Thursday, May 11, 2017

About the FBI, but not about James Comey

Easy to miss amidst the furor over the FBI director getting canned for investigating Trump's still unproved, but likely, Russian ties, was the release this week of the Council on American-Islamic Relations new report: The Empowerment of Hate: The Civil Rights Implications of Islamophobic Bias in the U.S. 2014-2016. The general picture is depressing, and reveals the country's underside:

Islamophobic bias continues its trend toward increasing violence. In 2016, CAIR recorded a 57 percent increase in anti-Muslim bias incidents over 2015. This was accompanied by a 44 percent increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes in the same period.

From 2014 to 2016, anti-Muslim bias incidents jumped 65 percent. In that two-year period, CAIR finds that hate crimes targeting Muslims surged 584 percent.

The authors discuss many forms of bias, including in employment, in school, and harassment on the street. I found this chart particularly disturbing:

Of all federal agencies, the FBI -- our supposedly most professional national police -- was far and away the subject of the most bias concerns. The relative magnitude of these complaints seems off the scale.

Digging into the report, CAIR offers a carefully worded description of the community's relationship with the FBI.

Visits from the Federal Bureau of Investigation have become a regular feature of life for many American Muslims. The FBI regularly contacts individuals in order to question and interrogate them about their religious views and to surveil the Muslim community to gather general intelligence, rather than to acquire specific information regarding a credible crime or threat. However, the agency also investigates hate crimes and other criminal activity targeting Muslims and their places of worship, positive work for which many members of the community are grateful.

But last October and November, something seemed to escalate. Note, this was before Trump was elected, under Obama. Agents descended on Muslim enclaves, asking ten scripted questions. Some of these seem plausibly related to security concerns, though accusatory, such as "Do you know of anyone in the U.S. who raises money or provides support to Al-Qaeda or other extremist groups in Afghanistan or Pakistan?" But other seem just crackpot: "Are you aware of anyone with family or other connections to Afghanistan or Pakistan?" What do they think, that Muslims spring fully formed from the ground without parents or relatives?

CAIR's offers a very polite, measured pushback against this dragnet questioning.

CAIR’s concern is that headquarters instructed agents not to follow legitimate leads regarding any particular individual. Instead, it systematized an ineffective general sweep generated by the mindset that Muslims are a monolith and, in general, a threat to the nation. ... This mindset is in conflict with statements from two FBI Directors praising the Muslim community’s actions to report criminal activity. The questions themselves reflect an internal indecision on the part of FBI headquarters because they presume that Muslims would not come forward with information regarding criminal activity.

Concerned U.S. Muslim parents have in fact called in the authorities to report their own children who were "radicalizing."

Back in the early '00's, when the forever wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were young and people in the United States were just as ignorant as we are today, we'd hear stories of GI's roughing up unlucky Afghan peasants while demanding to know whether the captives knew Osama bin Laden. One guy with a headdress is just like another guy with a head covering, right? That didn't get them very far. You'd think that we would have learned.

U.S. Muslims are understandably afraid with the Orange Tweeter unleashing the least professional, most bigoted elements in border control and law enforcement agencies. They long had to live with the unfounded suspicions of those among their neighbors for whom they are the Other.

Resist and protect much.

1 comment:

Brandon said...

"What do they think, that Muslims spring fully formed from the ground without parents or relatives?"

I was reminded of the myth of Cadmus, and the warrior men who arose when he sowed the dragon's teeth.

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