US: Terrorism Prosecutions Often An Illusion [PDF DOWNLOAD]

July 21, 2014

DOWNLOAD FULL PDF REPORT: Illusion of Justice: Human Rights Abuses in US Terrorism Prosecutions

Investigations, Trials of American Muslims Rife with Abuse

(Washington, DC) –The US Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have targeted American Muslims in abusive counterterrorism “sting operations” based on religious and ethnic identity, Human Rights Watch and Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute said in a report released today. Many of the more than 500 terrorism-related cases prosecuted in US federal courts since September 11, 2001, have alienated the very communities that can help prevent terrorist crimes.

The 214-page report, “Illusion of Justice: Human Rights Abuses in US Terrorism Prosecutions,”examines 27 federal terrorism cases from initiation of the investigations to sentencing and post-conviction conditions of confinement. It documents the significant human cost of certain counterterrorism practices, such as overly aggressive sting operations and unnecessarily restrictive conditions of confinement.

“Americans have been told that their government is keeping them safe by preventing and prosecuting terrorism inside the US,” said Andrea Prasow, deputy Washington director at Human Rights Watch and one of the authors of the report. “But take a closer look and you realize that many of these people would never have committed a crime if not for law enforcement encouraging, pressuring, and sometimes paying them to commit terrorist acts.”

The report is based on more than 215 interviews with people charged with or convicted of terrorism-related crimes, members of their families and their communities, criminal defense attorneys, judges, current and former federal prosecutors, government officials, academics, and other experts.

In some cases the FBI may have created terrorists out of law-abiding individuals by suggesting the idea of taking terrorist action or encouraging the target to act. Multiple studies have found that nearly 50 percent of the federal counterterrorism convictions since September 11, 2001, resulted from informant-based cases. Almost 30 percent were sting operations in which the informant played an active role in the underlying plot.

“The US government should stop treating American Muslims as terrorists-in-waiting,” Prasow said. “The bar on entrapment in US law is so high that it’s almost impossible for a terrorism suspect to prove. Add that to law enforcement preying on the particularly vulnerable, such as those with mental or intellectual disabilities, and the very poor, and you have a recipe for rampant human rights abuses.”

These abuses have had an adverse impact on American Muslim communities. The government’s tactics to seek out terrorism suspects, at times before the target has demonstrated any intention to use violence, has undercut parallel efforts to build relationships with American Muslim community leaders and groups that may be critical sources of information to prevent terrorist attacks.

In some communities, these practices have deterred interaction with law enforcement. Some Muslim community members said that fears of government surveillance and informant infiltration have meant they must watch what they say, to whom, and how often they attend services.

“Far from protecting Americans, including American Muslims, from the threat of terrorism, the policies documented in this report have diverted law enforcement from pursuing real threats,” Prasow said. “It is possible to protect people’s rights and also prosecute terrorists, which increases the chances of catching genuine criminals.”

Ramadan: A centuries-old American tradition

June 28, 2014

Many forget that the first Muslims to celebrate Ramadan in America were African slaves.

This weekend marks the beginning of Ramadan. Nearly one-fourth of the world will observe the annual fast and eight million Muslims in the United States will abstain from food and drink from sunrise to sunset during the holy month. A gruelling task at any time of the year, Ramadan this year will be especially daunting during the long and hot summer days.

Islam in America is rapidly expanding. It is the fastest-growing religion in the nation, and the second most practiced faith in twenty states. These demographic shifts prompted a prominent Los Angeles-based imam to comment, “Ramadan is a new American tradition.” The cleric’s forward-looking pronouncement marks Islam’s recent arrival in the US. However, this statement reveals a pathology afflicting a lot of Muslim Americans today – an inability to look back and embrace the opening chapters of Muslim American history written by enslaved African Muslims.

Social scientists estimate that 15 to 30 percent, or, “[a]s many as 600,000 to 1.2 million slaves” in antebellum America were Muslims. 46 percent of the slaves in the antebellum South were kidnapped from Africa’s western regions, which boasted “significant numbers of Muslims”.

These enslaved Muslims strove to meet the demands of their faith, most notably the Ramadan fast, prayers, and community meals, in the face of comprehensive slave codes that linked religious activity to insubordination and rebellion. Marking Ramadan as a “new American tradition” not only overlooks the holy month observed by enslaved Muslims many years ago, but also perpetuates their erasure from Muslim-American history.

Between Sunnah and slave codes

Although the Quran “[a]llows a believer to abstain from fasting if he or she is far from home or involved in strenuous work,” many enslaved Muslims demonstrated transcendent piety by choosing to fast while bonded. In addition to abstaining from food and drink, enslaved Muslims held holy month prayers in slave quarters, and put together iftars – meals at sundown to break the fast – that brought observing Muslims together. These prayers and iftars violated slave codes restricting assembly of any kind.

Rewriting the history of Ramadan in the US

Muslim America was almost entirely black during the antebellum Era. Today, it stands as the most diverse Muslim community in the world. Today African Americans comprise a significant part of the communityalong with Muslims of South Asian and Arab descent. Latin Americans are a rapidly growing demographic in the community, ensuring that Muslims in America are a microcosm of their home nation’s overall multiculturalism.

This Ramadan honouring the memory of the first Muslim Americans and their struggle for freedom and sharing their story with loved ones at the iftar table, seems an ideal step towards rewriting this missing chapter of Muslim American history into our collective consciousness.

Conversations: Rep. Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, discusses the current crisis in Libya and Muslims in America

As the first Muslim elected to Congress, Rep. Keith Ellison(D-Minn.) is often a go-to person for Muslim Americans, Muslim leaders overseas and others focused on the intersection of Islam and government. He has served on the Foreign Affairs Committee and the House Democracy Partnership, which works with lawmakers in emerging democracies. Washington Post religion reporter Michelle Boorstein asked Ellison about some of the Islam-related stories in the news.

Q: How has the post-Sept. 11 decade changed these views?

A: The people I talk to are as concerned about anti-Muslim hate as much as ever before. One thing they commonly complain about is, if you make a slur against blacks you’ll be in trouble. But if you say some crazy stuff about Muslims no one cares. I think it’s actually gotten worse. I think in 2001 we were in a better place than we are now. Then, there were people who didn’t like Muslims, but now there is an industry to pump out negativity. You have [Republican congresswoman] Michele Bachmann [of Minnesota] going around saying the Muslim Brotherhood has infiltrated the government. You can count on something like this every two months.

●Serves on the House Financial Services Committee; House Democratic Steering & Policy Committee.

●Co-chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus for the 112th Congress; is a member of the Congressional Black Caucus.

●Before Congress: practiced law and was a community activist; also served two terms in the Minnesota State House of Representatives.

● Hometown: Detroit.

● Earned a law degree from the University of Minnesota Law School in 1990.

●Is the father of four children.

How Are American Muslims Responding To The Anti-Islam Film?

Muslims have been demonstrating from North Africa to Southeast Asia, often violently, over the film that ridicules the Prophet Muhammad. But, in America, Muslims have been virtually silent over the video Innocence Of Muslims.

Why the subdued response in the U.S.?

Jonathan Brown, an assistant professor of Islamic studies at Georgetown University, offers one theory. He thinks some American Muslims are too scared to protest.

“In a post 9/11 world, they’re absolutely frightened to stick their heads out in any way, shape or form,” he says. “They are still apologizing for attacks they didn’t do.”

Many American Muslims are fearful of appearing suspicious, voicing discontent with government or showing any solidarity with Muslims overseas, he argues. And if they do express their opinions, Brown says, they are absolutely tripping over themselves to show how truly moderate and civil they are.

U.S. Muslim groups have come out and condemned the violence abroad, including the Sept. 11 attack in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. But aside from that, Muslims in America have stayed on the peripheries, not wanting to be drawn into a fire burning overseas.

Montreal Muslims respond to Anti-Islam film

CTV News – September 16, 2012

 

As turmoil spreads across the Middle East, Ottawa closed embassies in Libya, Egypt and Sudan for the day, citing growing protests over an anti-Islam film. The move came after four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya, was killed in an attack last week. In Montreal, leaders in the Muslim community are condemning the violent reaction to the film. They say the content may be offensive, but it doesn’t justify bloodshed.

During a special inter-faith meal on Sunday, those leaders said it was important to speak out to try and balance negative images of Islam with positive ones. The Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations also issued a statement this week, calling on Canadian Muslims to ignore the film.

 

“We regard a lot of things as sacred and we do not like it to be dragged down in the mud if you will,” said Farida Mohamed, from the Muslim Community of Quebec. “The trouble is these few inflammatory elements cause havoc for the Muslim world because, let’s face it, in the media Muslims are portrayed very negatively. Muslims are portrayed as terrorists.” The mosque’s president, Mehmet Deger, called for peaceful demonstrations and dialogue. The imam at the Dorval mosque said that he’s grateful that Canadian Muslims seem to be better off than Muslims in America, although tensions do flare from time to time.

Was There Really a Post-9/11 Backlash Against Muslims?

Over at Commentary, Jonathan Tobin complains that “most of the mainstream media still takes it as a given that there is an ongoing and brutal post-9/11 backlash against Muslims in America that fuels discrimination against followers of Islam.” I don’t know that I’ve ever seen the backlash characterized as “brutal” in the mainstream media, or that anyone has bothered to actually quantify media coverage on the subject. It would be helpful to have links to the specific coverage Tobin is complaining about. But I am among those who thinks that Muslims face both informal prejudice and are discriminated against by the state, while Tobin says “there is virtually no evidence for this assertion and much empirical data to argue for the opposite conclusion.”

He goes on to cite census data showing that the number of Muslims in America is growing, up 1.6 million in the 10-year period that ended in 2010. “Is it possible or even likely that Islam would be thriving in the United States if it were not a society that is welcoming Muslims with open arms and providing a safe environment for people to openly practice this faith?” he asks. “The answer is an obvious no.” Before concluding he offers three additional arguments to consider:

  • “Every new survey about American society continues to show there are no obstacles to Muslim advancement or systematic ill treatment.”
  • “Those who make these false claims argue that law enforcement activities seeking to root out Islamist support for terrorism either abroad or at home constitutes a form of discrimination. But such actions, such as the New York Police Department’s surveillance of mosques or community centers where Islamists have congregated, are reasonable reactions to a real threat that deserves the attention of the authorities, not the product of arbitrary bias. Nor do they threaten the vast majority of Muslims who are hard working, law-abiding citizens.”

“America is not perfect, but it is a far safer place to practice Islam, or any other faith, than almost all Muslim countries, where religious-based discrimination is commonplace and dissent is ruthlessly wiped out. The backlash myth may die hard, but it remains a myth.”

How it Became Acceptable to Publicly Reveal Bias Against Muslims in America

Before gauging whether you are in line with most of America in your opinion about Muslim immigrants, here are two things you should know: Firstly, Americans are no more opposed to granting citizenship to Muslim immigrants than Christian immigrants. Secondly, despite no real difference in opinion, Americans are significantly more open about their opposition to a Muslim becoming a citizen. In other words, what is unique is not the extent to which opposition exists, but the extent to which it is out in the open.

About a year ago, in the spring of 2010, with funding from the National Science Foundation’s Time-Sharing Experiments in the Social Sciences program, we decided to see if Americans really felt differently about the incorporation of Muslims into American citizenry. Because the U.S. has a long tradition of religious tolerance, we worried that Americans might feel uncomfortable expressing an intolerant view toward a specific religious group. To get around this, we randomly assigned the 2,366 participants in our study to three groups. One group we asked directly whether they supported or opposed giving legal Muslim or Christian immigrants citizenship. A second and third group we asked about these two religious groups separately and indirectly, never forcing respondents to reveal their opinion to the interviewer or anyone. This approach, called a “list experiment,” has been used to consider other controversial topics such an affirmative action and same-sex marriage. Its unique insight is not just into the level of opposition, but the degree to which it is hidden.

Five myths about Muslims in America

By Feisal Abdul Rauf, Published: April 1, 2011

I founded the multi-faith Cordoba Initiative to fight the misunderstandings that broaden the divide between Islam and the West — each perceived as harmful by the other. Millions of American Muslims, who see no contradiction between being American and being Muslim, are working hard to bridge this gap. It is therefore not surprising that they have become the target of attacks by those who would rather burn bridges than build them, and the subject of recent congressional hearings exploring their “radicalization.”
What myths are behind the entrenched beliefs that Muslims simply do not belong in the United States and that they threaten its security?

1. American Muslims are foreigners
2. American Muslims are ethnically, culturally and politically monolithic.
3. American Muslims oppress women.
4. American Muslims often become “homegrown” terrorists.
5. American Muslims want to bring sharia law to the United States

Muslims in America: Have you felt under suspicion?

Continuing our series of stories on Muslims in America, we turn our attention to the sometimes tense relationship between law enforcement and Muslims. Today’s story by Jerry Markon follows a FBI agent in the Boston field office as he reaches out to Muslims while also scrutinizing extremists within the community.

Last week, Michelle Boorstein wrote about Iqbal Unus, a U.S. Islamic leader who struggled to put post-9/11 raids behind him.

On Faith invited a group of Muslim readers to respond to Boorstein’s story by answering a few questions on faith and suspicion. Below is what two readers had to say. We will post more responses to On Faith as they come in. Share your story at the bottom of this post.

Most American Muslims are satisfied Obama backers

CHICAGO (Reuters) – A majority of U.S. Muslims are content with the nation’s direction in contrast to many Americans and few Muslims believe there is support for Islamic extremism here, a survey released on Tuesday found.

With the 10th anniversary of the al Qaeda attacks on New York and the Pentagon approaching, the Pew Research Center found that most Muslims felt ordinary Americans were friendly or neutral toward them.
In contrast to the majority of the general public dissatisfied with the nation’s direction, 56 percent of the estimated 2.75 million American Muslims said they are satisfied, the survey showed. Seven out of 10 view President Barack Obama’s tenure favorably.

“On a variety of measures, Muslims in America are very content with their own lives and with the communities where they live,” Pew researcher Greg Smith said in an interview.

There are an estimated 1.8 million Muslim adults in the United States, including U.S.-born converts, a 300,000 increase since 2007. Two-thirds were born in other countries.

The survey had an error margin of 5 percentage points.