at 7:59 PM

    Incredibly shameful behavior by Southwest and the marshalls on-board.

  2. Avatar

    Amatullah

    October 24, 2017 at 1:40 AM

    I’m almost always frustrated as to why and how the other passengers make this happen?! If it continues this way, the world will very soon perish with people being killed in front of others while they either ignore or film it in their phones! Sick, sick world.
    First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Socialist.

    Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Jew.

    Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

  3. Avatar

    AF

    October 24, 2017 at 10:00 AM

    Someone with a life-threatening allergy can go into anaphylaxis and die, EVEN with an epipen.

    The airline was exactly right to ask her to leave the plane if there was any possibility of allergic reaction to dogs who were already on board.

    It is a good idea for Muslims NOT to fabricate or exaggerate allergies to avoid dogs, due to unforeseeable results like this one.

    • Avatar

      Pamela

      June 3, 2018 at 8:25 AM

      Sadly this woman was so in the wrong. I was on this flight sitting 1 seat in front and she clearly told the attendant she did not have an epipen on her and that she was concerned she may have an allergic reaction being near the dog’s. The second flight attendant came back & spoke to her & she stated she was deathly allergic to dog’s and could feel her throat tightening just walking near the owners. She stated she felt she would be perfectly fine sitting in this seat position which is far enough away from the creatures. The marshal then came back and suggested she take another flight for her safety and the safety of the other passengers since she claimed she was ill prepared to even treat herself for any allergy that may arrise. He then told her she would have to exit the plane before it could depart, that the representative would assist her in getting the next flight out to her destination which had no other passenger’s other than human’s. She flat out refused him, No, she insisted she would not exit the plane, she paid her seat ticket, had to meet her father for therapy and she was going to meet him, and for him to go away and stop harassing her, she was with child, she was a professor and knew her rights. The Marshall again insisted for her own safety that she leave the flight, she was very egocentric and then ranted saying they would have to drag her, kicking, screaming, off the plane, half Arabic, half English. It actually began to concern several other people due to her hateful words she was spewing and multiple people told her for the safely of her unborn child it would be beneficial for her to stay safe & her unborn to remain safe. She became combative towards any one who spoke kindly towards her, including both attendants and the Marshall. Minutes or so later 2 MTA police officer’s arrived and confronted her, asked her to please rise from the seat, gather who bag, and come with them. She became very arrogant and refused to move from her seat, securing herself with the seat belt tightly, much tighter than you would imagine for a pregnant woman. She contested she would be fine, she removed herself from any danger, even thanked them for their concern, however was not going to exit the aircraft. The officer’s both asked her politely several times to leave the seat and come with them, she spoke in Arabic, English more citing some bible or koran scripture. The officer’s instructed her a final time to 1st stand up, gather your belongings and walk off the plane with us now, or we will have to remove you. She refused and from that exact second the taller of the two reached down, unbuckled the seat and stood her straight up from the seat, asked where is your bag, do you have a bag, she began shouting what are you doing, what are you doing, I am going to go be with my sick father, you pulling my pants down, stop, stop, stop, No, what are you doing, and the video picks up. Now I can understand why the video was not on for the 1st 15minutes or so, however they missed the attendants, the Marshall, or the police officers arrival. Even in the video it depicts how many people were asking her to walk, show them you are walking, as many also were telling her to comply with what the Marshall had asked of her, or the police would surely show up. I do believe witnessing it she felt the Marshall was just going to walk off and allow her to stay on the plane. What you see is only a short, very short ordeal of what the passengers in the last 2 to 3 rows dealt with for 20 minutes or more. She was absolutely in the wrong, had told them she had a severe allergy to dog’s and for the safety of her, her unborn, and the other passengers she was asked to take the next flight.

    • Avatar

      T.J Detwiler

      June 5, 2018 at 8:43 PM

      1. Although she should have complied with the officers, the amount of force used was unnecessary. I’m not sure what occurred before the cameras began rolling (neither is anyone else), but it began with forceful removal. She is entitled to know why she is being removed beforehand unless she is posing an immediate threat to herself or others.

      2. Officers should have been a bit more sympathetic after they ripped a woman’s pants open leaving her exposed to other passengers. I’m sure not many of you would have as much “hustle” as you believed she should have.

      3. AA’s policy is to remove you if you have a “life threatening” allergy w/o proper medical certification. She claims she did not tell them it was life threatening.

      4. I wish she had complied with officers for her own sake b/c the officers showed now respect for her pregnant body. I’m assumi she must not have had the genetics needed to be treated with respect.

      5. Imagine someone telling you “walk” with that type of grip around your chest? …not as doable as some would like to pretend.

      6. We could pre-judge the “I’m a professor” comment as elitist. But we often forget that ppl of color often HAVE to use their title to be treated with common decency.

      7. Comply with officers. File grievances against airlines when appropriate.

      -Signed: A Christian American Woman

  4. Avatar

    Usman

    October 24, 2017 at 11:00 AM

    I was in a court room last week and witnessed something that was analogous to the situation that occurred on the Southwest airline flight. An African American woman and her infant sat down behind me. The infant started to make noise and slapping the wooden courtroom benches loudly. The marshal politely asked the woman to take the baby out of the courtroom. The woman became defiant and refused to leave. She became argumentative, loud, and started causing a scene. The marshal then directly said, “I am now not telling you to leave the courtroom, but ordering you.” The woman still refused to comply. The marshal than called a supervisor who aided in removing the woman and baby. When I observed the situation a few thoughts came to my mind:

    1. That is the Judge’s courtroom and the marshal enforces the judge’s will

    2. When she was asked to leave the courtroom the first time, by her refusing, she was disrespecting law and order irrespective the reason she was asked to leave.

    3. By her creating an unnecessary scene, it did not reflect well on her.

    Southwest owns the airplane and at the time of flight, that plane belongs to the Captain. If the Captain orders someone off the plane, irrespective the reason, then the person should peacefully comply with his or her order. If that person feels a violation of civil rights or injustice is being done, then that grievance can be filed and fought through proper channels. Argument, defiance, and disobedience of a direct command from an air marshal who is only enforcing the Captain’s will amounts to trespassing and transgression.

    I watched the video of the forceful removal of this woman. She did not comply with multiple requests and continued to defy orders. If she had quietly and promptly exited the plane, then no physical force would have been required. I sensed her ego and arrogance prevented cooperation with the Captain’s order. Albeit, I am sensitive to the fact she is a pregnant Muslim sister. However, her being a Muslim Pakistani is a red herring, and now being conveniently utilized as a defense tactic.

  5. Avatar

    H. Munster

    October 24, 2017 at 4:33 PM

    I can’t add anything to the masterful dissection above other than complete agreement. And as far as a boycott, any indication that arrogant, entitled, selfish and childish individuals will refuse en masse to fly a certain airline will only encourage me to travel on that airline as much as possible…

  6. Avatar

    Amatullah

    October 25, 2017 at 3:07 AM

    I have NO idea whatsoever why MM deleted my earlier comment. Explanation please, MM team? I’m sure there was nothing which violated your policy.

    I wouldn’t disagree with the facts mentioned above BUT first things first, the article above clearly mentioned the fact that “life-threatening” allergy was fabricated and not told by Anila.
    Secondly, a person saw a woman in the courtroom who wouldn’t oblige, another thinks it was right on the part of Airplane because the woman could DIE, well, what then are your explanations for the below?
    “Between 2015 and 2016, over a period of just six months, several Muslim, Arab, and South Asian passengers reported incidents of being rebooked for their appearance, removed from a flight for speaking in Arabic in a private phone conversation or simply for asking to switch seats”
    If its easy for her ethnicity to be “conveniently utilized as a defense tactic”, I’ll say its easier to call it that and turn a blind eye to the ever-growing racial profiling against Muslims.

    First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Socialist.

    Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Jew.

    Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
    -X-X-X-X-

    • Avatar

      Aly Balagamwala

      October 27, 2017 at 9:55 AM

      Dear Sister

      The comment was not deleted but for some reason the rules setup flagged it for approval which we have done. Sometimes a delay happens when a moderator doesn’t reach the comment due to other engagements and so the commenter thinks it has been deleted.

      -Aly
      Team Lead
      Comments Team

    • Avatar

      AJ

      October 28, 2017 at 1:13 PM

      Amatullah,

      It was clear from a Wa Po report right after this incident that airline crew believed or were led to believe that she had a life threatening allergy. There were already dogs on the plane.

      If someone with a life-threatening allergy is triggered, he or she can die from a rebound reaction even after an epipen is administered. In flight, it is impossible to administer proper follow-up treatment. You need an emergency room for that.

      Had this woman died or been injured by an allergic reaction and staff knew that there was this possibility, she or her family could have sued the airline and there would have been much negative publicity. The plane would have diverted its flight path and other passengers would have been greatly inconvenienced.

      Dog allergies are fairly rare, but it is no surprise that many Muslims seem to have them. I have seen adult Muslims run pell mell across rooms to get away from dogs. I have seen Muslims allow their children to dart into the street when a dog walks by. We have all heard of Muslim drivers refusing to carry service dogs in their vehicles in gross violation of our laws protecting the disabled.

      The assumption of most non-Muslims is probably that our “college professor” does not like dogs and thought that claiming an allergy would help her get her seat changed. She made too great an issue of it and actually convinced the flight crew that she had a serious allergy that could endanger her life or health. She then refused to comply with instructions to exit the plane.

      She (and Muslims) are not getting any sympathy for this.

      Quoting Niemoller’s poem, which refers to people who were beaten, imprisoned and gassed to death by the Nazis, is inappropriate.

  7. Avatar

    karpenter

    October 26, 2017 at 10:11 PM

    http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-ln-southwest-airlines-woman-removed-20170927-story.html
    From The LaTimes Article
    Anila Daulatzai of Baltimore was taken into custody and charged with disorderly conduct, failure to obey a reasonable and lawful order, disturbing the peace, obstructing and hindering a police officer and resisting arrest, said Lt. Kevin Ayd of the Maryland Transportation Authority Police.

    Daulatzai was transported to the Anne Arundel County District Court, where she was released on her own recognizance, Ayd said. She had been removed from the plane at the request of its captain.

    It’s Good That People Are Finally Being Charged For This Type Of Behavior

  8. Avatar

    Bryan Winters

    November 9, 2017 at 1:16 PM

    Wow, interesting article. Can anyone whether there is a university course entitled, “Towards a Critical Christian Studies” taught in a Muslim majority nation about institutionalized Christianophobia and the ways in which Christians have been racialized and criminalized during the the past thousand years?

  9. Avatar

    PAMELA D

    January 30, 2018 at 10:23 PM

    I ALWAYS FLY SOUTHWEST AIRLINES AND THEY ARE THE BEST. THIS LADY HAD AN ATTITUDE AND REFUSED TO LEAVE WHEN THEY TOLD HER. WHO GIVES A DAMN IF SHE IS A PROFESSOR SINCE SHE WAS TELLING THEM SHE WAS. DOES THAT MEAN HER BEHAVIOR WAS JUSTIFIED AND SHE CAN DO WHAT SHE WANTS. WELL SHE CAN’T BECAUSE SHE IS A NOBODY. IF SHE HAD A DEADLY ALLERGY TO DOGS THEN DON’T FLY OR BETTER YET SINCE SHE THOUGHT SO HIGHLY OF HERSELF BEING A PROFESSOR THEN SHE NEEDS TO GET HER OWN PLANE. THE IDIOT HELD UP THE PLANE AND WHO IS TO SAY HOW MANY PASSENGERS HAD A CONNECTING FLIGHT. THIS WAS AN EXCUSE AND SOUTHWEST AIRLINES HAD EVERY RIGHT TO PHYSICALLY REMOVE THE JERK FORCEFULLY SINCE SHE REFUSED TO WALK. SHE MADE HERSELF LOOK LIKE A MORON AND SOUTHWEST AIRLINES SHOULDN’T APOLOGIZE TO HER. SHE NEEDS TO APOLOGIZE TO SOUTHWEST AIRLINES FOR HER TERRIBLE BEHAVIOR. SHE NEEDS TO BE EMBARRASSED HOW SHE ACTED.

  10. Avatar

    PAMELA D

    January 30, 2018 at 10:33 PM

    DAULATZAI EMBARRASSED HERSELF AND LOOKED LIKE A FOOL, THEREFORE SHE GETS NO JUSTIFICATION FROM MANY OF US. MUSLIMS ARE THE ONLY ONES THAT WILL AGREE WITH HER ACTIONS. HOPE SHE DOESN’T FLY SOUTHWEST AIRLINES AGAIN ESPECIALLY SHE BETTER NOT BE SITTING NEXT TO ME!

  11. Avatar

    Ahmed

    February 19, 2018 at 2:41 PM

    She reminds me of every muslim women that gets a degree. They become selfish and entitled and think they can treat others like crap. Feel sorry for her husband if he’s still around.

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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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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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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.

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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