Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding
Opinion Editorials, July 2015
American Muslims alarmed at Anti-Muslim rhetoric by Rand Paul, Wesley Clark, Franklin Graham
By Abdus Sattar Ghazali
Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, July 27, 2015
The seven-million-strong American Muslim community was alarmed by the recent anti-Muslim proposals by Senator Rand Paul, former NATO Commander General Wesley Clark and Christian evangelist Franklin Graham.
Their anti-Muslim proposals came in reaction to the deadly shootings that took the lives of five service members and injured one law enforcement officer in Chattanooga, Tenn.
Although investigators are still searching for possible terrorist links of the attacker (Kuwait-born Mohammad Youssuf Abdulazeez), right wingers quickly jumped in to cash in on the attacker’s Muslim identity.
Senator Rand Paul
In the wake of the tragedy in Tennessee, 2016 presidential hopeful Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) – notorious for his Muslim-bashing speeches – wants to restrict immigration from Muslim countries.
He told Breitbart News: “I’m very concerned about immigration to this country from countries that have hotbeds of jihadism and hotbeds of this Islamism. There was a program in place that Bush had put in place—it stood for entry-exit program from about 25 different countries with a lot of Islamic radicals, frankly. I think there does need to be heightened scrutiny. Nobody has a right to come to America, so this isn’t something that we can say ‘oh their rights are being violated.’ It’s a privilege to come to America and we need to thoroughly screen those who are coming.”
Paul added that he’s planning to, via his position in the U.S. Senate, investigate Muslim immigration problems. Paul is the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee on Federal Spending Oversight and Emergency Management and is also a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
“I’m going to have our subcommittee and maybe committee in Homeland Security look into whether or not we could reinstitute this NSEERS [National Security Entry Exit Registration System] program—it was entry-exit program that was heightened scrutiny for 25 predominantly Muslim countries that have significant jihadist movements and anti-American sentiment in their country,” Paul said. “We need increased scrutiny on those countries before those people come to our country to visit or permanently. We have to have heightened scrutiny.”
NSEERS was set up in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks, required nonimmigrant men and boys from predominantly Muslim countries to report to an immigration office to be photographed, fingerprinted and interviewed. Those targeted by the NSEERS program were also required to leave the United States through specified ports. Anyone who failed to comply with the program faced arrest and deportation.
Portions of the program were suspended in 2011 and in 2012 the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General called for a full termination of NSEERS as the “database that supports this program is obsolete” and it “does not provide any increase in security.”
Civil liberties organizations criticized NSEERS as being highly discriminatory and biased in its design and application.
General Wesley Clark
In an interview with MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts, retired general and former Democratic presidential candidate Wesley Clark called for the creation of internment camps for “disloyal Americans.”
“In World War II, if someone supported Nazi Germany at the expense of the United States, we didn’t say ‘that was freedom of speech,’ we put him in a camp, they were prisoners of war,” he said adding:
“If these people are radicalized and they don’t support the United States and they are disloyal to the United States as a matter of principle, fine. It’s their right and it’s our right and obligation to segregate them from the normal community for the duration of the conflict.”
“We have got to identify the people who are most likely to be radicalized,” he continued. “We’ve got to cut this off at the beginning. I do think on a national policy level we need to look at what self-radicalization means because we are at war with this group of terrorists.”
The rounding up of more than 100,000 Japanese-Americans — and their placement in squalid camps — during the Second World War was a racist disgrace that the country apologized for in 1988 and left traumatic scars that last to this day. The Civil Liberties Act of 1988 offered an official U.S. government apology and granted reparations to Japanese Americans interned, without due process, during the war.
With Clark’s “self-radicalized” quote being coded language for American Muslims, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said adding that with growing anti-Muslim sentiments and hate crimes across the nation it is important to remember that the U.S. government internment of Japanese-Americans in camps was one of the greatest injustices our nation has ever committed against innocent Americans and that such a crime must never be repeated again.
To borrow Nathan J. Robinson, a Ph.D. student at Harvard University, as the people of Chattanooga recover from a disturbing act of violence, it is a useful time to reflect on the way Japanese-Americans were treated during World War II (likewise German-Americans during World War I). Those periods are ignoble examples of the way war can induce terrible nationwide prejudices, with devastating effects on the lives of ordinary people. And they should remind us of the speed with which frightening erosions of civil liberties can occur in a climate of fear.
In response to the killing of five service members in Chattanooga, Tenn., last week, Graham, son of evangelical leader Billy Graham, wrote on Facebook that the U.S. should bar Muslims from immigrating.
He wrote: “Every Muslim that comes into this country has the potential to be radicalized--and they do their killing to honor their religion and Muhammad. During World War 2, we didn't allow Japanese to immigrate to America, nor did we allow Germans. Why are we allowing Muslims now? Do you agree? Let your Congressman know that we've got to put a stop to this and close the flood gates.”
An evangelical pastor from Texas denounced the anti-Muslim comments by evangelist Franklin Graham. “I was so sad when I read the Facebook posting of Franklin Graham,” Bob Roberts Jr., pastor of North Wood Church in Keller, Texas, said at a gathering on Capitol Hill. “This is not ‘evangelical’ and even less evangelistic. I don’t want American Muslims to think we fear them or that they are our enemies.”
To borrow Nathan J. Robinson again: Terrorist violence can make the previously unthinkable suddenly seem acceptable. The levels of surveillance introduced after 9/11 could have been considered reasonable only in the climate of collective panic that the attacks induced. But this week’s reaction to the fatal shooting of four Marines and a Navy petty officer in Chattanooga, Tennessee, by a 24-year-old Muslim has to win the prize for the worst proposed civil liberties infringement to come out of a violent disruption. No matter how high tensions may have run after the Boston Marathon bombing or 9/11, few dared to propose what figures of both left and right have now suggested: the segregation and internment of Muslim citizens.
Terrorist or lone wolf, Abdulazeez’s actions were inhumane. They are unforgiveable. However, cashing in on his religious affiliation to target an already misunderstood community is equally worse, if not more. The Chattanooga gunman, Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez, acted alone without help from anyone else, and investigators are treating him as a "homegrown violent extremist," the Associated Press quoted Ed Reinhold, the FBI's special agent as saying Wednesday.
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