Tag Archives: Muslims

Monday Long Read: The NYPD Division of Un-American Activities

Photo via New York Magazine

This New York Magazine feature about the Big Brother-esque eye on the NYC Muslim community reminds us that Stop And Frisk isn’t all that’s wrong with the NYPD:

The Demographics Unit began simply enough, with a copy of the 2000 U.S. Census. The information was public, and the police used the data the way any sociologist could. They mapped, looking for 28 “ancestries of interest.” Nearly all were Muslim. There were Middle Eastern and South Asian countries such as Pakistan, Iran, Syria, and Egypt. Former Soviet states like Uzbekistan and Chechnya were included because of their large Muslim populations. The last “ancestry” on the list was “American Black Muslim.”

At the NYPD, Cohen enjoyed an advantage he’d never had as a CIA analyst: a pool of recruits drawn from New York’s own neighborhoods. The FBI and CIA struggled to recruit native Arabic speakers, in part because it was prohibitively difficult for applicants with strong overseas ties to get security clearances. The NYPD didn’t have that problem. The police force had long been a stepping-stone to the middle class for immigrants. One in five Academy graduates was born overseas. So when Cohen went searching for officers who could blend in to Muslim neighborhoods, he didn’t have to look far. He recruited young Middle Eastern officers who spoke Arabic, Bengali, Hindi, Punjabi, and Urdu. They would be the ones raking the coals, looking for hot spots, and they became known as “rakers.”

Every day, the rakers set out from the Brooklyn Army Terminal, where the Demographics Unit was based, and visited businesses in teams of two. Their job was to look like any other young men stepping in off the street.

The routine was almost always the same, whether they were visiting a restaurant, deli, barbershop, or travel agency. The two rakers would enter and casually chat with the owner. The first order of business was to determine his ethnicity and that of the patrons. This would determine which file the business would go into. A report on Pakistani locations, for instance, or one on Moroccans. Next, they’d do what the NYPD called “gauging sentiment.” Were the patrons observant Muslims? Did they wear traditionally ethnic clothes, likeshalwar kameez? Were the women wearing hijabs?

If the Arabic news channel Al Jazeera was playing on the TV, the police would note it and observe how people were acting. Were they laughing, smiling, or cheering at reports of U.S. casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan? Did they talk Middle Eastern politics? If the business sold extremist literature or CDs, the officers would buy one or two. Was the owner selling fake I.D.’s or untaxed cigarettes? Police would note it. If customers could rent time on a computer, police might pay for a session and look at the computer’s search history. Were people viewing jihadist videos or searching for bomb-making instructions? Who was speaking Urdu? Read More

The Racialicious Links Roundup 4.25.13

It’s clear that we as Black and Brown Americans, are still recovering from the racist indoctrinations of the past 500 years. Though laughable it sounds, white Americans, too, have suffered from this crime. As our country began and brown races were systematically denied the right to be human and so internalized the role of the savage, white consciousness bullied its way into objectivity. The white mind became the unbiased mind that objectively observed all the rest. This is called The Default: The belief that the white experience is a neutral and objective experience and white consciousness is the standard consciousness unless otherwise specified. White culture, and American culture as a whole, suffers from the tragedy of whiteness as the default setting.

Being The Default keeps white Americans from being liberated because it denies them a specific identity by absorbing them into neutral blankness. This creates a lonely detachment from the rest of the world. Being The Default is the largest privilege granted to white Americans, yet it is so deeply entrenched it is the most invisible (we cannot see the edges of the atmosphere, but it exists). Whites benefit from being The Default by having inherent legitimacy in a way that’s denied to people of color. Their experience of life is “normal.” Whites are free from the constant awareness (and subsequent constant paranoia) of existing in another person’s world. Because The Default has so successfully dominated our subconscious, because our egos have been shaped by it from the moment of birth, we perpetuate it in micro ways while fighting inequality with more obvious actions. The silent poison continues to poison. Whiteness as The Default keeps brown people in subjugation by convincing them that every part of their being, physical, spiritual and emotional, exists within a white narrative. When you are made to exist within something you are forced to be smaller than that which contains you. This is precisely the basis of racist thought. Brown existence, brown consciousness is smaller.

So let me start with the standard roll call: As an American Muslim, I condemn all violence in the name of religion. Terrorism has no religion and Islam is no exception. If the Tsarnaev brothers are guilty of the Boston bombings, then I hope they are brought to justice.

Is that condemnation clear enough? Because I’m pretty sure a whole lot of people instead read “blah blah blah blah blah.”

Here’s the deal. It is a shame that we had to employ 9,000 officers, put our lives on hold for five days, and sacrifice $1 billion in Boston revenue to catch these culprits. It is a shame that Muslim women were assaulted in retaliation, and that’s even before we knew who the suspects were. And it is a shame I received threats of anti-Muslim violence and that even my non-Muslim but non-white friends called me, fearing for their safety.

And now the public lynching and double standards against Islam begin. Mental illness was the culprit during Newtown, Conn., Oak Creek, Wis., and Aurora, Colo. More than 70 percent of America’s 64 previous mass shooters were white American men. But not one pundit, nor any politician, nor any Muslim has ever asked why White Americans or Christian Americans are not aggressively condemning these acts of terror. After all, why ask such a ludicrous question? Anyone with a functioning cerebrum could comprehend that these terrorists represent only themselves.

Last week, a bipartisan group of senators known as the “Gang of Eight” introduced a new immigration reform measure. Their bill would continue to strengthen our borders, fix the legal immigration system and provide a path for the 11 million undocumented to register, pay taxes and play by the same rules as everyone else before they could get on a path to citizenship.

Unlike the 1986 law, this approach is tougher and also expands employer verification so that those doing the hiring are compelled to own up to their responsibilities. It’s the right approach.

For many immigrants, there was never a path to come legally. But they’re here now; they’ve put down roots. They’re not looking for a handout, just a chance to work hard and do the right thing.

President Reagan once said that “Latinos are Republicans. They just don’t know it yet.” In that spirit, I would argue immigration reform is the conservative thing to do. Conservatives just don’t realize it yet.

One of the audio kiosks is placed just about at the site of the crude barrack that housed my family and me — block 6, barrack 2, unit F. We were little more than numbers to our jailers, each of us given a tag to wear to camp like a piece of luggage. My tag was 12832-C.

I have memories of the nearby drainage ditch where I used to catch pollywogs that sprouted legs and eventually and magically turned into frogs. I remember the barbed wire fence nearby, beyond which lay pools of water with trees reaching out from them. We were in the swamps, you see: fetid, hot, mosquito-laden. We were isolated, far enough away from anywhere anyone would want to live.

Today, I recognize nothing. The swamp has been drained, the trees have all been chopped down. It is now just mile after mile of cotton fields. Everything I remember is gone.

The most moving of the sites is the cemetery. As a child, I never went there, yet that is the only thing that still stands from Rohwer Camp, except for a lone smokestack where the infirmary once operated. The memorial marker is a tall, crumbling concrete obelisk, in tribute to the young men who went from their barbed wire confinement to fight for America, perishing on bloody European battlefields. That day, I stood solemnly with surviving veterans who had served in the segregated all-Japanese American 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the most decorated unit in all the war.

Men’s sports are always treated with higher regard than women’s sports, period. No announcement from a female athlete is going to generate the attention that an announcement from a male athlete does, regardless of what the announcement is. Such a division is clearly seen in men’s NCAA sports versus women’s, let alone in professional sports. (Even in Olympic sports, male sports get more primetime coverage [outside of volleyball, track and gymnastics] and while most can easily cite Usain Bolt as the fastest man in the world, do they know that Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce is the fastest woman in the world? They’re both Jamaicans. This gender issue isn’t even accounting for the racist [and sexist] media issues regarding Olympic sports.)

Female athletes are always assumed to be lesbians unless the media and public deem that they meet an almost hypersexualized version of femininity to derail such homophobic assumptions for misogynist ones. Further, the sheer act of being physical and competitive (as in sports) are associated with patriarchal notions of gender, so women engaging in sports is often viewed as being “male-like.” (We see the same type of rhetoric regarding women in combat, for example.)

At least 15 members of the Congressional Black Caucus are questioning why the 50,000 diversity visa program was ended in the “gang of eight” immigration reform bill formally introduced yesterday. Many members view the diversity visas as one of the few ways African and Caribbean immigrants can become American citizens.

At their Wednesday, Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-NY) briefed other members of the CBC on diversity visas and the “merit based” point system language in the immigration bill that is said to be a replacement to the diversity visa program. The diversity visa lottery was ended and replaced with a “point system” that evaluates immigrants on a merit based system. Education and ability to speak english, among other things, is used to evaluate an immigrant’s value to the U.S.

One member, Rep. Don Payne, Jr. (D-NJ) said early in the week that he will not vote for an immigration bill without the diversity visa lottery.  ”I’m not voting for it if diversity visas are not in there,” Payne said flatly. “I’ve told my constituents that unless the diversity visa lottery is in the bill that’s where I draw the line.” On March 15, Payne held a conference focusing on the concerns of Liberian immigrants on Capitol Hill.

Payne may not be alone. Rep. Corrine Brown (D-FL) also says she is very unhappy that the diversity visa program was ended in the “gang of eight” bill. Members wondered why a program with 50,000 slots was eliminated when the larger issue is the 11 million people currently living in the U.S. undocumented.

“My question is why would you take it out? Tell me one good reason?” said Rep. Corrine Brown (D-FL).

Quoted: Nawal El Saadawi on the U.S. Role in Egypt’s Revolution

TR: What role would you like the U.S. to play?

NS: I don’t expect the power or support or interference of anyone, of any government. We here in Egypt are fed up with U.S. colonialism. Obama is a pragmatic person and thinking of the interests of his country; I understand this. But now he is confused: One minute he supports Mubarak, one minute he doesn’t; one moment he is afraid of the Muslim Brotherhood, the next he is not. Now I believe in the people of Egypt only, I depend on the people of Egypt only.

~~Excerpted from interview with Rebecca Walker at The Root. Read the rest here.

Image Credit: myhero.com

Taqwacore: The Birth of Punk Islam

by Latoya Peterson

Taqwacores

“In this so called war of civilizations, we are putting the middle finger in both directions. Fuck you and fuck you.”

“We’re not freaking street preachers and we’re not slam dancing for Allah.”

At this year’s South by Southwest, I only had time to catch two movies.

It should come as no surprise to regular readers that the two I chose were Taqwacore (the documentary) and The Taqwacores (the narrative film based on the novel by Michael Muhammad Knight).

The doc begins with a definition: “Taqwá is the Islamic concept of “God-consciousness” or higher consciousness.”

The “core” comes from from punk. Continue reading

Only Muslims Can Be “Terrorists”

by Guest Contributor Jesse Singal, originally published at Pushback.org

Over the weekend a disturbing story ran in the Dayton Daily News:

Baboucarr Njie was preparing for his prayer session Friday night, Sept. 26, when he heard children in the Islamic Society of Greater Dayton coughing. Soon, Njie himself was overcome with fits of coughing and, like the rest of those in the building, headed for the doors.

“I would stay outside for a minute, then go back in, there were a lot of kids,” Njie said. “My throat is still itchy, I need to get some milk.”

Njie was one of several affected when a suspected chemical irritant was sprayed into the mosque at 26 Josie St., bringing Dayton police, fire and hazardous material personnel to the building at 9:48 p.m.

Someone “sprayed an irritant into the mosque,” Dayton fire District Chief Vince Wiley said, noting that fire investigators believe it was a hand-held spray can.

According to fire dispatch communications, a child reported seeing two men with a white can spraying something into a window. That child was brought to the supervising firefighter at the scene.

There’s one word that’s conspicuously absent from this account: “terrorist.” If spraying a chemical irritant into a room full of civilians isn’t a terrorist act, then what is? Continue reading