Forever a suspect?

Last week the Guardian uncovered a report by MI5 suggesting there is no single pathway to Islamic extremism. What a surprise! And in a further deconstruction of preconceptions, the report found evidence that a well-established religious identity actually protects against violent radicalisation. If this is the case, what are the implications for racial and religious profiling? The report clearly dismantles any assumptions that can be made about the identity, background and religiosity of a would-be terrorist. The UK’s Muslim population is a mere 2.8% but is so ethnically diverse that the government could cynically use this report to sanction the continuing infringement of civil liberties of the entire population through ID cards, surveillance and so on. The sounding the death knell for racial profiling is something to celebrate, but I wonder whether my optimism is premature. Adam Khan, 28, from North London also has his reservations, after repeatedly being stopped and interrogated under schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 when trying to return to the UK. Samia Rahman reports.

CAIR Calls New Yorker Obama Cartoon ‘Inflammatory’

CAIR called a satirical cartoon of Barack Obama on the cover of The New Yorker magazine, inflammatory for its depiction of the presidential hopeful and his wife, intending to portray them as Muslim, militant, pro-terrorist, and Anti-American. In a statement released earlier this week, CAIR stressed that these inflammatory images and spurious associations will only serve to reinforce the racism and anti-Muslim stereotypes the magazine says it is out to challenge. The Muslim advocacy and civil liberties group also said that the magazine cover failed to achieve its goal of lampooning right-wing caricatures of the Obamas.

Let American Muslims share the stage

An Op-ed by Zainab Al-Suwaji in the International Herald Tribune explores the controversy of religion in the 2008 American presidential race, and more specifically, suspicion that many still have concerning Democratic nominee Barack Obama, and his relationship with Muslims. Al-Suwaji suggests ways in which both Obama and Republican nominee John Mccain can reach out to Muslim voters and address issues that are important to them. She suggests among other proposals, that the candidates clearly and assertively distinguish between majority and mainstream Muslims, and radicalists – noting the former as wholly dedicated to America’s civil liberties, ideals, and agendas.

Anti-Terror Bill is ‘Anti-Muslim’

An assessment published along with the Government’s revised Counter Terrorism Bill charged it as “anti-Muslim” yesterday as Prime Minister Gordon Brown pushes to controversially extend the detention period to 42-days without trial. Despite a torrent of criticism from opposition MPs and civil liberties groups including the possibility of a humiliating first Commons defeat for Brown, the Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith resorted to scaremongering in an attempt to bolster support by warning of “mass casualties” from a future terror attack. But the Home Office’s official assessment admitted that there existed “strong concerns” that the legislation is “anti-Muslim”. Although the Home Office was told to do more to win the “hearts and minds”, the consultation conceded that the bill risked alienating Muslims. “Muslim community representatives expressed a concern that this may lead to increased reluctance among their communities to provide vital co-operation and assistance to the police and security services,” the equality impact assessment on the Bill said. Hamza Bajwa reports.http://www.themuslimweekly.com/newsdetails/fullstoryview.aspx?NewsID=A6ADF431B2220162E122B36E&MENUID=HOMENEWS&DESCRIPTION=UK%20News

Home Office admits mistakes in respond to 7/7

Home Office Security Minister Tony McNulty has admitted the government made mistakes in response to the 7 July 2005 bomb attacks in London. McNulty told the meeting in Bournemouth: “I think we have made mistakes since 7/7.” He said one of these mistakes was Blair’s argument that people must be ready to accept reductions in their civil liberties in the fight against terror.http://themuslimweekly.com/fullstoryview.aspx?NewsID=C9B8E91A9B09284DD63F14E9&MENUID=HOMENEWS&DESCRIPTION=UK%20News

Chicago Muslim Granted Citizenship After Five-Year Delay

The Chicago office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Chicago) today announced the resolution of a citizenship delay case that has been pending for the past five years. Despite successfully passing his citizenship exam in 2002 and taking part in repeated interviews, CAIR-Chicago’s client had his naturalization delayed pending a background check. The client was recently sworn in by the presiding Northern Illinois District Federal Court judge instead of in the usual group oath ceremony. His case was resolved before a June 15th court hearing. “Law-abiding Muslims throughout the nation are facing unreasonable delays in being granted citizenship,” said CAIR-Chicago attorney Bitta Mostofi. “CAIR-Chicago will continue to advocate for and represent individuals who have experienced these unnecessarily lengthy delays.” CAIR-Chicago launched an ongoing class action complaint again the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in 2005 seeking to place a cap on the amount of time allotted to conduct the background checks necessary for acquiring citizenship and to prohibit discrimination based on religion in applying for citizenship. CAIR, America’s largest Muslim civil liberties group, has 33 offices and chapters nationwide and in Canada. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

The Status of Muslim Civil Rights in the United States, 2007

A report released today by a prominent national Islamic civil rights and advocacy group indicates a 25 percent increase in the total number of complaints of anti-Muslim bias from 2005 to 2006, with citizenship delays being the major issue.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations’ (CAIR) report — the only annual study of its kind — outlines 2,467 incidents and experiences of anti- Muslim violence, discrimination and harassment in 2006, the highest number of civil rights cases ever recorded in the Washington-based group’s report. (Hundreds of anti-Muslim incidents reported immediately following the 9/11 attacks were detailed in a separate report.)

According to the study, called “Presumption of Guilt,” that total is a 25.1 percent increase over the preceding year’s total of 1,972 cases. One of the most significant increases is in the category dealing with government agencies, which rose sharply from 19.22 percent of total reports in 2005 to 36.32 percent in 2006. This increase was due primarily to the number of cases related to immigration issues such as citizenship and naturalization delays.

CAIR also received 167 reports of anti-Muslim hate crime complaints, a 9.2 percent increase from the 153 complaints received in 2005.

Nine states and the District of Columbia accounted for almost 81 percent of all civil rights complaints to CAIR in 2006. They include (in descending order): California (29 percent), Illinois (13 percent), District of Columbia (7 percent), Florida (7 percent), Texas (6 percent), New York (5 percent), Virginia (4 percent), Michigan (3 percent), New Jersey (3 percent) and Ohio (3 percent).

This year, most categories of reported cases remained relatively unchanged from last year’s report. There were a few decreases, in both real and proportional terms, in certain categories from the previous year. For example, civil rights complaints involving the workplace declined significantly from 25.41 percent in 2005 to 15.57 percent in 2006.

In the report, CAIR offers public policy recommendations to address anti- Muslim sentiments in American society. Those recommendations include: 1) asking elected representatives and religious and community leaders to speak out strongly against Islamophobia and to repudiate anti-Muslim bigots, 2) urging American Muslims to increase outreach and education efforts, 3) holding congressional hearings on the rising level of Islamophobia in America, 4) expediting the processing of citizenship/naturalization applications, and 5) adopting domestic and foreign polices that reflect American traditions of justice and respect for the human dignity of all people.

“Like the history of other minority groups in America, the experience of the American Muslim community after the tragedy of the 9/11 terrorist attacks is seen by many as the next chapter in American civil rights history,” said CAIR Legal Director Arsalan Iftikhar, the report’s author. “The findings in this report should serve as a reminder that discrimination is still a major issue in our nation.”

CAIR began documenting anti-Muslim incidents following the 1995 attack on the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. The council is America’s largest Islamic civil liberties group, with 33 offices and chapters nationwide and in Canada. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

British Government Unveils Sweeping New Anti-Terrorism Legislation, Bringing Concern From Muslims

By ED JOHNSON The British government Wednesday unveiled sweeping anti-terrorism legislation designed to crack down on Islamic extremism, raising concerns from Muslim leaders, opposition parties and legal experts about the potential for infringing on civil liberties. In the wake of the July attacks on London’s transit system, the government wants the power to detain terror suspects for three months without charge, outlaw attending terrorist training camps in Britain or abroad and make it an offense to glorify or encourage terrorism. “The terrorist threat facing the U.K. is real and significant and the government is determined to do all it can to protect our citizens from groups who would try to destroy our society, our way of life and our freedoms,” Home Secretary Charles Clarke said as the Terrorism Bill was published in Parliament. Opponents warned that the legislation, which must be approved by both chambers of Parliament before it can become law, could infringe on civil liberties. “We all need to be vigilant in ensuring that the government’s proposed measures do not jettison fundamental freedoms at the cost of providing little or no guarantee of extra security,” said Sir Iqbal Sacranie, secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain. The government has moved swiftly since the July 7 suicide bombings that killed 52 London commuters, and the failed July 21 attacks. It has widened its powers to deport foreign nationals who glorify terrorist violence, has proposed banning 15 international Islamic groups under existing anti-terrorism laws and wants to make it easier to strip British citizenship from dual nationals considered a threat. The Terrorism Bill also aims to outlaw preparing an act of terrorism, publishing or selling material that incites terrorism and giving or receiving training in terrorist techniques such as how to spread viruses, place bombs and even cause a stampede in a crowd. The most controversial proposal would extend the maximum detention period for terrorist suspects held without charge from 14 days to three months. Police and prosecutors argue that more time is needed in complex cases, in which suspects often have multiple aliases and store information in tightly encrypted computers, or where the cooperation of foreign agencies is needed. Prime Minister Tony Blair on Wednesday defended the measure and said police have made an “absolutely compelling case” for the extension. But Lord Carlile, appointed by the government to review the measures, said the three-month detention plan could be open to challenge under European human rights legislation.

Most British Muslims back the government’s plans to deport radical Islamist “hate preachers”

Most British Muslims back the government’s plans to deport radical Islamist “hate preachers” it says could inspire bombers like those who attacked London in July, a poll published on Sunday showed. The ICM poll found that 65 percent of Muslims backed the new government measures and 27 percent opposed them. Ninety percent said they would immediately tell police if they suspected someone was planning or had carried out a terrorist attack. Just over two thirds of those questioned said Britain’s 1.8 million Muslims bore “a lot” of responsibility for rooting out Islamist extremists, 19 percent said they bore “a little” responsibility and nine percent said they bore none. ICM interviewed 500 Muslims by telephone between Sept. 1 and 7 for the poll, published in the News Of The World newspaper. Home Secretary Charles Clarke has published a list of “unacceptable behaviours” which would prompt immediate action — either deportation or a ban on entry. Last month, Britain said it was detaining 10 people, including the alleged spiritual leader of Al Qaeda in Europe, Jordanian national Abu Qatada, and would deport them. It has also barred hardline Muslim cleric Omar Bakri Mohammed, who left for Lebanon last month, from returning to Britain. Civil liberties campaigners say they are worried Britain will deport people to countries where they might be tortured. The government responds that it is seeking agreements with other governments — like one it struck recently with Jordan — to guarantee the safety of deportees.