>Flickr/Staff Sgt. A.C. Mink

The Hypothetical Future of Muslim Databases Is Already Here

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During a recent interview with Yahoo News, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump was asked whether tracking Muslims would mean creating a database or providing them with special identification. His reply was, “We’re going to have to — we’re going to have to look at a lot of things very closely.”

Despite brisk condemnation from both Democrats and Republicans and various organizations, one thing that very few people are noting is that these databases are not speculative. Trump’s comments are only indicative of the nature of contemporary U.S. policies toward Muslims.

>Flickr/Staff Sgt. A.C. Mink
>Flickr/Staff Sgt. A.C. Mink

An Associated Press investigative report in 2011 revealed that the NYPD has meticulously surveilled and built databases of various Muslim student organizations, mosques, Muslim-owned businesses and more within Muslim communities. Some of the tactics used by uncover police officers and agents included compiling lists of “customers visiting Dunkin’ Donuts after Friday Prayer” and “employees or customers of establishments observed wearing ‘traditional clothes’.” They also mapped the “locations of mosques, restaurants, retail establishments and schools owned by or serving both Muslims and ethnic populations from heavily Muslim countries,” according to a lawsuit against New York City.

Policies that criminalize Muslims existed under President George W. Bush, and continue to expand under President Barack Obama through his domestic and foreign initiatives. You can clearly see this is a bipartisan issue. The policies used to target and malign Muslim communities in the U.S. under the “Countering Violent Extremism” program are also utilized to dehumanize and target Muslim civilians abroad.

According to documents uncovered by The Intercept,  there were periods of time when “nearly 90 percent of the people killed in airstrikes were not the intended targets.” When our foreign and domestic policies assume that terrorism is rooted within people based simply on religious identity, it leads to the entrapment and unjust incarceration of Muslims in the United States and to the murder of Muslim civilians abroad by U.S. forces.

In addition to these policies, the reality of living as a Muslim in the U.S. is not lost on many Muslims. Our names and appearances already mean we must undergo extra scrutiny at airports, our headscarves call extra attention to our religious identity, and there those who get mistaken for being Muslim and face similar harassment and violence. Our “special” identification is an already-present phenomenon exacerbated by these policies and by the mainstream media that continue to perpetuate mistruths.

This is the crucial moment to highlight the reality behind Trump’s comments and push back against this increasingly Nazi-esque tactic to criminalize an entire population based on their religious affiliation.

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  • About the autor
    Iram Ali

    Iram F. Ali is a storyteller and writer who focuses on individual narratives. She works at an anti-militarism nonprofit focused on decreasing U.S. militarism. @iramfali

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    • LeonBerton

      Arguably, the intention is only indirectly to scrutinize persons based on religious affiliation.

      Rather, the direct intention is to narrow scrutiny to a sector of the population that, based on actual tendencies, with high probability may utilize their religious affiliation to perpetrate violent actions against others who are not off that religious affiliation.

      Perhaps, until members of Islam themselves alienate from their ranks persons who interpret and act upon certain passages of the Qur’an to justify a literal conquest of others, this defensive response is very likely going to persist.

      And I state these things with no animosity towards Islam, but merely to indicate some of the complexities involved in our present situation.

      Please, note that I am not at all trying to argue that policies of many Western countries in the Near East have been either prudent or just.

      • LeonBerton

        The KKK is hardly representative of Christians, but rather was truly and strictly a response to the War of Secession (and formed, incidentally, at that time, by persons who were predominantly of the Democratic Party as a reaction to the defeat of the Confederacy by the North under Lincoln, a Republican), and the KKK was condemned by every major Christian church as unjust.

        How in the world you jumped to the KKK from what I wrote or what the authoress wrote is inconceivable
        Assuming you are making reference to what I said, however, I would only mention parallel historical issues:

        In Ireland, when the Irish Republican Army was at perpetrating violent actions, it was known that most all its members were from the region of Ireland predominantly Catholic. Thus, it is was inevitable that United Kingdom anti-terrorist forces had to single out and concentrate on that region and on persons of that religion.

        In Spain, when E.T.A. perpetrated violent acts to support the autonomy of the Vasque regions in the north, all its members were Vasques, and so anti-terrorist forces had to narrow its focus and concentrate on that region and persons of and from that region.

        The examples throughout history are easy to find. UNTIL those communities from which terrorism is promoted and encourage themselves assist in rooting out and eradicating the causes of terrorist acts, they bring extra scrutiny upon themselves.

        Do not blame others who merely wish to protect the common good. I am sure I might find instances throughout the history of Islamic cultures, as well, in which factions or peoples sought to undermine a given order and this required special scrutiny of those factions or peoples in order to conserve and protect the existing social order.

        Again, do not become indignant about the application of common sense measures to protect a common good.

        Rather, take on the task yourself of eliminating the cause of these exceptional measures, which is in the actions of those perpetrating terrorist acts and such scrutiny will not be needed.

        • “Eliminate entirely the actions of those perpetrating terrorist acts and such scrutiny will not be needed.”

          Do you seriously expect a religion of 1.6 billion people to root out and expunge every last extremist from their ranks? OK — just as soon as you mange to get rid of Christian Identity, the Westboro Baptist Church, the Christians of the Central African Republic who are slaughtering Muslims wholesale, the Lord’s Resistance Army, and the fringe-Mormon polygamists (yes, they’re Christians too). If a religion of 2.25 billion can do it, then surely we can do it too. Come on, put your money where your mouth is.

    • Samir Kabir

      Like the KKK espouses themselves to be of the Christian faith?

    • O. Locke

      more ignorance.

      no one is asking for a moslem database and it would be unworkable and impossible to have one.

      people are trying to figure out ways to confront moslems for their recalictrance when it comes to reforming their death cult.

      I’m not sure why calls for a muslim reformation, which has already happened for many western muslims that drink beer, eat pork, are gay, have sexual relations without marriage, will never make hajj, don’t pray, and don’t visit the mosque are met with such inquisitional style rage.

      the koran and the hadith are not the pure unalterable word of god. what is wrong with admitting that?

      muslims need to have an honest conversation with themselves and the rest of us.