Muslim-Americans Banished by Government, Banned from Air Travel and Told They Can Swim Back

Much has been said (not enough though) about how the imperial government in the White House can assassinate U.S. citizens without trial (see Glenn Greenwald’s discussion here).  For now, the main targets of this presidential assassination program are Muslim-Americans living abroad.

But there is another far more common way that the U.S. government infringes on the rights of Muslim-Americans who travel abroad: the modern-day equivalent of banishment.  The way it works is this: you’re a Muslim-American who decides one day to travel abroad to (let’s say) visit family.  After a few weeks, you decide it’s time to head back home, the United States of America.  But as you try to board the plane at the airport, you’re informed that your flight has been canceled and that you need to talk to the American embassy.  After a few days of being left in mystery, you might be told that you were put on a no-fly list.  But you’ll never be given any explanation for why you were put on this list or how to get off of it.

It’s difficult to say how many Muslim-Americans have faced this fate.  The ACLU says it has been contacted “by a dozen people” in a similar situation with “half of them” stranded abroad:

The American Civil Liberties Union says it has been contacted by a dozen people who say they have been improperly placed on the no-fly list since December, half of them Americans abroad.

“For many of these Americans, placement on the no-fly list effectively amounts to banishment from their country,” said Ben Wizner, a senior staff attorney with the A.C.L.U. He called such treatment “both unfair and unconstitutional.”

The actual numbers are almost certainly much higher:

Exactly how many people are on the government’s lists is unclear. Some of the most recent estimates, from late 2009, state that about 400,000 individuals are on the “watchlist,” which requires a “reasonable suspicion” that the person is known or suspected to be engaged in terrorist activities. A much smaller number — about 14,000 — is on the “selectee list,” meaning they will likely have to undergo rigorous screening to travel. And officials estimated that 3,400 individuals, including roughly 170 U.S. residents, are on the no-fly list.

We won’t ever actually know how many (unless Wikileaks informs us) since the Most Transparent Administration Ever™ won’t ever tell us, much like how we won’t ever know how many civilians our drones kill.

All of this prompted the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the largest Muslim-American civil rights group, to issue a “travel advisory” to Muslim-Americans warning of the threat of “forced exile.”  So, if you Fly While Muslim (FWM) and travel abroad, you risk assassination and forced exile.

Can you imagine how absolutely, positively angry we’d be if Iran gave these two options to Jewish-Iranians traveling abroad?

*  *  *  *  *

The latest case of forced exile seems especially egregious since it may involve the government targeting a Muslim father’s children.  Here’s a report from MSNBC:

Muslims often put on no-fly list without explanation

Landing on the U.S. government’s watchlist can be a legal, bureaucratic nightmare

McLEAN, Va. — The calls have reached a point of repetitive regularity for civil rights lawyer Gadeir Abbas: A young Muslim American, somewhere in the world, is barred from boarding an airplane.

The exact reasons are never fully articulated, but the reality is clear. The traveler has been placed on the government’s terror watchlist — or the more serious no-fly list — and clearing one’s name becomes a legal and bureaucratic nightmare.

On Monday Abbas sent letters to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and FBI Director Robert Mueller requesting assistance for his two most recent clients. One is a resident of Portland, Ore. who is trying to fly to Italy to live with his mother. The other, a teenager and U.S. citizen living in Jordan, has been unable to travel to Connecticut to lead prayers at a mosque.

“All American citizens have the unqualified right to reside in the United States,” Abbas wrote Monday in a letter to secretary of State Hillary Clinton seeking a change in status for the client in Jordan.

Abbas, a lawyer with the Council on American-Islamic Relations, tries to piece together the reason why a client has been placed on the list. Perhaps a person has a similar name to a known terrorist. Maybe their travels to Yemen or some other Middle East hot spot have garnered suspicion. Maybe they told the FBI to take a hike when they requested an interview.

Ultimately, though, the reasons are almost irrelevant. From Abbas’ perspective, the placement on the no-fly list amounts to a denial of a traveler’s basic rights: U.S. citizens can’t return home from overseas vacations, children are separated from parents, and those under suspicion are denied the basic due process rights that would allow them to clear their name…

“The amount of people who experience tragic, life-altering travel delays is significant,” said Abbas, who estimates he gets a call at least once a month from a Muslim American in dire straits because their travel has been restricted.

Government officials, of course, see it differently. They say they have a Traveler Redress Inquiry Program that lets people wrongly placed on the no-fly list, or the much broader terrorist watchlist, fix their circumstances.

More broadly, the government has argued in court that placing somebody on the no-fly list does not deprive them of any constitutional rights. Just because a person can’t fly doesn’t mean they can’t travel, the government lawyers argue. They can always take a boat, for example.

Or perhaps they can swim across.  Or maybe they can build a bridge across the ocean out of Lego pieces.  Or why not drill an underground hole from China?

They can always take a boat!?  Are you effing kidding me!?

The article goes on:

“Neither Plaintiff nor any other American citizen has either a right to international travel or a right to travel by airplane,” government lawyers wrote…

Exactly how many people are on the government’s lists is unclear. Some of the most recent estimates, from late 2009, state that about 400,000 individuals are on the “watchlist,” which requires a “reasonable suspicion” that the person is known or suspected to be engaged in terrorist activities. A much smaller number — about 14,000 — is on the “selectee list,” meaning they will likely have to undergo rigorous screening to travel. And officials estimated that 3,400 individuals, including roughly 170 U.S. residents, are on the no-fly list.

Calls and emails to the Department of Homeland Security and State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs were not returned.

Of course not.  State Secrets and all.

And near the end of the article:

In another case, an 18 year-old U.S. citizen living in Jordan with his parents was bounced from an EgyptAir flight to New York. Amr Abulrub had planned to lead Ramadan prayers at a Connecticut mosque.

After a few days of confusion, Abulrub learned from airline officials that the U.S. government had instructed EgyptAir to cancel his ticket. U.S. embassy officials in Amman have subsequently told Abulrub he can travel under certain restrictions, including a requirement that his flight to the U.S. be booked on an American airline. But Abulrub is leery of traveling at all for fear that he won’t be allowed to go back to Jordan.

Abulrub’s father, Jalal Abulrub, suspects his son has come to the attention of U.S. authorities because of his own writings. Jalal is a Salafist scholar who has sometimes written provocative articles and antagonized Christian evangelists he believed were disrespectful to Muslims. While Jalal says his family is Salafist — generally considered a fundamentalist sect of Islam — he is quick to point out that he has a long history of writing in opposition to the ideology espoused by Osama bin laden and al-Qaida.

“I am not going to let this go,” Jalal said, referring to his son’s inability to travel. “We don’t allow anyone to oppress us.”

Amr Abulrub is the latest victim of the modern day banishment system enacted by the United States.  And he might have been placed on that list due to the writings of his father, Jalal Abulrub, a conservative Muslim preacher.  Jalal Abulrub is known for debating Evangelical Christians, and even though some of his articles might seem abrasive, they are no more so than those Christians he debates with.  More specifically, Jalal Abulrub has consistently denounced Al-Qaeda, terrorism, and the targeting and killing of civilians (unlike the majority of American Christians who accept the idea).

Is the government targeting a man’s children?  I don’t know.  Jalal Abulrub certainly thinks so, and it certainly deserves investigation.  But we’ll never know, since everything is a state secret.

*  *  *  *  *

Here is the bottom line, enunciated by CAIR:

“If the F.B.I. wishes to question American citizens, they should be allowed to return to the United States, where they will be able to maintain their constitutional rights free of threats or intimidation,” Mr. Awad wrote.

If the government wants to arrest and try them in court, that’s fine too.  But leaving them in limbo makes no sense, and runs completely contrary to everything this country was founded upon.  And that’s the rub of this Abulrub situation: the government is telling these same Muslim-Americans that they can travel back to the U.S. on a boat.  If they really were terrorists or involved in anything terrorism-related, then why would the government still allow them back if they take a different mode of transportation?  This proves that the government really has nothing on them, and that this entire thing is just one big farce.

*  *  *  *  *

Check out this disgusting anti-Muslim website (BareNakedIslam) which boasts the title:

“MUSLIM ‘NO FLY’ list has unintended (but welcome) consequences — ‘Forced Exile’

Hatred makes people take great delight in the sickest of things.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: