by Uzma Kolsy (The Guardian)
I was watching President Obama employ his devilish charisma, in routine fashion, on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno in early August. The banter dissipated as the interview took a more serious turn to embassy closures, Edward Snowden and, finally, Russia. Obama condemned President Vladimir Putin for Russia’s recent “homosexual propaganda” bill saying:
When it comes to universal rights, when it comes to people’s basic freedoms, whether you are discriminating on the basis of race, religion, gender or sexual orientation, you are violating the basic morality that should transcend every country.
I was left rattled by the president’s statement. Obama, who made history last year when he expressed his support for same-sex marriage, was comfortably unabashed in impugning Russian leadership on the reprehensible policy, as he should have been. But as a Muslim American, neither the irony nor the hypocrisy of his statement, championing “universal rights”, was lost on me.
As we’ve witnessed time and time again domestically, most recently with the Associated Press revelation that the NYPD designated Muslim houses of worship and community centers as terrorist organizations, theUnited States is no stranger to legalizing discrimination. In the elusive pursuit of true equality, President Obama has made considerable and long overdue progress in securing the rights of the LGBT community. But he in no way can tout the badge of “basic morality” until he acknowledges that many Americans are being confronted with institutionalized discrimination in every tier of the government hierarchy. Racism, Islamophobia and prejudice run amok in our society, but when discriminatory practice is etched into law, it harkens back to a sinister time in our nation’s history.
Regrettably, branding mosques as terrorist enterprises doesn’t exactly move the needle given the NYPD’s history of targeted surveillance and monitoring of the region’s Muslim community. Invidious policy and religious profiling are not confined to the NYPD either. This is just the latest in a mounting string of offenses by government agencies against Muslim Americans. The FBI maintains an intimidatingly lengthy catalog of 15,000 spies, three times as many as there were 25 years ago. In a post 9/11 climate many of them operate as informants in mosques throughout the nation. The mosque that I grew up attending in Irvine, California, was infiltrated by one such informant, who worked so hard to plant seeds of violence and terrorism in the minds of its congregants that members of the mosque immediately reported him.
“Geo-mapping”, the FBI’s purported tactical crime fighting tool, wasexposed as a covert mapping program to track and monitor Muslim communities engaging in constitutionally protected activity, without any suspicion of crime. Leaked FBI training materials have also cemented what we already know – the agency religiously profiles Muslims,instructing its agents that “mainstream” Muslims are terrorist sympathizers and the Muslim practice of giving charity is a cover for funding “combat”.