DETROIT — Some Detroit-area Muslims have been held at gunpoint, handcuffed and repeatedly harassed about their religion when returning to the U.S. from Canada, according to a lawsuit that seeks to bar government agents from asking questions about religion.
The Michigan branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations said border agents and the FBI are violating the First Amendment and a 1993 federal law that guarantees freedom to practice religion.
“Since the tragedy of 9/11, we have seen a steady erosion of civil liberties of Muslim-Americans,” CAIR director Dawud Walid said Friday, a day after a lawsuit was filed in federal court in Detroit.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection declined to comment on the allegations but said profiling based on race or religion is strictly prohibited. The lawsuit also names the FBI director and two agents. The FBI declined to comment.
NY Times Oped:
TWO years ago, John O. Brennan, President Obama’s top adviser on counterterrorism, spoke to members of a Muslim student group in a packed auditorium at the law school where I teach, offering his audience the White House’s position about what jihad does and does not mean.
Later that year, on a panel with me in that same auditorium, a commentator, Haroon Moghul, drew attention to efforts by American officials to build global networks of “acceptable” Muslim leaders.
There are other examples like these around the country. The Ohio Department of Public Safety has produced and distributed literature that declares, “When extremists attack and kill in the name of jihad, mainstream Muslims consider such acts as a total deviation from the true religion of Islam.”
Homeland Security officials were signed up for a 2010 conference in which one topic was “Seeking a Counter-Reformation in Islam.” In 2004, an inspector general criticized the Bureau of Prisons because it failed to “examine the doctrinal beliefs of applicants for religious service positions to determine whether those beliefs are inconsistent with B.O.P. security policies.”
In each of these cases, counterterrorism has put officials on a collision course with Islamic thought and practice — and, perhaps more dangerously, with the Constitution. The First Amendment prohibits government action “respecting an establishment of religion.”
BOSTON — A former friend of a Massachusetts man accused of conspiring to help al-Qaida testified Monday that they traveled overseas with a third friend to try to get into a terrorist training camp.
Kareem Abu-zahra, testifying in the trial of Tarek Mehanna (TEH’-rek meh-HAH’-nah), said the men also discussed shooting people at a shopping mall, attacking an Air Force base and shooting prominent U.S. officials. Abu-zahra, testifying under a grant of immunity from prosecution, said he, Mehanna and another friend, Ahmad Abousamra, made a trip overseas in 2004.
Prosecutors allege that after Mehanna tried unsuccessfully to get terrorist training in Yemen, he began translating and distributing materials over the Internet promoting violent jihad. Mehanna, 29, of Sudbury, has pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy to support a terrorist organization, conspiracy to kill in a foreign country and lying to the FBI.
Mehanna’s lawyers say he went to Yemen in 2004 to look for religious schools, not to seek terrorist training. They say his online activities are protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and that he never worked at the direction of al-Qaida.
NEW YORK — Muslims who change their names to sound more traditionally American, as immigrants have done for generations, or who adopt Arabic names as a sign of their faith are often investigated and catalogued in secret New York Police Department intelligence files, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.
The NYPD monitors everyone in the city who changes his or her name, according to internal police documents and interviews. For those whose names sound Arabic or might be from Muslim countries, police run comprehensive background checks that include reviewing travel records, criminal histories, business licenses and immigration documents. All this is recorded in police databases for supervisors, who review the names and select a handful of people for police to visit.
The program was conceived as a tripwire for police in the difficult hunt for homegrown terrorists, where there are no widely agreed upon warning signs. Like other NYPD intelligence programs created in the past decade, this one involved monitoring behavior protected by the First Amendment.
We tend to assume Islam deserves unquestioned First Amendment protection. But it is a totalitarian way of life with aggressive political goals, not just a religion. What is to be done?
The Founders who wrote the U.S. Constitution were very aware that the citizens of this nascent nation wanted the freedom to choose their own manner of worship. They made history by forbidding religious tests for public office in Article VI. They added the First Amendment to ensure that Americans would be protected from government interference in their spiritual affairs.
But a dilemma exists in our nation today concerning whether or how the First Amendment should properly be applied to Islam. This essay will show that the ultimate outcome of blanket protection for Islam in all its manifestations on the grounds of “religious freedom” would be the establishment of Islamic law and government, or Sharia, alongside or in place of civil law and government in this country.
As we will see, Sharia law is totalitarian in nature, providing no individual freedoms while virtually enslaving those who live under its authority. This is absolutely not what the Founders intended in creating the Bill of Rights.
Of the 3,687,050 Oklahomans, 30,000 are Muslims. This means that less than 1% of the population of Oklahoma is Muslim (.81% to be exact). So, what would motivate seven out of ten Oklahomans to ratify a state constitutional amendment which prohibits judges from taking into consideration Sharia law in their decision making process? Is it simply ignorance or something more sinister—where politician are utilizing Islam-bashing for political and financial gain.
The “Save Our State” Amendment is yet another example of the ignorance and insidious misconceptions about Islam in general and especially about American Muslims. Just this last summer, the “near ground zero” mosque debate, brought to light the Islamaphobic and xenophobic hysteria surrounding the issue of building mosques in America and the prospect of Sharia law being “implemented” on American soil. Right-wing groups then made commercials attacking several Democratic candidates for respecting the First Amendment and saying they had no problems with the project. In the case of Oklahoma, legal experts have questioned whether the measure is necessary, given that there is no apparent danger of foreign law becoming binding on the state. They go on to contend that Shariah law is just as much of a threat to legal system of the United States as Jewish Halakhic law or Catholic canon law.
The original measure in Oklahoma was proposed by Rex Duncan, a Republican state representative, who has stated that such a measure would protect the “children and grandchildren” of present day Oklahomans. Despite the law gaining a 70% approval vote on November 2nd, it was immediately challenged in court by Muneer Awad, the head of the regional branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Mr Awad contented that the law thwarted his right to religious freedom as guaranteed by the First Amendment of the US Constitution. “Islam was the target of this amendment,” Mr Awad said. “This amendment does not have a secular purpose.” On November 8th, Judge Vicki Miles LaGrange agreed with Mr Awad’s concerns and granted a temporary restraining order against the measure, in advance of a hearing on November 22.
On November 29th, the federal judge ruled against a voter-approved restriction on Islamic law. In a 15-page order, U.S. District Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange continued to keep the restriction out of the Oklahoma Constitution. Her ruling was a victory for Mr Awad and the Muslims of Oklahoma. The judge wrote: “This order addresses issues that go to the very foundation of our country, our (U.S.) Constitution, and particularly, the Bill of Rights. Throughout the course of our country’s history, the will of the ‘majority’ has on occasion conflicted with the constitutional rights of individuals, an occurrence which our founders foresaw and provided for through the Bill of Rights.”
The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California is demanding via federal court that the FBI release docusments on its surveillance of Muslim groups and mosques in the area.
Earlier this year, 46-year old father of three Craig Monteih said that he worked as an FBI informant and given the task to uncover suspected terrorist plots. Monteih came fortward saying that he feared for his life beause people may think he is a terrorist.
The ACLU of Southern California alleges that Monteih “baited religious leaders, created suspicion with his extremist rhetoric, and sent a chilling effect into an already wary community.” “Documents show that the FBI conducted extensive surveillance on lawful First Amendment activities of Muslim Americans where there appears to be no reasonable suspicion of criminal activity,” the ACLU/SC said in a statement.
The Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations CAIR) has joined other groups concerning the constitutionally protected right to religious freedom, and an Oklahoma bill that bans religious headwear in driver’s licenses and other photo identification cards.
The bill passed in Oklahoma in March, however, the Oklahoma legislature dropped the proposed bill citing its confliction with permitted religious exemption and constituents said that the bill violated their First Amendment rights. “We thank Oklahoma lawmakers for their leadership and courage in standing up for religious pluralism and the First Amendment,” Razi Hashmi, CAIR-Oklahoma executive director, said in a statement issued Tuesday. Some 600 letters opposing the draft legislation were sent to lawmakers by Oklahomans of all faiths, including Muslims, Sikhs, Jews, and Catholics.
PHOENIX: The Arizona state Supreme Court ruled on Friday a Tucson newspaper could not be held liable for publishing a letter that urged people to kill Muslims to retaliate for the death of American soldiers in Iraq. In a 5-0 ruling, Arizona’s highest court found unanimously the Tucson Citizen was protected by the First Amendment to the US Constitution and could not be sued for printing the letter in December 2003. The opinion reversed a lower court judge. The court stated the letter to the editor does not fall within one of the well-recognised exceptions to the general rule of First Amendment protection for political speech. It ordered the case be sent back to Pima County Superior Court and dismissed without the chance to be refiled. Michael Chihak, the Citizen’s editor and publisher, said the ruling vindicated the paper’s decision and could have broader ramifications for others. It is obviously a favourable ruling for us, and not just for us, but for the First Amendment, he said. If the ruling had been unfavourable, it may have led people to curb expressions of their thoughts, opinions and feelings rather than adding to the public dialogue. Herb Beigel, a lawyer for the two Tucson men who filed the lawsuit said he was disappointed by the ruling and had not yet decided whether to appeal the case to the US Supreme Court. Beigel condemned the decision as giving the press protection that is far broader than the US Supreme Court has ruled in the past, and said a deeper investigation into the facts of the case was needed before a decision was rendered. The lawsuit, filed by Aly W Elleithee and Wali Yudeen S Abdul Rahim, stemmed from a three-paragraph letter in the Citizen that called for quick retaliation for soldiers’ deaths. Whenever there is an assassination or another atrocity, we should proceed to the closest mosque and execute five of the first Muslims we encounter, the letter said. After all, this is a _Holy War and although such a procedure is not fair or just, it might end the horror.