Thursday, April 15, 2010

Muslims Feel Targeted by FBI, Question Contact on Campus

According to students at the University of Texas-Dallas, agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation approached them on campus and at work to inquire about their beliefs and affiliations. Without a reasonable suspicion that individuals were involved in illegal activity, such tracking is not only unconstitutional, but ultimately counterproductive.

In an April 11, 2010 article in the UTD Mercury, political science senior Boma Danesh describes how FBI agents questioned him, asking him to identity radical UTD students, radical preachers, and asking him about his political views. Danesh is a member of Muslim Students for Justice, an off-campus group that hosts pro-Palestine and Malcolm X-influenced events. The FBI denied investigating anyone solely for First Amendment activities not because of their ethnicity, nationality or religious affiliation. Nevertheless, other Muslim students expressed the feeling that they were targeted based on their religion.

Although the FBI repeatedly stresses its desire to build positive, strong relationships with Muslim and Arab-American communities, singling out Muslim students on campus for questioning sends a different message.

In related news, a University of Michigan study published in the American Journal of Public Health in February 2010 found that one quarter of Detroit-area Arab Americans reported personal or familial abuse because of race, ethnicity, or religion since 9/11, leading to higher odds of adverse health effects. According to the study, entitled "Association of Perceived Abuse and Discrimination after Sept. 11, 2001 with Psychological Distress," the American Muslim population is estimated at approximately 5.4 million people, consisting of African Americans, South Asians, and Arabs. In addition, up to 2.5 million non-Muslim Arabs reside in the United States. The Federal Bureau of Investigation found a 1600% increase in hate crimes directed against these populations in the year after the events of September 11. According to the researchers,

given that perceived discrimination is strongly tied to mental health outcomes and that mental health often predicts happiness in Arab populations, these findings provide the strongest indication of the negative impact of perceived post-September 11 abuse and discrimination on respondents' well-being.
Adverse health effects are just one negative outcome of discrimination and abuse. A recent study by Political Research Associates (Platform for Prejudice) examines how the new nationwide "suspicious activity reporting initiative" invites racial or religious profiling and erodes community trust and safety. This report builds on prior reports by the American Immigration Policy Institute (download here) and the ACLU and Rights Working Group (download here) about the persistence of racial profiling and its deleterious impacts on American communities.