Archive for Muslim Americans

Sonny Singh: We Are All Muslims: A Sikh Response to Islamophobia in the NYPD and Beyond

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on March 13, 2012 by loonwatch

Sonny Singh: We Are All Muslims: A Sikh Response to Islamophobia in the NYPD and Beyond

As a brown-skinned Sikh with a turban on my head and a long beard on my chin, I deal with my fair share of racist and xenophobic harassment regularly, including in my home of New York City, the most diverse city on the planet. It usually takes the form of someone yelling or perhaps mumbling at me: Osama bin Laden/terrorist/al Qaeda/he’s going to blow up the /go back to your country/etc. Less often, someone might threaten me, get in my face, or in one case, pull off my turban on the subway.

My experience is not terribly unique for a turban-wearing Sikh in the United States. Especially since 9/11, we Sikhs have become all too familiar with racial epithets, bullying and violence. Just last month, a gurdwara in Michigan was vandalized with hostile anti-Muslim graffiti. Last year, in what we can assume was a hate attack, two elderly Sikh men were shot and killed while taking an evening walk in a quiet neighborhood in Elk Grove, Calif.

Many talk about the prevalence of anti-Sikh attacks as a case of “mistaken identity.” Sikhs mistaken for Muslims. Indeed, we are by and large attacked because of anti-Muslim bigotry. The Michigan gurdwara was targeted for that reason, and most of us who experience racist harassment as Sikhs in the U.S. experience it through the vilification of Muslims and/or Arabs.

Ironically, many Sikhs themselves vilify Muslims or at least distance themselves from the Muslim community at every possible opportunity. I remember in the days, weeks and months after 9/11, the first thing out of the mouths of many Sikhs when talking to the press, to politicians or even to their neighbors was, “We are not Muslims.” While this is of course a fact, the implication of the statement if it stops there is: You’re attacking the wrong community. Don’t come after us, go after the Muslims! Sikhs believe in equality and freedom and love our country and our government. But Muslims? We don’t like them either.

The roots of anti-Muslim sentiment in the Sikh community run deep in South Asia, from the days of the tyranny of Mughal emperors such as Aurangzeb in the 17th century to the bloodshed in 1947 when our homeland of Punjab was sliced into two separate nation-states. Despite these historical realities, Sikhism has always been clear that neither Muslims as a people nor Islam as a religion were ever the enemy. Tyranny was the enemy. Oppression was the enemy. Sectarianism was the enemy. In fact, the Guru Granth Sahib, our scriptures that are the center of Sikh philosophy and devotion, contains the writings of Muslim (Sufi) saints alongside those of our own Sikh Gurus. Nevertheless, historical memory breeds misguided hostility and mistrust of Muslims, especially in the contemporary global context of ever-increasing, mainstream Islamophobia.

What is it going to take for Sikhs and Muslims to join together in solidarity against the common enemies of racist harassment and violence, racial and religious profiling, and Islamophobic bigotry? Perhaps the recently exposed NYPD spying program (along with the “education” officers have received about Islam) will serve as a wake up call to my community (and other communities for that matter) about how bad things have really gotten. While we Sikhs confront bigotry on a daily basis from our neighbors, classmates, co-workers, employers and strangers on the street, our Muslim American counterparts are systematically targeted by our own government. (I should note that, of course, Sikhs too are profiled by law enforcement in less repressive, though still troubling, ways, especially at airport security).

Sikhism was born hundreds of years ago in part to stand up for the most oppressed and fight for the freedom and liberation of all people. If this isn’t reason enough for us to make the cause of rooting out Islamophobia from the NYPD and other law enforcement and government agencies our own, we only have to return to the bleak reality we Sikhs in the U.S. still face right now in 2012. A time when gurdwaras are still vandalized with anti-Muslim statements, Sikh kids are still being bullied and tormented at school every day, and I am called Osama bin Laden while walking down a Manhattan street for the 258th time (no I’m not counting).

“We are not Muslims” hasn’t been so effective for our community, has it? Even if we do so in a positive way that does not condone attacks on Muslims, simply educating the public about the fact that we are a distinct community and that we in fact “are not Muslim” will not get to the root of the problem. As long as we live in a country (and world) where an entire community (in this case, Muslims) is targeted, spied on and vilified, we will not be safe, we will not be free.

As Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote in his letter from a Birmingham jail in 1963, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.”

I hope the NYPD’s blatant assault on the civil rights of our Muslim sisters and brothers propels us Sikhs as well as all people of conscience to action. Perhaps “We are not Muslims” will become “We are all Muslims,” as we come together to eradicate Islamophobic bigotry in all its forms.

Peter King Defends NYPD Monitoring, Plans More Hearings on Islam

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 28, 2012 by loonwatch

This should come to no surprise that Peter King will defend the NYPD monitoring. He must be really proud.

Peter King Defends NYPD Monitoring, Plans More Hearings on Islam

by George Zornick

Appearing on WCBS in New York this morning, Representative Peter King offered a strong defense of NYPD’s spying on mosques and Muslim businesses and student groups in several states. Criticism of the recently revealed program has intensified in recent days, but King said he was proud of the police department.

“[Police Commissioner] Ray Kelly and the NYPD should get a medal for what they are doing,” he said. “This is good police work. If you are going after radical Muslims you don’t go to Ben’s Kosher Deli.”

This is perhaps not surprising coming from the man who held highly controversial Capitol Hill hearings into Muslim Americans last year, which many people saw as essentially profiling by public relations; his colleague, Representative Keith Ellison invoked the specter of Joe McCarthy in criticizing King’s efforts and said they served to “vilify” Muslims.

But, alas, King announced last week that he would hold more hearings into domestic radicalization among Muslim Americans in the coming year. “The series of radicalization hearings I convened last March has been very productive,” King said in a statement. “I will definitely continue the hearings in 2012.”

This is a good time to flag a recent study by Charles Kurzman, a sociology professor at the University of North Carolina and member of the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security. His comprehensive examination of crime statistics found that terrorism-related incidents by Muslim Americans has declined markedly, and that Muslim-Americans represent “a minuscule threat to public safety.” He wrote:

The limited scale of Muslim-American terrorism in 2011 runs counter to the fears that many Americans shared in the days and months after 9/11, that domestic Muslim American terrorism would escalate. The spike in terrorism cases in 2009 renewed these concerns, as have repeated warnings from U.S. government officials about a possible surge in homegrown Islamic terrorism. The predicted surge has not materialized.

Repeated alerts by government officials maybe issued as a precaution, even when the underlying threat is uncertain. Officials may be concerned about how they would look if an attack did take place and subsequent investigations showed that officials had failed to warn the public. But a byproduct of these alerts is a sense of heightened tension that is out of proportion to the actual number of terrorist attacks in the United States since 9/11.

If King calls Kurzman to testify at his hearings I’ll eat my hat, but it’s possible Democrats on the committee could arrange for his appearance. He would provide a substantive counterweight to King’s typically anecdote-driven hysteria. Last week the FBI foiled a plot in which a Moroccan man wanted to bomb the US Capitol—you can bet King will give that episode a prominent role at his hearings.

Sahar Aziz: The Contradictions of Obama’s Outreach to American Muslims

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 21, 2011 by loonwatch

The Contradictions of Obama’s Outreach to American Muslims

On the same day that Rep. Peter King held the fourth “homegrown terrorism” hearing focused exclusively on Muslims, the White House released its Strategic Implementation Plan for Empowering Local Partners to Prevent Violent Extremism in the United States. Despite the White House’s seemingly benign approach to counterterrorism, its implementation produces adverse effects similar to Mr. King’s confrontational tactics.

The White House Strategy proclaims, “Law enforcement and government officials for decades have understood the critical importance of building relationships, based on trust, with the communities they serve. Partnerships are vital to address a range of challenges and must have as their foundation a genuine commitment on the part of law enforcement and government to address community needs and concerns, including protecting rights and public safety.”

To someone unfamiliar with the history of community outreach to American Muslims, the strategy sounds ideal. However, the Obama Administration has sabotaged its own high-minded public position by adopting the Bush Administration’s counterterrorism model that punishes the broad Muslim community rather than targeting genuine threats. Thus, the Administration’s actual practices conform all-too-closely to Peter King’s vision of terrorism being synonymous with Islam.

While preventing terrorism before it happens is a legitimate strategy, the way in which it is currently implemented comes at a high price to a vulnerable minority — Muslims in America.

Expansive surveillance laws coupled with a relaxation of terrorism investigative standards have placed mosques under intrusive surveillance. Similarly, thousands of informants have been hired, for hefty payments, to induce inept and often mentally ill young Muslim men to join fake terrorist plots. Watch lists are bulging with Muslim names while those incorrectly listed lack due process rights to seek removal of their names. Scores of Muslims with no ties to terrorism are charged for making false statements to federal agents in retaliation for refusing to serve as informants. And attempts to locate “lone wolf terrorists” have resulted in the misguided conflation of Muslim orthodox practices with terrorism.

These assaults on Muslims’ civil liberties have strained relations between Muslim communities and law enforcement agencies.

Community outreach meetings, in theory, are supposed to provide the communities with an opportunity to work with government to keep counterterrorism efforts from violating civil rights and civil liberties. Unfortunately, officials routinely dismiss community grievances, reciting self-congratulatory boilerplate that the American government respects constitutional rights as it fights terrorism. Indeed, the government’s cavalier disregard of community concerns is so pervasive that many leaders have concluded that meetings with federal officials are merely pro forma, check-the-box events providing political cover to a government they believe is systematically and unlawfully profiling Muslims. Others have chosen to boycott the meetings altogether.

The government seems oblivious to the harm these counter-terrorism policies are doing to the potential for trust in Muslim communities. Making matters worse, the immense political pressure on the Justice Department to produce terrorism indictments, and congressional accusations that Obama is soft on terrorists, places the Muslim communities in an intractable dilemma: How can you be partners with agencies who misdirect adversarial behavior from actual terrorists to Muslim communities en masse?

If a young Muslim terrorist suspect manipulated into a phony plot has mental health problems and needs rehabilitative health services, for example, investigators and prosecutors nonetheless pursue the adversarial route — to prosecute and incarcerate. The combined effects of these entrapment efforts and over-charging obviously disturbed young Muslim men threatens to devastate Muslim communities in the same way that the mass incarceration of African American men has transformed the communities from which they have been removed.

Such concerns are validated by documents obtained through a freedom of information request by the American Civil Liberties Union, proving the FBI used community outreach meetings forcollecting intelligence on Muslim AmericansAccording to the ACLU, the FBI did not inform Muslims at outreach events, such as community meetings, religious dinners and job fairs, that conversations and names of those in attendance would be recorded in government files. A 2008 document shows that an FBI agent “collected and documented individuals’ contact information and First Amendment-protected opinions and associations, and conducted Internet searches to obtain further information about the individuals in attendance.” This may explain why individuals, including imams, who were active participants in government outreach programs have found themselves indicted or deported, sending a chill through Muslim communities.

If the government is serious about partnering with Muslim communities, it must stop behaving like an adversary. For starters, community outreach programs should not be exploited to spy on Muslims, recruit undercover informants, and make false promises.

Until the Administration translates its lofty rhetoric into tangible policy reforms, there will not be much difference between Mr. King’s and President Obama’s approaches to counterterrorism.

Sahar Aziz is an associate professor of law at Texas Wesleyan University School of Law and a fellow at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding. She is the author of Caught in a Preventive Dragnet: Selective Counterterrorism Against Muslims, Arabs, and South Asiansforthcoming in the Gonzaga Law Review.

“I am American.” Then and Now. Same S***, Different Group.

Posted in Feature, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , on December 11, 2011 by loonwatch

Then (1941):

A Japanese-American erects a sign to show his allegiance. (h/t TheSunDanceKid)

And now (2011):

American Muslims launch an ad campaign to show their allegiance. 

Same sh**, different group.

Peter King’s 4th anti-Muslim Hearing Focuses on “Threats” to US Military Communities

Posted in Feature, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 7, 2011 by loonwatch

Rep. Peter King, an avowed supporter of the Irish terrorist organization, the IRA during the 80′s and 90′s held his fourth hearing targeting American Muslims along with Sen. Joe Lieberman, who has had thirteen such hearings. King is known for his animus toward Muslims, in the recent past he has said that , “there are too many mosques in the US,” that “80-85% of mosques are controlled by extremists,” and that “85 percent of American Muslim community leaders are an enemy living amongst us.”

These hearings are not only divisive in that they single out a particular group, they have been lambasted for not covering the spectrum of threats faced by this country (especially by the Right-wing), while at the same time inflating and exaggerating “homegrown terrorism” and “radicalization” from Muslims. The utilitarian argument has been employed to highlight that not only are these hearings  uninterested in a real problem or a real solution, they are wasting valuable time and tax-payer money. Recently, we published a piece highlighting the findings of Prof. Risa A. Brooks’s study, empirically and definitively proving that “homegrown terrorism is not a serious threat;” a conclusion echoed by others such as Charles Kurzman and Duke University.

We covered the past three hearings which were nothing more than GOP propaganda littered with non-specialists, self-interested Neo-cons, non-sensical neologisms such as prislam and Islamophobic banter. On the flip side there were also those courageous, articulate and well informed individuals who eloquently exposed the vapid logic inherent in the “McCarthy-esque” hearings.

So continued the charade this morning; Washington D.C. political theater at its finest or rather ugliest. The populist fear-mongering focused its eye on the “Muslim American threat” within, and to, our military.

We heard about Nidal Hasan and other attacks, but we didn’t hear about the main reason that these lone-wolfs are created: our foreign policy of bombing, invading and occupying Muslim majority nations. The Congress’ time would be better spent if they debated the ramifications of foreign policy rather than broadly generalizing a whole category of people as a possible “fifth column.”

One quite revealing episode was when Rep. Lungren asked the assistant secretary of Defense for the Department of Homeland Defense, “Is having ‘soldier of Allah’ on your card a behavioral indicator that would alert military leaders that there is a threat from a soldier?”

I wonder if Rep. Lungren would likewise ask if having “soldier of Jesus, or soldier of Yahweh, or soldier of Ram” on one’s card is a behavioral indicator worthy to raise red alerts? Certainly the unstable nature of Nidal Hasan, his rambling presentations were more of an indicator than “soldier of Allah?” This however gives one insight into the double standards and maligning of Islam/Muslims inherent in the thought process of individuals such as Rep. Lungren.

In what seemed the most common sense portion of the hearings, Rep. Laura Richardson (definitely one of the anti-loons of the year), asked “Is there a threat to military communities limited to Islamic extremists, yes or no?”

All three of those giving testimony answered “no” to the question. Lt. Col Sawyer answered that they have also seen a “proliferation of other movements outside the Islamic faith,” and then he mentioned how members have been targeted by “Christian movements and Identity movements.”

Rep. Richardson followed by saying that it has been mentioned that skinheads and White extremists were a threat in the 90′s, and asked if the panelists would consider them to no longer be a threat? All answered “no.”

She then went on to state that the reason she is asking those questions is because the topic today is “Homegrown terrorism: the threat to military communities inside the United States, it doesn’t say Islamic anywhere in here.” A crucial point considering that the actual hearing wasn’t as broad as the language would imply, and instead was solely focused on the “radical Islamic homegrown threat.”

For some much needed perspective on today’s hearings watch this “elbow from the sky” from Cenk Uygur of the Young Turks:
http://c.brightcove.com/services/viewer/federated_f9?isVid=1&isUI=1

Muslim Reality Show, All-American Muslim, To Premiere On TLC

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 25, 2011 by loonwatch

All-American Muslim to Premiere on TLC

Muslim Reality Show, All-American Muslim, To Premiere On TLC 

What’s life like as a Muslim-American?

A new eight-part series on TLC that premieres November 13 will try to answer that question by following the lives of five very different Muslim-American families. The show, “All-American Muslim”, was filmed in Dearborn, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit that’s known for it’s large Arab-American population. It promises to go “inside the rarely seen world of American Muslims to uncover a unique community struggling to balance faith and nationality in a post 9/11 world,” according to a press release.

Producers picked a diverse crowd to profile, from sisters who are polar opposites (one wears a headscarf and prays daily, the other has tattoos –generally frowned upon in Islam – and is married an Irish Catholic) to a high school football coach to newlyweds, in order to show people who “share the same religion, but lead very distinct lives that often times challenge the Muslim stereotype.” The series will also address issues such as the post-9/11 life for Muslims and gender roles in Islam.

The show, which is rare for its focus on Muslims, has generated much buzz in the Muslim-American community as well as non-Muslims. Dawud Walid, the executive director of the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said he is looking forward to watching the series.

“It’ll give us a taste of the lives of Muslim-Americans in both their aspirations and concerns. I think the show will be good and humanizing for the Muslim community of Dearborn,” said Walid, who is friends with one of the cast members. Walid cautioned that, in terms of ethnic background, Muslims are “much more diverse than what Dearborn may show. Dearborn is an anomaly in the American Muslim landscape for its large Arab-American population and concentrated Muslim population.”

The first episode of “All-American Muslim” airs at 10 p.m. Eastern time on TLC.

Here is a run-down of the show’s characters, courtesy of TLC.

Suehaila and Shadia: Suehaila wears a traditional headscarf and follows daily prayer rituals – while Shadia, her outspoken sister, is decorated with piercings and tattoos and recently married Jeff, an Irish Catholic who is converting to Islam.

Nader and Nawal: Newlyweds expecting their first baby, Nader and Nawal are working to strike the right balance between their traditional Muslim roots and American culture.

Fouad: As head coach of the Fordson High School football team, Fouad has pioneered a shift in his team’s summer practice schedule by flipping to night workouts from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. since a majority of his team are Muslim and are fasting for Ramadan.

Mike and Angela: Mike, a deputy chief sheriff, and his wife Angela, a consultant to a major auto manufacturer, are juggling their busy careers with raising their four children in a modern Muslim family.

Nina: A strong, independent Muslim businesswoman, Nina’s family runs the premier wedding and banquet hall in Dearborn — but against their advice, she is trying to venture off on her own to open a nightclub.

Samira and Ali: Samira and her husband of seven years, Ali, struggle with fertility issues and are pursuing numerous options including conventional fertility techniques, dietary alternatives and Muslim supplication prayers. After years of unsuccessful attempts, Samira considers putting on the Hijab in order to be closer to God and hopefully be blessed with a child.

Check out a slideshow of some of the cast members below.

CLARIFICATION:An earlier version of this story stated that tattoos are illegal in Islam. This has been clarified to reflect that most Islamic scholars consider tattoos illegal and that the legality is debated among a minority of scholars.

The DOJ’s escalating criminalization of speech

Posted in Anti-Loons, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 7, 2011 by loonwatch

BY GLENN GREENWALD

Over the past several years, the Justice Department has increasingly attempted to criminalize what is clearly protected political speech by prosecuting numerous individuals (Muslims, needless to say) for disseminating political views the government dislikes or considers threatening.  The latest episode emerged on Friday, when the FBI announced the arrest and indictment of Jubair Ahmad, a 24-year-old Pakistani legal resident living in Virginia, charged with “providing material support” to a designated Terrorist organization (Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT)).

What is the “material support” he allegedly gave?  He produced and uploaded a 5-minute video to YouTube featuring photographs of U.S. abuses in Abu Ghraib, video of armored trucks exploding after being hit by IEDs, prayer messages about “jihad” from LeT’s leader, and — according to the FBI’s Affidavit – “a number of terrorist logos.”  That, in turn, led the FBI agent who signed the affidavit to assert that ”based on [his] training and experience, it is evident that the video . . . is designed as propaganda to develop support for LeT and to recruit jihadists to LeT.”  The FBI also claims Ahmad spoke with the son of an LeT leader about the contents of the video and had attended an LeT camp when he was a teenager in Pakistan.  For the act of uploading that single YouTube video (and for denying that he did so when asked by the FBI agents who came to his home to interrogate him), he faces 23 years in prison.

Let’s be very clear about the key point: the Constitution — specifically the Free Speech clause of the First Amendment — prohibits the U.S. Government from punishing someone for the political views they express, even if those views include the advocacy of violence against the U.S. and its leaders.  One can dislike this legal fact.  One can wish it were different.  But it is the clear and unambiguous law, and has been since the Supreme Court’s unanimous 1969 decision inBrandenburg v. Ohio, which overturned the criminal conviction of a Ku Klux Klan leader who had publicly threatened violence against political officials in a speech.

In doing so, the Brandenberg Court struck down as unconstitutional an Ohio statute (under which the KKK leader was prosecuted) that made it a crime to “advocate . . . the duty, necessity, or propriety of crime, sabotage, violence, or unlawful methods of terrorism as a means of accomplishing industrial or political reform.”  Such advocacy — please read the part in bold — cannot be a crime because it is protected by the First Amendment.  The crux of the Court’s holding: ”the constitutional guarantees of free speech and free press do not permit a State to forbid or proscribe advocacy of the use of force“ (emphasis added; for more on the First Amendment law protecting this right to advocate violence, see my discussion here).

To put this less abstractly, and as I’ve noted before, a person has — and should and must have — the absolute free speech right to advocate ideas such as this:

For decades, the U.S. Government has been engaging in violence and otherwise interfering in the Muslim world. Hundreds of thousands of innocent Muslim men, women and children have died as a result. There is no end in sight to this American assault on the Muslim world and those of its client states. Therefore, it is not only the right, but the duty, of Muslims to engage in violence against Americans as a means of self-defense and to deter further violence against Muslims. That is the only available means for fighting back against the world’s greatest military superpower. The only alternative is continuing passive submission to this onslaught of violence aimed at Muslims.

One may find that idea objectionable or even repellent, but does anyone believe that someone should be prosecuted for writing that paragraph?  Anyone who would favor prosecution for that doesn’t understand or believe in the Constitution, as those ideas are pure political speech protected by the First Amendment, every bit as much as: the climate crisis now justifies violent attacks on polluting corporations; or capitalism is so destructive that the use of force in service of a Communist Revolution is compelled; or “if our President, our Congress, our Supreme Court, continues to suppress the white, Caucasian race, it’s possible that there might have to be some revengeance taken” (Brandenberg); or such is the tyranny of the Crown that taking up arms against it is not merely a right but the duty of all American patriots (The American Revolution).  The Jerusalem Post justfired one of its columnists, a Jewish leftist who wrote that Palestinian violence against Israel is ”justified” because they have the “right to resist” the occupation; is he guilty of a crime of materially supporting Terrorism?  Should Ward Churchill, widely accused of having justified the 9/11 attack (or Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, who did the same) have been indicted?

Judging from the description of Ahmad’s video in the FBI Affidavit (Ahmad’s YouTube account has been removed), the video in question does not go nearly as far as the clearly protected views referenced in the prior paragraph, as it does not explicitly advocate violence at all; indeed, it appears not to advocate that anyone do anything.  Rather, the FBI believes it is evocative of such advocacy (“designed as propaganda to develop support for LeT”), which makes this prosecution even more troubling.  Apparently, if you string together video and photographs (or words) in a certain way as to make the DOJ think that you’re implicitly trying to “develop support” for a Terrorist group — based on the political ideas you’re expressing — you risk decades of imprisonment.  Is it possible to render the ostensible right of “free speech” more illusory than this?

This case is not an aberration; as indicated, prosecuting Muslims for pure political speech is an increasing weapon of the DOJ.  In July, former Obama OLC official Marty Lederman analyzed the indictment of a 22-year-old former Penn State student for — in the FBI’s words – “repeatedly using the Internet to promote violent jihad against Americans” by posting comments on a “jihadist” Internet forum including “a comment online that praised the [October, 2010] shootings” at the Pentagon and Marine Corps Museum and ”a number of postings encouraging attacks within the United States.”  He also posted links to a bomb-making manual.

Regarding the part of the indictment based on “encouraging violent attacks,” Lederman — who, remember, was an Obama DOJ lawyer until very recently — wrote: it “does not at first glance appear to be different from the sort of advocacy of unlawful conduct that is entitled to substantial First Amendment protection under the Brandenburg line of cases.”  As for linking to bomb-making materials, Lederman wrote: ”the First Amendment generally protects the publication of publicly available information, even where there is a chance or a likelihood that one or more readers may put such information to dangerous, unlawful use.”  Lederman’s discussion of the law and its applicability to that prosecution contains some caveats (and also raises some other barriers to these kinds of prosecutions), but he is clear that the aspect of the indictment based on the alleged advocacy and encouragement of violence in the name of jihad “would appear to be very vulnerable to a First Amendment challenge.”  That’s government-lawyer-ese for: this prosecution is attempting to criminalize free political speech.

Perhaps the most extreme example of this trend is the fact that a Pakistani man in New York was prosecuted and then sentenced to almost six years in prison for doing nothing more than including a Hezbollah news channel in the package of cable channels he offered for sale to consumers in Brooklyn.  On some perverse level, though, all of these individuals are lucky that they are being merely prosecuted rather than targeted with due-process-free assassination.  As I documented last month, that is what is being done to U.S. citizen Anwar Awlaki due — overwhelmingly if not exclusively — to the U.S. Government’s fear of his purely political views.

If the First Amendment was designed to do anything, it was designed to prevent the government from imprisoning people — or killing them — because of the political ideas they promote.  Yet that is clearly what the Obama administration is doing with increasing frequency and aggression.

There is one last point that bears emphasis here.  Numerous prominent politicians from both political parties — Michael Mukasey, Howard Dean, Wes Clark, Tom Ridge, Ed Rendell, Fran Townsend, Rudy Giuliani, and many others — have not only been enthusiasticaly promoting andadvocating on behalf of a designated terrorist organization (MEK of Iran), but they have been receiving substantial amounts of cash from that Terrorist group as they do so.  There is only one list of “designated Terrorist organizations” under the law, and MEK is every bit as much on that list as LeT or Al Qaeda are.  Yet you will never, ever see those individuals being indicted by the Obama DOJ for their far more extensive — and paid – involvement with MEK than, for instance, Ahmad has with LeT.  That’s because: (1) the criminal law does not apply to politically powerful elites, only to ordinary citizens and residents (indeed, many of those MEK-shilling politicians cheer on broad and harsh application of the “material support” statute when applied to others), and (2) MEK is now devoted to fighting against a government disliked by the U.S. (Iran), so they’ve become (like Saddam Hussein when fighting Iran and bin Laden when fighting the Soviet Union) the Good Terrorists whom the U.S. likes and supports.

Nonetheless, MEK remains on the list of the designated Terrorist groups, and lending them material support — which certainly includes paid shilling for them — is every bit as criminal (at least) as the behavior in the above-discussed indictments.  As usual, though, “Terrorism” means nothing other than what the U.S. Government wants it to mean at any given moment.  The evisceration of the rule of law evidenced by this disparate treatment is as odious as the First Amendment assault itself.

(source: Salon)