Muslims Demonstrate at the US (Blaine) Border
First published in The Bellingham Herald as “American Muslims protest border detentions in Blaine” on July 12, 2011.
Why are we Muslims demonstrating for our rights? What rights are being violated?
After 9/11, it seemed as if open season had been declared against us Muslims. Muslims were imprisoned without charges or trials for months and years before being released without explanation. Islamophobia has become one of the most lucrative enterprises in America. Entire industries depend on its survival and profit on the promotion of anti-Muslim fear as they present themselves as saviors against Islam and Muslims, er, “terrorism.” The equation has been established.
“Experts” on “terrorism” have mushroomed, training not only the public but the military and law-enforcement agencies as well – tragically, funded by the Department of Homeland Security. These “experts” conceal anti-Muslim, anti-Islam training behind “anti-terrorism” training in which truth is unimportant. I have seen dozens of self-styled experts on terrorism and Islam, but I have yet to find one who accurately portrays either. They quote passages from the Quran that sometimes don’t exist. At other times, they invariably manage to take the words out of context and twist them to most grotesque meanings.
We Americans (yes, I am Muslim and I am American) are at “war” with “terrorism.” It is a war into which we have rushed blindly, without defining what terrorism means or who we are at war with or what victory looks like. Anyone who opposes this blind war must automatically be disloyal, a traitor and a terrorist sympathizer if not an actual terrorist. I have been called these names by people I thought were my friends.
Agencies, corporations and politicians have all taken the low road of Islamophobia to pad their budgets, profit margins and their careers, going to astonishing lengths to promote themselves and to show how patriotic they are by persecuting Muslims. Lectures at U.S. Army, Navy and Air Force academies have taught that Islam is dangerous to America and Muslims are the big threat, an idea that is finding fertile grounds even in our schools. Various police departments also teach that Muslims are the single great threat to America. Some departments, such as the Pennsylvania Police Training Commission, even have manuals to this effect, authored by “experts” who are included in the list of hate-promoters by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Airlines dramatize my arguments best. There is a long list of incidents in which Muslim passengers were removed from flights (sometimes in handcuffs) simply because they made some passenger or crew member uncomfortable.
In March, a young hijab-wearing woman was removed from Southwest Airlines plane in San Diego because a flight attendant thought she was suspicious. Fifty-eight leaders and members of the clergy from Muslim, Jewish and Christian faiths, signed a letter to President Obama, asking him to direct the secretary of transportation to take steps to sanction airlines that arbitrarily remove Muslim passengers. We received a bland response but no action. A copy of our letter was also sent to U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell (chair of the Senate transportation committee), but evidently she does not regard this issue as worthy of attention. This was one of many such letters sent to her over the past years, all with no results.
In May, two Muslims were removed from an Atlantic Southwest flight in Memphis because the pilot refused to take the Muslims on his plane. There was no public outcry.
At entry points to the U.S., Muslims are routinely threatened, harassed and humiliated by border agents. Muslms are detained for hours, sometimes held in handcuffs, sometimes with guns pointed at them, only because they are Muslims. Muslims are asked where they pray, what they pray, why they are Muslim and if they intend to commit acts of terrorism in the U.S. After several hours, they are allowed to proceed without any explanations.
At no time is any consideration given to the violation of civil rights. Instead, “security” is trotted out as a defense when clearly no such issue is at hand.
This is the sort of treatment one expects in a tyranny, not in the U.S. Here we have an expectation that every person will be treated equally and with respect, unless there is a direct reason otherwise. Here we expect our politicians to take notice and take a stand against discrimination, whether the subjects are blacks, women, gays or Muslims.
Tragically, half our politicians are leading the attacks against Muslims, while the other half do not have the spine to stand up to the bigots.
If Muslims do not take a stand, then who will?
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