Bad news: Based on Ashcroft’s latest definition of “terrorist,” even some of your colleagues may fit the profile.
You see, at a young and impressionable age, I enrolled in what was probably a three-year terrorist training camp under the guise of a Muslim middle school. Each morning, an armored yellow van posing as a school bus transported me to a cave-building nestled in the hills of Camp Maryland. During recess, students would steal off to the library, probably to read up on the latest Osama manual (or was it the Soviets back then?). During PE, we were forced to run back and forth in a cavernous room, practicing an operation called “suicide;” and if anyone were to ask, we were instructed to say, “We are playing basketball.”Ê
The truth is, it really was a school bus; we were actually studying; and yes, “suicide” is an exercise that coaches everywhere use to train basketball players. And the truth is, the 14 Muslim schools, organizations and houses raided last Wednesday by the FBI really are the academic, charity, and business institutions and the private homes they purport to be. I am a Muslim woman from Washington who has associated with members of some of these institutions.Ê
President Bush romanced leaders of these same organizations prior to the presidential elections and thanked them for their support in the efforts against terrorism after Sept. 11. But press statements that “this is not a war against Islam or Muslims” amount to lip service when actions to the contrary speak louder than words. As one young woman sat at home preparing invitations for her summer wedding, she was shocked when the FBI stormed in, herded her family into one room, and confiscated her wedding list for leads to more “terrorists.” These were private homes, houses of worship and civically involved organizations committed to improving the understanding of Islam among both Muslims and non-Muslims. If you subject even these to arbitrary searches and seizures, where then do you draw the line and what then is “legitimate?” What ever happened to “probable cause?”
The attack on these institutions should spark concern and outrage among all Americans, for the way we treat our own demonstrates the character of American justice. If the past has taught us anything, it should be that we cannot tolerate policies that violate basic values of freedom of belief, sanctity of property, privacy, and due process without negative consequences and future regrets.
“But we’re at war with the evildoers,” Bushcroft says. “This is a matter of national security.”
Did that justify McCarthyism?
For all its technical savvy and military prowess, one would think that idiot savants ran the government; it fails to acknowledge the simple lessons of the past and places us on a dangerous path for the future. Wasn’t it Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who informed us at the height of the civil rights movement — just before being killed — that “a threat to justice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere?”
Before the charges of “anti-patriotism,” let me state that in attempts to understand recent events and radicalism, I in no way justify them. Sept. 11 was a horrific tragedy and must be dealt with in a legitimate way, as do issues of national security. But the Ashcroftism that poo-poos on the Constitution and harms innocent law-abiding citizens through profiling, “voluntary” interviews with the FBI and raids on private homes and business is unacceptable. Personally, I plan to stand for justice and I hope other people of conscious will join me. As an African-American, I know all too well the painful process of challenging injustice, and the value of those who joined the cause against the oppression of slavery, Jim Crow and ongoing discrimination against blacks and other minorities.Ê
To those who are ambivalent toward Muslims and Ashcroft’s policies, let me end by more clearly relaying Ashcroft’s message: Do not worry about the Muslims in your midst. They are gradually being demoralized or forced to assimilate, and if not, the raids and military tribunals will take care of them. Like the old adage says, there is nothing to fear but fear itself — and the radicals Ashcroft is breeding.
Intisar Rabb is a second-year student in the Yale Law School.