2016 Was the Worst Year for American Muslims, Since 2001

Protest against trump islamophobia 2016.jpg

2016, the worst year for American Muslims since 2001

Three mosques in California were sent anonymous hate-mail in November warning them that Donald Trump would “cleanse” Muslims from the US the same way “Hitler did to the Jews.”

This story best reflects the dilemma of the seven-million-strong Muslim American Community during the presidential election year. The year 2016 was perhaps the worst year for American Muslims since 2001 .

The New York Times pointed out: Hate crimes against American Muslims have soared to their highest levels since the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, according to data compiled by researchers, an increase apparently fueled by terrorist attacks in the United States and abroad and by divisive language on the campaign trail. The trend has alarmed hate crime scholars and law-enforcement officials, who have documented hundreds of attacks — including arsons at mosques, assaults, shootings and threats of violence — since the beginning of 2015.

Political rhetoric plays an important role in mitigating or fueling hate crimes. USA Today said Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric and policy positions have made many groups feel unsafe on Twitter. Trump has suggested banning Muslims from entering the U.S., has said “Islam hates us,” suggested the surveillance of mosques, and has talked about “profiling” of Muslims as a response to terrorism.  According to AOL Global, 15 years after the 2001 terrorist attack, Muslim Americans still face discrimination in their everyday lives.

A study reported by Huffington Post indicated hate crime in U.S. survey was up 6 percent but Anti-Muslim rose to 89 percent. A new report from California State University-San Bernardino’s Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism suggests that anti-Muslim hate crimes in the U.S. rose sharply to the highest levels since the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks. “We’re seeing these stereotypes and derogative statements become part of the political discourse,” said Brian Levin, the director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at the San Bernardino campus. “The bottom line is we’re talking about a significant increase in these types of hate crimes.”

Police and news media reports in recent months have indicated a continued flow of attacks, often against victims wearing traditional Muslim garb or seen as Middle Eastern, the New York Times said adding: “Some scholars believe that the violent backlash against American Muslims is driven not only by the string of terrorist attacks in Europe and the United States that began early last year, but also by the political vitriol from candidates like Donald J. Trump, who has called for a ban on immigration by Muslims and a national registry of Muslims in the United States.”

A Georgetown University report released in May 2016 similarly found that threats, intimidation and violence against Muslim Americans have surged over the course of the presidential election.

According to the report, in the period between March 2015 and March 2016, there have been 180 reported incidents of anti-Muslim violence. These include 12 murders, 34 physical assaults, 56 acts of vandalisms, nine arsons, and eight shootings and bombings.

Last September, a leading Muslim civil advocacy group reported that 2016 is on track to be one of the worst years ever for anti-mosque incidents, with a total of 55 cases recorded as of mid-September. The majority of the 2016 incidents have been violent in tone, characterized by intimidation, physical assault and property damage, destruction or vandalism. In the first two weeks of September, three incidents targeting mosques have occurred. The most destructive of these has been in Florida, where a mosque was intentionally set ablaze and a suspect arrested.

Here are few examples of hate crimes:

On Oct 25, an Agoura Hills Man was arrested and accused of making criminal threats against the Islamic Center of Southern California, according to the Los Angeles Police Department. Mark Feigin, 40, was accused of making two calls to the Islamic Center in September, threatening to kill local Muslims and violence against the ICSC. Police found a stash of weapons, including riffles, modified ammunition magazines and ammunition inside Feigin’s home.

In October,  Abdul Usmani’s father, Dr. Zeeshan-ul-hassan Usmani, told BuzzFeed News that his wife and three sons have left the US for Pakistan after his7-year-old boy was beaten by five students on a school bus. This was the latest incident in a long history of discrimination towards his children and family.

More alarmingly, Muslim-Americans are receiving anonymous robocalls asking for religious affiliation. The New York Daily News reported on November 22 that several Muslim-Americans received mysterious robocalls asking them whether they identify as a follower of Islam.

In the meantime, a number of libraries across the U.S. reported that they have seen an increased number of anti-Muslim acts of vandalism and hate speech in the wake of the election of Donald Trump. The Guardian reported on December 12 a survey by the American Libraries Association (ALA), which found that copies of the Koran and books about Islam have been defaced with swastikas and other hate speech at a number of libraries.

The Trump rhetoric is not only fomenting hate crimes against the Muslims but also other minorities. On November 1, a historic African-American church in Greenville, Mississippi, was burned down and vandalized with “Vote Trump” graffiti. Local and federal officials were investigating the fire at the Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church as a hate crime. The words “Vote Trump” were spray-painted on the side of the burned-out church, which was home to a congregation of 200 members.Greenville is a city of around 35,000 inhabitants innorthwestern Mississippi, on the border with Arkansas. The vast majority of its residents are African-American.

Ironically, Salon reported in October that Kansas “militia members” aren’t considered “terrorists” because they’re not Muslim. On October 14, the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced that it had arrested three white men, Curtis Allen, Gavin Wright and Patrick Stein, who as part of a militia group called the Crusaders planned to bomb a housing complex and mosque in Garden City, Kansas. Allen, Wright and Stein. They had stockpiled 2,000 pounds of ammunition and numerous homemade bombs to conduct the attack. Chauncey DeVega, a politics staff writer for Salon, wrote: “The murderous actions planned by Allen, Wright, and Stein are the very definition of terrorism: politically motivated violence against a vulnerable civilian population. The headlines from major American news outlets, however, described Allen, Wright and Stein as “militia members” instead of “terrorists.” White privilege takes many forms in America. Terrorists are nebulous brown “Arabs” and “Muslims.”

On the positive note:

There were few decisions and measures that assured the American Muslim community that everything is not negative for them. This gives the community hope and optimism that the principles of freedom, liberty and equality on which this great nation was founded will prevail.

On December 22, President Barrack Obama permanently dismantled the regulatory framework behind the National Security Exit-Entry Registration System (NSEERS) also called “Special Registration,” introduced in 2001. This program was once used to track Muslims. President-elect Donald Trump and advisors close to him have publicly said that the Trump administration would revive and expand the federal registry that once targeted visitors mostly from Muslim-majority countries.

Tellingly, in response to President-elect Donald Trump’s threats to create a national registry of Muslims Facebook, Google, Apple, Uber, and IBM have joined Twitter and publicly declared that they will not participate in such a registry. The ABC7 reported on December 13 that Silicon Valley engineers, designers and business executives are vowing not to build a  database that would track Muslim Americans or anyone else based on their religion.

In October, Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill designed to address potential bullying, harassment, and intimidation of Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim, Sikh, and South Asian students. In October  also, the Miami commission passed a resolution condemning hate speech and violence directed at Muslims. The resolution was intended to show “solidarity with Muslims and those targeted for their ethnicity, race, or religion.”
On December 14, a man prosecutors say repeatedly stabbed a Muslim worshiper at a Queens mosque in 2012 received a 20 year prison sentence. The man, 59-year-old Bernard Laufer, was convicted of first-degree attempted assault, second-degree assault, criminal possession of a weapon, and criminal mischief. In November, Laufer wrote on his Facebook page that “the Nazis of today that kill in the name of the devilish religion called Islam. They will be destroyed like Hitler’s Nazis were!”

Similarly, on December 19,  a self-proclaimed white supremacist, convicted on charges he planned to use a “death ray” to kill Muslims and  Barack Obama, was sentenced to 30 years in prison. According to  federal prosecutors in New York, Glendon Scott Crawford, 52, a Navy veteran and a member of the Ku Klux Klan, was found guilty in August 2015 of conspiring with another man to build a radiation dispersal device. Authorities said Crawford, who worked at General Electric Co, carried out extensive research on radiation dispersal devices, learning what level of emission was required to kill humans and conducting reconnaissance on potential targets, including a local mosque. In conversations recorded without his knowledge by a confidential law enforcement source, Crawford spoke often of his hatred of Muslims and said he would go after Obama in the White House with the device.

A day after Trump’s win, Aura Bogado of the Nation has a very harsh comment: “For immigrants, for Muslims, and for people of color in general, the results of this election feel like imminent death. Trump’s victory indicates that naked bigotry levied against us is capable of winning the toughest of elections…… The stakes are especially different for undocumented immigrants—the people whom Trump turned into ridiculed objects of hate, and won an election by doing so. The least white folks who care about social justice can do right now is check in with immigrants they personally know to make sure we’re surviving. And to confirm we’re still alive.

However, the economy was perhaps by far the most important issue leading to Trump’s victory.

Abdus Sattar Ghazali is the Chief Editor of the Journal of America (www.journalof America.net) email: asghazali2011 (@) gmail.com


American Muslim groups welcome decision to end program once used to track Muslims
By Abdus Sattar Ghazali

American Muslim civil advocacy groups Thursday (Dec. 22, 2016) welcomed President Barrack Obama’s decision to permanently dismantle the regulatory framework behind the National Security Exit-Entry Registration System (NSEERS) also called “Special Registration.”

CNN quoted Neema Hakim, a DHS spokesman, as saying: “The Department of Homeland Security is removing outdated regulations pertaining to the National Security Entry-Exit Registration Systems (NSEERS) program, with an immediate effective date.”  By 2011, nearly a decade after the program was enacted, NSEERS had not resulted in a single terrorism conviction. The Department of Homeland Security determined in 2011 that the program was “redundant and did not provide any increase in security,” said Hakim.

The move by Obama administration is largely symbolic since the registry has been inactive since 2011. However, in the wake of Donald Trump’s election, the incoming administration has hinted that it might reinstate the program once Trump’s team takes control of DHS.

Reuters reported last month that Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach — an immigration hardliner reportedly advising Trump and the author of NSEERS — said there have been talks about Trump reactivating the program when he takes office. And last month, Kobach was photographed going into a meeting with Trump while holding a stack of papers that referenced NSEERS on the front page.

The Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) Legal & Policy Director Abed Ayoub states, “This is the right decision by Secretary Johnson. We commend him, and the White House, for letting it be known that such registry programs are futile and have no place in our country. However the community cannot be at ease; the next administration has indicated that they will consider implementing similar programs. We will work twice as hard to protect our community and ensure such programs do not come to fruition.”

The ADC led an effort on behalf of over 200 organizations, calling on the Obama administration to end the program. The letter, which was delivered in late November, was followed by vigorous advocacy efforts by a large coalition of community organizations, including allies from the Arab, Muslim, and South Asian communities. Resources were leveraged to build a strong diverse coalition to exert pressure that ultimately led to the dismantling of the NSEERS framework.

More than 50 members of Congress had called on President Obama to eliminate the NSEERS regulatory framework, referring to it as “a waste of resources, costing American taxpayers more than $10 million annually.”

“Registering and tracking Muslim visitors to the United States is not only discriminatory but a tremendous waste of our nation’s national security resources,” said the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Government Affairs Director Robert McCaw. “We thank President Obama and DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson for finally putting an end to what was widely perceived to be a massive profiling campaign targeting individuals based on their religion and ethnicity. We also thank the many people in civil society organizations who worked tirelessly to end the program.”

“Many activists and advocacy organizations came together over the years and again recently to challenge NSEERs and encourage an end to the program. We are especially grateful for the leadership of the ADC and Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM) who even as recently as last week organized a march and rally in Washington, D.C. on this issue,” said CAIR-San Francisco Bay Area Executive Director Zahra Billoo.

The American Muslim Voice (AMV) also welcomed Obama administration’s decision to permanently end the controversial NSEERs program. The national

President of the AMV, Khalid Saeed, in a statement said that “we thank Obama administration for formally rescinding the program which was dormant since 2011 as it was considered redundant and ineffective.” He said that the AMV also thanks to all civil advocacy groups and individuals who came together to end this program and support the seven-million strong American Muslim community in the face of anti-Muslim bigotry. Khalid Saeed said that the best example of this support was a vigil on Wednesday night at the California State Capitolin Sacramento. This pro-Muslim vigil was organized by the Jewish Voices for Peace and held simultaneously in  more than 20 cities across the nation.

The Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) Thursday hailed the Obama administration’s decision to rescind the NSEERs program. However, the MPAC warned that although the framework of the program will be removed, the next administration has the authority to rebuild a dangerous NSEERS-type program from scratch. The MPAC said:

“Americans of all backgrounds must join together and prevent discriminatory policies that target any community and violate rights and liberties enshrined in the US Constitution. Today is a victory for civil liberties, but we must continue to preserve our rights by redoubling our efforts to building coalitions and engaging our elected officials.”

After 9/11, the Bush Administration instituted the NSEERS registry system that targeted individuals on national origin. Of the 25 designated countries, 24 were majority Arab or Muslim. The discriminatory NSEERS program disparately profiled Arabs and Muslims by questioning and fingerprinting individuals and registering this identifying information in a database.

President-elect Donald Trump and advisors close to him have publicly said that the Trump administration would revive and expand the federal registry that once targeted visitors mostly from Muslim-majority countries. Alarmingly, in the wake of the Berlin attack, Trump reaffirmed his commitment to a Muslim registry.

New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman on Wednesday (12/21) called on Obama to dismantle the NSEERS program. In a letter addressed to the President, Schneiderman wrote that NSEERS, created after the September 11, 2001, terror attacks, did not reduce terrorist activity and instead “undermined trust” in law enforcement and instilled fear in some communities.  “We can’t risk giving President-elect Trump the tools to create an unconstitutional religious registry,” Schneiderman said in a separate statement.

Schneiderman praised Obama’s decision and said: “This is a win for civil rights and for smart, effective law enforcement, as well as for the strong coalition of advocacy organizations and others who fought to dismantle this discriminatory tool,” he said. “My office will continue do everything it can to protect the rights of all New Yorkers, and ensure equal justice under the law for all, regardless of religion or national origin.”

While welcoming the end of the program, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said: “The program was a failed counterterrorism tool, was highly discriminatory, and led to widespread fear and needless dislocation of families across the United States.”

According to the Atlantic, DHS suspended the domestic registration program in December 2003, more than a year after it had begun. By that point, according to a fact sheet released by the agency, NSEERS had garnered more than 83,500 domestic registrations, and 93,741 people had registered at ports of entry. The information gathered from registrants appears to have been transferred to newer DHS surveillance programs, but it’s not clear how it’s been used since the end of the NSEERS program, and a spokesperson for DHS did not comment on that.

By December 2003, nearly 13,800 people had been placed in deportation proceedings because of the program—but, according to the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) and the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the program did not help the government open a single terrorist-related criminal case. The deportations broke apart families, representatives for the advocacy organizations said, and their effects reverberated far beyond the end of the domestic registration program.

When DHS phased out the domestic registration program, the agency said it was outdated compared to to newer systems like US-VISIT, a comprehensive program for tracking visitors to the U.S. from nearly every country, which is still in use today. The port-of-entry registration portion of NSEERS remained in place until 2011, until it, too, was retired in favor of newer border-security surveillance programs. They had rendered NSEERS “redundant, inefficient, and unnecessary,” the agency  announced.

Theresa Cardinal Brown, former director of the Immigration Legislation Task Force at DHS, told BuzzFeed News that reinstating NSEERS would be “really easy” for Trump. “It’s just takes a new notice [from the DHS secretary] and a new list of countries,” Brown added.
By Abdus Sattar Ghazali

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