Tuesday, August 7, 2007

For U.S. Muslims, More Surveillance Could Mean More Intimidation

By Ibrahim Abdil-Mu'id Ramey
MAS Freedom Civil and Human Rights Director

WASHINGTON, DC (MASNET) Aug. 7, 2007 − The next time you have a telephone conversation with your brother Hassan in Cairo, be aware. Be very aware.

It doesn't matter if you're a law abiding U.S. citizen, or if Hassan is a medical student who plans to open a clinic one day to serve needy patients in the Washington, D.C. area. And frankly, it doesn't matter if both you and Ali have deep convictions about the immorality of terror attacks on civilians.

What does matter, at least for the intelligence services of the United States, is that both you and Hassan are Muslims, and that your call from the United States to him in Cairo is being electronically routed through telecommunications equipment in the U.S. Under the expanded provisions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) signed by President Bush this week, your call can be secretly monitored by the U.S. government without an order from a U.S. court.

In a fair and functional democracy, of course, you should have nothing to fear, because neither you, nor your brother, harbor any malicious or criminal intent to violate American law or cause harm to people in this nation. After all, you are a registered voter, a law-abiding citizen, and this country is your home, too.

There are people in the Muslim world who have taken and harmed innocent American lives, and who are conjuring up plots to create even more acts of brazen, illegitimate violence. These Muslims do not represent your understanding of the Qur'an or the traditions of our Prophet (Peace be Unto Him). You want these people to be stopped by any and all legitimate means of law enforcement, including the inevitable part of law enforcement that requires gathering intelligence from human and electronic sources.

Fair enough. But who polices the intelligence gatherers? And who guarantees that completely innocent people, like you and Hassan, won't be falsely accused of involvement in some sinister plot against the U.S. government or its people? The answer is: no one.

Already, there is clear evidence that the prosecutorial power of the U.S. court system is willing and able to stretch, and even distort, the law when it comes to Muslims.

Professor Sami Al-Arian languishes in a prison, suffering from diabetes and severe deprivation and cruelty, without being convicted of any crime.

Our young and courageous brother Sabri Benkhala, was convicted last month of perjury before a grand jury and is now serving ten years in prison, simply because the government prosecutor believed that he knew more than he was willing to tell the court about alleged terrorist recruitment.

And let's not forget the attack on the Holy land Trust, and the vast list of "un-indicted co-conspirators" that includes practically every Muslim imaginable except for you and Muhammad Ali. For some, it is (and has been) time for a legal hunt directed against the wider Muslim community, with, all too often no real regard for the innocence of most of the victims of this aggression.

Each one of us, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, wants to enjoy a sense of safety from violence. But those of us who are Muslim have reason for justifiable suspicion of this unprecedented expansion of the power of the state when it comes to the invasion of our private telephone conversations, our personal associations, our choices for charitable giving, and even our places of worship. This wide net of espionage against Muslims is framed by hidden, and not so hidden, attitudes of fear, and even animosity, directed by a political establishment that all too often projects Islam and Muslims as adversaries.

FISA is simply the most recent manifestation of the expansion of the net.

MAS Freedom will continue to struggle for the civil liberties that are rightfully ours because we know that dissent from injustice is not a crime, and that our community must be protected from those forces that have little regard for real justice or the hallowed concept of equal protection-for all-under the law.

But in the mean time, when you speak again with your brother in Cairo, be very aware that the two of you may not be the only people listening to the conversation.

No comments: