Lawsuit claims Muslims including a 4-year-old are unfairly on terrorist watch list

A lawsuit filed last week claims that thousands of Muslim Americans, among them a 4-year old, have been unfairly put on a federal watch list designed to screen potential terrorists.

The class-action complaint criticizes the Terrorist Screening Database, a list of about 1.5 million people overseen by the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center. It’s one of several lawsuits that have been filed in recent years challenging the list, saying that it’s unconstitutional in how it’s compiled and used.

The lawsuit was filed by the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic two Michigan lawyers and an attorney in Washington against the FBI center and other federal agencies. More than half the 18 plaintiffs listed in the complaint live in southeastern Michigan.

“Our federal government is imposing an injustice of historic proportions upon … thousands,” says the lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Virginia, which is where the list is compiled. “Through extra-judicial and secret means, the federal government is ensnaring individuals. … The secret federal watch list is the product of bigotry and misguided, counterproductive zeal.”

In addition to being unable to fly in some cases, Muslims are being jailed, interrogated and threatened by federal agents, the lawsuit alleges. In other cases, FBI agents pressure people on the list to become informants if they want to get off the list, the complaint says. Another problem is the lack of redress, with many Muslims unable to get off the list and unsure how they got on it, plaintiffs said.

The Terrorist Screening Center was established in 2003 by Attorney General John Ashcroft. Since then, the “watch list has swelled,” with more than 1.5 million nominations to the watch list submitted by federal agencies since 2009, 99 percent of which have been approved, said the lawsuit.

The lawsuit said such a list is too broad, targeting Muslims because of their faith, and ends up being ineffective in protecting the U.S.

“The federal watch list diminishes, rather than enhances, our national security because the number of innocent Americans on the list is becoming so voluminous that the purpose of having a list is significantly undermined as all are being treated as the same,” says the complaint.

A spokesman for the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center, Dave Joly, said it couldn’t comment on pending litigation, and can’t comment on who’s on the list. On its website, the FBI defended the list, saying it doesn’t target people solely because of their religion or ethnicity.

“Generally, individuals are included in the Terrorist Screening Database when there is reasonable suspicion to believe that a person is a known or suspected terrorist,” says the Terrorist Screening Center. “Individuals must not be watch-listed based solely on race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, or First Amendment-protected activities such as free speech, the exercise or religion, freedom of the press, freedom of peaceful assembly, and petitioning the government for redress of grievances.”

Plaintiffs said they often see a “SSSS” designation on their boarding passes, which signifies to the airlines and federal officials they are suspected terrorists. The designation is shared with state and local agencies, making it difficult for the plaintiffs in other areas of life, such as interactions with local police, said the lawsuit.

The lawsuit says many are either placed on what’s called a Selectee List, which subjects them to extra scrutiny, or the more stringent No-Fly List, which prevents the traveler from flying.

One of the plaintiffs is a 4-year-old boy from California, listed in the lawsuit as “Baby Doe.”

“He was 7 months old when his boarding pass was first stamped with the ‘SSSS’ designation, indicating that he had been designated as a ‘known or suspected terrorist,'” said the lawsuit. “While passing through airport security, he was subjected to extensive searches, pat-downs and chemical testing.”

“Every item in his mother’s baby bag was searched, including every one of his diapers.”

Another plaintiff, Anas Elhady, 22, of Dearborn, Mich., said he “is routinely referred to secondary inspection, handcuffed and detained by CBP (Customs and Border Protection) at land border crossings when he attempts to re-enter the United States from Canada.”

“CBP officers routinely subject him to a prolonged detention and questioning for approximately four to twelve hours each time. Moreover, he is routinely asked questions about his religious beliefs and practices, what sect of Islam he belongs to, what mosque he prays in, among other things.”

Elhady said he filed a request with the agency to get off the list, but the problems persisted.

In 2015, as he was trying to cross back into Detroit over the Ambassador Bridge after a vacation in Canada, he was thrown into a “small, freezing cold holding cell with bright lights” without his jacket and shoes, said the lawsuit.

“After several hours, Mr. Elhady knocked on the door repeatedly and begged for someone to help him. His pleas for help were ignored. Afterward, his body began shaking uncontrollably and he fell unconscious.”

Elhady said he was then taken to a hospital. Later, on Dec. 2, an FBI agent contacted “Elhady and informed him that his phone was being tapped and that all his calls were being listened to by the FBI,” reads the complaint.

“Elhady’s boarding pass continues to be stamped with the ‘SSSS’ designation when (he) travels by air, indicating that he has been designated as a ‘known or suspected terrorist.'”

Akeel, the Troy attorney helped file the lawsuit, said: “Americans young and old are being placed on the list without proper accountability. There is a swelling group of second-class American citizens being formed here at an alarming rate.”

EEOC details employer rules as religious worker complaints rise

March 6, 2014

 

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued new, detailed guidelines for employers Thursday (March 6) as the number of complaints and million-dollar settlements for cases of religious workplace discrimination neared record levels in 2013.

An EEOC spokesperson, Justine Lisser, said Thursday that the 20-year trend shows “a persistent uptick in religious discrimination charges that continues unabated.” Complaints have more than doubled since 1997. Lisser also said that representatives of religious groups have asked for more EEOC outreach in this area.

There have been guidelines in the past but the EEOC spelled out workplace rights and responsibilities in a new question-and-answer guide and accompanying fact sheet.

The new guidelines detail how businesses with more than 15 employees must accommodate workers with “sincerely” held religious beliefs — and unbelievers who “sincerely” refuse religious garb or insignia. Businesses cannot refuse to interview a Sikh with a turban or a Christian wearing a cross. Neither can they limit where employees work because of their religious dress.

In 2013, Umme-Hani Khan won her case against Abercrombie & Fitch, filed in 2011, after a supervisor said she didn’t fit the model look for their San Mateo, Calif., store because she wore a headscarf.

Title VII, which is enforced by the EEOC, “defines religion very broadly to include not only traditional, organized religions such as Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Sikhism, but also religious beliefs that are new, uncommon, not part of a formal church or sect, only subscribed to by a small number of people, or may seem illogical or unreasonable to others.”

The rules apply to the sincerely unreligious as well, as long as these views relate to “what is right or wrong that are sincerely held with the strength of traditional religious views.”

According to the EEOC, in fiscal year 2013, the commission received 3,721charges alleging religious discrimination, more than double the 1,709 charges received in fiscal year 1997.

RNS.com: http://www.religionnews.com/2014/03/06/eeoc-details-employer-rules-religious-worker-complaints-rise/

Baroness Warsi ‘saddened’ by rise in Islamic sectarianism

February 18, 2014

 

Islamic sectarianism has become a “deep and dangerous” problem in Britain that is being used to justify acts of religious extremism, the country’s most senior Muslim politician has warned. In a speech during a trip to the Middle East, Baroness Warsi said that differences between branches of Islam were being used by extremists to cause “tension, turmoil and terrorism”. She warned that such preaching was stripping the “soulfulness and kindness of spirit” from the heart of the religion and called on Islamic leaders to “reclaim the true meaning of the religion”.

In her speech, given at the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in Oman, Baroness Warsi said such divisions were rarely confronted but posed “a great danger to faith and our world”. “The hatred that can exist between sects – between people who follow the same God – disturbs and saddens me. And even in Britain we are not immune from it. With division being preached by some, and belittling another’s faith or denomination being used as a way of reaffirming one’s own. Often the strongest condemnation seems to be reserved for your brother or sister in faith. ” she said.

But she added she feared it was also politics masquerading as religion. “There’s a deeply disturbing political element to sectarianism when negative political forces exploit these differences,” she said. “And this approach takes on an even more sinister tone when sect is equated with nationality or loyalty to a particular country.”

Baroness Warsi, who was appointed the first Minister for Faith by the Coalition, revealed that she had been personally targeted by a gang who accused her of “not being a proper Muslim”. “They didn’t approve of me appearing in public without my face covered,” she said. “They reduced my faith to a list of ‘don’ts’, defined only in the negative, defining their faith in terms of what they were against, rather than what they stood for. I believe that this approach is at odds with the teachings of Islam.”

 

The Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/baroness-warsi-saddened-by-rise-in-islamic-sectarianism-9137124.html

Second British pensioner faces blasphemy charges in Pakistan for reading from Koran in public

January 31, 2014

 

The family of a second British man facing blasphemy charges in Pakistan said yesterday that he is entirely innocent and called for more to be done to allow him to return to the UK. Masud Ahmad, 72, is currently on bail in Lahore after he was allegedly tricked into publicly reading from the Koran – an act which is forbidden for members of the minority Ahmadi sect to which he belongs. He now faces three years in jail. Mr Ahmad had been released from prison on bail and was now in secure accommodation pending trial although it was not known when the case would be heard and he faced a long and uncertain wait.

Following his arrest in November more than 600 people protested outside the police station. Under Pakistan law it is an offence for Ahmadis to call themselves Muslim. Each year dozens of members of the sect are charged with breaching religious laws whilst they and other minorities are also at risk of outbreaks of sectarian violence in the country if they are deemed to have committed blasphemy.

The quietly-spoken widower was arrested after he was recorded on a mobile phone reading from the Koran by two men posing as patients. Amnesty International said he was maliciously targeted because of his religion.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: “We will continue to provide consular assistance to both Mr Ahmad and his family.”

 

The Independent

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/second-british-pensioner-faces-blasphemy-charges-in-pakistan-for-reading-from-koran-in-public-9099929.html

NYT OpEd: The Female Factor: Under Attack as Muslims in the U.S.

WASHINGTON — Muslims in Western countries say they have gotten used to the fact that as elections get closer, politicians pump up the volume of accusations against them, whether they are Sunni, Shiite or of another sect.

In some European nations, it was the debate over women wearing the veil that set off the attacks. Now in the United States, where pivotal elections are looming, accusations against Muslims have reached a new level. It seems to some that the days of McCarthyism are back.

Representative Michele Bachmann, a Minnesota Republican and a member of the Tea Party movement, cited Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s longtime aide Huma Abedin as the reason, questioning Ms. Abedin’s loyalty. One of the few Muslims in a prominent government position, Ms. Abedin is a trusted adviser who is known to the public; many have defended her against Mrs. Bachmann’s charge.

It is “so sad to see,” one of the women said. “There is already a lack of Muslims in government positions, but now this debate just shows no matter how loyal you are, some people will always attack you because you are Muslim.”

It is not the first time that Muslim women involved in politics have been attacked because of their backgrounds.

This accusation was a disturbing development for four Muslim women who work for the U.S. government and spoke on the condition that they not be identified because they were not authorized to make comments to the media.

French muslim intellectuals criticize Obama’s hijab statement

In his June 4, 2009 Cairo speech, U.S. President Barack Obama emphasized that Muslim women in the U.S. are free to don the hijab. Obama’s statements triggered strong criticism among Arab intellectuals in France..

Reformist writer Abdelwahab Meddeb, a professor of comparative literature at the University of Paris X in Nanterre and author of The Malady of Islam (New York: Basic Books, 2003) and Counter-Preaching (Contre-Prêches, Seuil, Paris, 2006)[2] wrote: “Obama’s pertinent speech in Cairo was wrong in at least one respect. Let us say [for the sake of the argument] – though I find it difficult to do so – that women should be free to wear the veil. [Still, Obama] should have added that they must [also] be free to remove it.”

Leila Barbès, a professor of religion and sociology at the Catholic University of Lille, also referred to the hijab issue. She explained that, in the context of the veil, “free choice” was an illusion: “The moment [wearing] the veil is presented as a divine duty, the issue of free choice is no longer valid, [and] all Muslim women are exposed to [this religious] propaganda. How can we pretend they have a choice when they are told that [their] religion obligates [them to wear a veil]? The women [who wear] a full veil [i.e. a niqab, which covers everything but the eyes,] do so in order to comply with what is requested and expected of them by their husbands or their sect.

Islamic sect’s plan to build mega-mosque next to Olympics site collapses

Controversial plans to build Europe’s biggest mosque close to the London Olympics site have been halted.

Tablighi Jamaat, the Islamic sect behind the proposal, is to be evicted this week from the East London site, where it has been operating illegally a temporary mosque and had planned a complex that would accommodate 12,000 worshippers.

The Muslim organization Minhaj-ul-Quran welcomed the move.

Minhaj-ul-Quran advises the Government on how to combat youth radicalization, and said that a mosque should be a “community effort” and not the initiative of one group with extremist links.

However, Inayat Bunglawala, a spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain, said: “We would hope that they will be able to work in cooperation with the local council if they wish to set up a mosque in the area. Tablighi Jamaat has no ties to terrorism. They have been subjected to some unfair coverage.”

Ahmadiyya sect recognized by Dutch broadcasters

One of the organizations hoping to broadcast on Dutch radio and television during programming devoted to Islam recognizes the Ahmadiyya sect as a major current in Islam.

The Ahmadiyya sect, popular among many Dutch of Surinamese origin in the Netherlands, is not recognised as Islamic by the main institutions of orthodox Islam.

SMO, one of five broadcasters who applied for the Islamic airtime, expresses in an email leaked this week its willingness to share its hoped-for broadcasting licence with another company, provided that it too recognises Ahmadiyya.

London Islamists’ “March for Shari’a” cancelled due to security fears

Demonstrators calling for shari’a law to be imposed in Britain cancelled a march on October 31 in central London amid security fears. Anjem Choudary, leader of the radical Islamic sect Al Muhajiroun, said organizers Islam4UK had been forced to cancel the planned “March for Shari’a” from the Houses of Parliament to Trafalgar Square because of security concerns.

The Islamic Society of Britain, which was planning to join other organizations in staging a “dignified, non-violent” counter-demonstration, hailed the cancellation as a “great success”. A spokesman said: “Pressure from all sections of the community, including Muslims, has resulted in the Muhajiroun and the hot-heads rethinking their position. They realized very few people would turn up to support them and they would attract only very negative publicity.”

In central London, only about 30 protesters gathered at the base of the statue of Eros in Piccadilly Circus. They were holding placards which read: “Islam will not dominate”, “Free speech will dominate the world”, and “March for England”. Tehmini Kazi, director of British Muslims For Secular Democracy, said the protesters wanted to “reclaim the public spaces for British Muslims”. The group was against everything that Mr. Choudary stood for, she said.

The planned march by radicals from Islam4UK had provoked massive debate among many representatives of society, Muslim and non-Muslim, and also caused right-wing racist groups to plan demonstrations.

Father incarcerated in Perpignan for having mistreated children in the name of Islam

The head of police in Perpignan, Jean-Pierre Dréno, reported the incarceration of a father of eight for having mistreated and starved his eight children in the name of Islam. “It goes far beyond rigorous religious practice,” explained one official, adding it was more like sect-like behaviour than Islamic.

The man, of Moroccan-origin and his wife, a convert of Slavic-origin live in Banyuls-sur-Mer (Pyrénées-Orientales), about 10 kilometers outside of Perpignan. The accused claimed to be “purifying” his children. The children, between the ages of 7-17 also appeared to have been victims of physical abuse.