Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A National Security Concern

Immediately after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, after the feeling of unity and national pride subsided, we united around a common enemy.  Radical Islam.  Sometimes, we didn't even want to differentiate between what people saw as radical Islam and Islam itself.  What's even worse, is that we decided to assign a religion to anyone who looked a certain way and we assumed that they were terrorists.  You could see when people were in line for airport security, they were always giving the Arab looking people dirty looks.

If we look at the FBI's hate crime data, we see that in 2001, there were 481 incidents of anti-Islamic hate crime and 546 offenses against Muslim Americans.  The vast majority of these incidents were intimidation from another individual.  The second most common hate crime was vandalism or other destruction of property.  Not surprisingly, almost all of the offenders were white.  In 2002, we already saw it fall off, according to the FBI data.  There was 155 incidents reported by the FBI because of an anti-Islam bias.  In 2011, the last year that the data is available, we see that there was about 120 incidents of anti-Islam hate crimes.  These offenses don't include some of the hate crimes that have been national stories lately.  Such as the shooting of a Sikh temple, near Milwaukee, because someone thought it was a mosque.  Nor does it include multiple incidents of a mosque being burned in Chicago.  There is a real tendency for Muslims to be targeted by whites for no other reason than their religion.

It's not just an issue of white individuals who are targeting Muslims.  You have institutions that are reinforcing this belief.  In 2008, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) implemented a covert program called Controlled Application Review and Resolution Program (CARRP) and in a new report authored by Jennie Pasquarella, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California (ACLU-SC), the program is reviewed and criticized.

The stated goal of CARRP was to ensure that immigration benefits were not granted to individuals and organizations that pose a national security threat.  Not surprisingly, CARRP disproportionately affects Muslims or those they perceive to be Muslim.  The ACLU-SC reports that CARRP defines a national security concern as an individual with a link to prior, current, or planned involvement in, or association with, an activity, individual, or organization described in the security and terrorism sections of the Immigration and Nationality Act but then explains that officers can ignore those standards of proof set forth in the Immigration and Nationality Act.

If your name appears on the Terrorist Watch List, you are automatically deemed to be a national security threat.  Typically, if you are on the Terrorist Watch List, you just can't travel.  Under CARRP, your chance of immigration status is either going to be delayed or flat out denied.  There are hundreds of thousands of names on the Terrorist Watch Alert.  People on the list are never told that they are on it and are not provided an opportunity to dispute their inclusion on the list.

Applicants may be labeled as national security concerns if they gave donations to several of the large Muslim-American charities.  Even if, say you gave money to a charity and then 30 years later the charity gives material support to terrorist organizations.

An individual could be considered a national security concern for national origin.  So now we're, at least, being a little more direct about what we think is a national security concern.  Are you from a country that might produce a terrorist? You may be a national security concern.  Other fun ones on the list include if you traveled through a country that is known for terrorist activity.  Don't bother sending money back home to your family members because banks might close your account for no reason but also because you might be considered a national security concern.  You also might want to forget the language of your homeland because if you speak a foreign language, you may be flagged.

If an individual is named in an FBI file, then the name will be flagged as a national security concern.  The individual does not need to be the subject of the investigation but just mentioned in the file.  Why would someone's name be in the file?  Well.  The FBI may have investigated a mosque and you were there that day.  Your name would be on the file.  Even if the FBI investigated your mosque, illegally.   Or maybe you decided to give a voluntary interview to the FBI, your name would then be on a file.  Good luck becoming a citizen because you are now a national security concern.

But it's not hard to see why people, in general, might be influenced by the United States government in their determination that all Muslims are terrorists or that all Arab born people are terrorists.  This type of institutional racism helps create this environment, where we think that all Muslims are terrorists.  We are instantly judgmental when a Muslim gets on the plane with us.  Or people get worked up in a rage about Muslims that they decide to burn a mosque down multiple times.  I'm not saying that people are engaging in racist and violent behavior solely because of the attitude of the federal government.  There is an attitude in this country that says every Muslim is a terrorist or every Arab is a terrorist; we have to out for them.  This attitude is dangerous.  It will continue to be dangerous until we decide that every person has a right to be treated the way we would like to be treated.  This isn't politically correct language, this is common sense.  We even call it the golden rule.  But when we try to apply it to minorities, people often dismiss it as PC bullshit.  We need to stop that.  Part of that is to shut down the CARRP and develop new attitudes.  

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