Muslim campaign against repressive US laws gathers momentum

Empowering Weak & Oppressed

Tahir Mahmoud

Jumada' al-Ula' 04, 1420 1999-08-16

World

by Tahir Mahmoud (World, Crescent International Vol. 28, No. 12, Jumada' al-Ula', 1420)

The Muslim campaign against the US government’s Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, by which Muslims can be arrested, imprisoned and deported without ever being charged with any offence, or even informed of the evidence being used against them (see “American Muslims mobilising in protest...”, Muslimedia - August 1-15, 1999), has picked up considerable momentum and support. Hitherto confined to a few Muslim activists, it has been taken to the grassroots largely through the efforts of Imam Abdul Alim Musa and his organization, Masjid al-Islam. On July 30, a massive rally was held in front of the Civic Centre in San Francisco, California, attended by a wide cross-section of the community.

Although the Act specifically targets immigrant Muslims (most African-American Muslims cannot be deported from the US), the campaign by Imam Musa and Masjid al-Islam aims to neutralise this plot to divide Muslims along ethnic or immigrant/native lines. The authors of the law have used the classic ‘divide and rule’ technique, assuming that African-American Muslims would take little interest in a law that does not affect them directly.

It is also interesting to note that, among immigrant Muslims, reaction to the legislation is divided. Those who wish to integrate into the American system are prepared to accept every humiliation, every assault on their liberty and rights. There are others who feel that such attempts by the Zionist lobby through their surrogates in the US congress and administration must be resisted. If they submit to such legislation meekly, there will be no end to the kind of harassment, oppression and intimidation to which they and their families can be subjected.

Already the US government has gone ahead with instituting a law which targets Muslim passengers at airports. The overwhelming majority of people singled out for security checks by the new ‘profiling’ system have been Muslims and people of Arab origin. Sisters in hijab and Muslim men with beards have thus been subjected to crude and humiliating searches at US airports.

The profiling system was instituted after the crash of the TWA airliner off the coast of Long Island in July 1996. While the US government has now admitted that the crash was probably caused by an explosion in a fuel-tank rather than by terrorist attack, the profiling and searches policy continues. (The government vehemently denies suggestions that the aircraft may have been downed by a missile fired from a US navy ship, but many people remain unconvinced by its denial.) There is, however, no doubt that no bomb was planted on the plane as initially postulated by virtually all those involved in the investigation, along with the automatic assumption that Muslims were responsible.

Imam Musa’s campaign is not only targeted at the ‘Anti-Terrorism’ legislation, moreover. At the San Francisco rally, he also displayed a cashiers check made out to”Hamas, Palestine”, to launch a non-violent campaign of civil disobedience against the unjust 1996 law which declares Hamas a “terrorist” organisation. “Muslims must reject such a designation,” he said, “since Hamas is involved in a legitimate struggle for freedom and it performs numerous humanitarian and social functions, such as providing support to widows and orphans.”

Imam Musa gave examples of other social movements in the US, including the Labour movement and the Women’s Movement. Late last century and early in this one, he said, these groups had to endure severe persecution at the hands of the authorities before they secured their rights. The labour movement was suppressed for demanding a 40-hour week at work. Today, people take this for granted.

The same, he said applied to the civil rights movement in the sixties. Civil rights activists were subjected to every form of repression. Numerous people were assaulted, falsely accused of crimes, subjected to slander campaigns, and demonstrations were brutally suppressed by tear gas, baton-charges, and police-dogs in order to terrorise the black people demanding equality. It was the sacrifices of those people who stood against unjust laws that brought about changes. Imam Musa, who is no stranger to difficulties ï he himself spent time in prison in the seventies ï is determined to carry through this campaign as well.

He told the Crescent International that he plans to distribute copies of the cashier check at the next rally in Los Angeles, California (to be held on Friday, August 27 ï for information phone 510-638-9541) to draw attention to the fact that he does not believe in obeying an unjust law. He said: “We want the authorities to know that we are supporting Hamas because it is fighting for its rights. For the US government to take a position against Hamas is to betray its own principles and violate its constitution.”

The immediate effect of Imam Musa’s campaign has been to give a boost to the self-confidence of Muslims, especially those of immigrant background. They now feel that they are not alone. The San Francisco rally was also addressed by Brother Abdul Malik, Amir of Masjid al-Islam in Oakland, California, and one of the principal organisers.

It is crucial that more and more Muslims join such rallies in defence of their rights. Unjust laws have never disappeared of their own volition. On the contrary, they have been specifically imposed because they served the interests of powerful groups to whom the law-makers were/are beholden. American society is based on serving the demands of vested interests, not supporting justice or fairness. People seeking justice will have to stand up for it, and if need be, fight for it.

Muslimedia: August 16-31, 1999

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