Ghazali Describes the Post- 9/11 American Muslim Experience
By A.H. Cemendtaur
Two days after veteran journalist Abdus Sattar Ghazali’s book ‘Islam & Muslims in Post 9/11 America’ was promoted through a book review event in Newark, an appeal filed by the lawyers of Hamid Hayat got rejected by the federal appeals court, upholding Hayat’s 24-year prison sentence -- the underlying premise of Ghazali’s book got highlighted even further: In Post 9-11 US, the state sees its Muslim citizens as the enemy within and is ready to err on the side of wrongful incarceration of Muslim Americans based solely on suspicion.
Though none of the 9/11 terrorists or planners was a US citizen or resident, in the run-up to taking the War-on-Terror overseas the Bush administration considered it necessary to give law enforcement agencies unprecedented power to spy on the US citizens — Muslims being the primary focus of the large snooping operation. Under the legal cover of the PATRIOT Act and with the conviction to ‘not let it happen again’, spies sent in the Muslim communities of the US used entrapment techniques to convince gullible Muslims to do ‘Jihad.’ The story has been repeated over and over again: Dimwits in the Muslim communities are first convinced by these spies that Jihad is their religious duty, terrorist plans are then made for the newly convinced recruits, ammunition (fake) is provided to carry out the terrorist acts, and finally the would-be terrorists are arrested for plotting acts of terror!
The mass hysteria about Muslims and Islam is created and orchestrated by the right-wing media that describes Islam as ‘evil’ and argues that Muslims want to take over Western countries. It is not hard to believe that had Pearl Harbor not happened before 9/11, American Muslims would have been put in internment camps for the duration of the ‘War on Terror.’
This, in a nutshell, is what Abdus Sattar Ghazali writes about in “Islam & Muslims in Post 9-11 America”.
So how is Abdus Sattar Ghazali’s book different from half-a-dozen other books written on the topic of post-9/11 Muslim experience? For one, Ghazali’s book is the latest and hence covers more material than books that came before it (e.g., Lori Peek’s ‘Behind the Backlash: Muslim Americans after 9/11; Irum Sheikh’s ‘Detained without Cause: Muslims' Stories of Detention and Deportation in America after 9/11’; Aladdin Elaasar’s ‘Silent Victims: The Plight of Arab & Muslim Americans in Post 9/11 America; Edwin Ali’s ‘Muslims in America after the catastrophic tragedy of 9/11’, and others). Second, and more importantly, Ghazali’s book is exhaustive and covers a variety of topics: Chapters in Ghazali’s book being The Civil Rights; Islamophobia; Campaign against Muslim Charities; Muslims face inquisition; Institutionalized profiling; Stereotyping — movies, media; Hate crimes, discrimination and harassment; Attempt to silence genuine Muslim voices; and Response to the post 9/11 challenges. Appendices, which could easily be developed into chapters, include ‘Who are American Muslims? Demographic data’, ‘Muslim immigration to the US’, ‘Development of Muslim organizations’, ‘Hidden agenda of Gallup Poll & PEW Institute’, ‘American Muslims in politics’, and ‘Erosion of civil liberties in Post 9/11 America’.
Abdus Sattar Ghazali’s ‘Islam & Muslims in Post 9/11 America’ was reviewed in a meeting on March 10 at the Chandni Restaurant in Newark. The program was arranged by the American Muslim Voice Foundation (AMV-- http://www.amuslimvoice.org/ ), an organization dedicated to inform and educate the larger American society about its Muslim members and their faith.
The program was emceed by Samina Faheem Sundas, Founding Executive Director of the American Muslim Voice. Dr Waheed Siddiqui, a long-term Bay Area resident and past president of the United Muslims of America (UMA-- http://www.umanet.org/ ) presided over the meeting.
In his speech Khalid Saeed, introduced as the National President of the American Muslim Voice and the founder of Woodland Mosque (near Sacramento), thanked Ghazali for taking the time to write the story that Saeed considered his own. He said, “Ghazali’s book chronicles events affecting Muslims, Arabs, South Asians, and others perceived to be Muslims. Leaders will read (the book to understand) what Muslims saw, felt, and endured in these sad times.”
Representing California District 20 Assembly-member Bill Quirk, Naima Murtaza read Quirk’s letter written to Abdus Sattar Ghazali. Quirk wrote, “Your book summarizes the travails of Muslim Americans who simply wish to be a part of our great American community.”
Zahra Billoo, Executive Director for the CAIR San Francisco Bay Area Chapter (http://ca.cair.com), read a letter from Craig Wiesner, founder of Reach and Teach ( http://www.reachandteach.com ), ‘a peace and social justice learning company dedicated to transforming the world through teachable moments.’ Weisner wrote, “Even those of us who deeply care about the plight of our Muslim brothers and sisters in Post 911 America and know some of the difficulties they have faced, the sheer magnitude of the discrimination, humiliation, loss of freedom, loss of hope that are painfully and painstakingly described in this emotionally charged book are devastating.”
Talking to the audience Jesse Ortiz, Professor at Woodland Community College said, “It brings to mind historical injustices America has done in the past: the slavery, the conquering of native Americans, the conquest of the Mexican American people, and the incarceration of the Japanese Americans in 1940s.” Ortiz ended his speech with a Benito Juarez quote: The respect for the rights of others means Peace.
Naeem Syed, a Sacramento area resident, jovially said he was disappointed to read Ghazali’s book because it did not have any conspiracy theories. He agreed with the messages of the book that Muslims are fighting back.
Tashie Zaheer, Founding President of Urdu Academy of North America said Ghazali’s book is indeed a source (reference) book because it chronicles the Muslim experience. “An unforeseen event changed the thinking of so many, so quickly and so drastically--and this change impacted the life of Muslim Americans,” Zaheer added.
Dr Abdul Jabbar, Professor Emeritus of City College of San Francisco, said Ghazali has written a monumental book. He thought the book did not only have shocking and jaw dropping facts, it also put some positive color to an otherwise bleak canvas. Dr Abdul Jabbar quoted from the book: “After 9/11 the whole country has been converted into a detention camp for the Muslims of America.”
Sareer Ahmed read comments made by Dr Agha Saeed, a scholar and Coordinator of the California Civil Rights Alliance. Dr Saeed wrote: “A cursory look at this book, even at the Table of Contents, reveals and documents systematic oppression of Muslim Americans by the extremist elements in the United States and the Civil Society. Ghazali deserves full credit for having penned the first draft of the history of utterly contemptible series of highly coordinated attacks on the civil liberties and rights of Muslim Americans.”
Samina Faheem acknowledged the presence of David Washburn in the audience. Washburn’s documentary ‘An American Mosque’ (on the making and subsequent arson of Yuba City mosque) reveals American communities’ mistrust of their fellow Muslim members even when Muslims have lived in such communities for decades.
Arthur Scott, Professor of History/Social Cultural Studies at the Dominican University of California, described himself as a practicing Sufi and said Ghazali’s book had a spiritual dimension to it and it came from Islam itself. “Islam is on the ascent. Islam is here to stay. Ghazali brings out the humanity of Islam in his book,” Scott opined.
Abdus Sattar Ghazali whose career in journalism spans over five decades and has taken him from Peshawar to Kuwait to finally the US, said his latest book is a documentation of the Muslim American community’s experience in the last twelve years. Ghazali saw hope in American Muslims’ increased politically activity in response to the discrimination they face. “From coast to coast Muslim Americans are organizing like they have never done before. We should not allow others to define us,” he said. He thanked his wife Meraj Sultana for her continuous support.
In the concluding remarks Dr Waheed Siddiqui thanked Ghazali for writing the book as Siddiqui too wanted to write whatever Ghazali has written in ‘Islam & Muslims in Post 9/11 America.’
Abdu Sattar Ghazali’s book is available on Amazon.com.
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