At last year’s Sept. 11 commemoration, U.S. President Donald Trump said: “terrorists (will) never again have a safe haven to launch attacks against our country, ... making plain to these savage killers that there is no dark corner beyond our reach, no sanctuary beyond our grasp, and nowhere to hide anywhere on this very large Earth."
In the past year, his administration has implemented new and upped various existing anti-Muslim measures, among them; the Muslim Ban 3.0, and doubling down on the government’s Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) task force in the name of 9/11.
While former Presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama and their predecessors laid the foundations for anti-Muslim U.S. government measures, in the past year President Trump has widened the field of anti-Muslim policies and fanned the flames of Islamophobia, or the fear of Muslims as a group.
The so-called Muslim ban blatantly discriminates on the basis of religion, blocking people from mainly Muslims countries from entering U.S. airports, no matter their criminal records.
Trump began introducing the policy as a candidate, framing it as a way to prevent another 9/11.
“There have been Islamic terrorist attacks in Minnesota and New York City and in New Jersey. These attacks and many others were made possible because of our extremely open immigration system, which fails to properly vet and screen the individuals and families coming into our country. Got to be careful,” he told the crowd at a Florida campaign rally on Sept. 16, 2016.
Weeks after taking office the president prohibited foreign nationals from Muslim-majority countries of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen from entering the United States for 90 days, and “suspended entry to the country of all Syrian refugees indefinitely,” according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
Law centers across the country filed federal lawsuits against the decree, winning stays that sporadically blocked the policy judges deemed unconstitutional.
Mentioning the 9/11 attacks several times, Trump signed into order the so-called Muslim ban, 3.0 in late September of last year. The administration swapped out Sudan and Iraq for its arch nemeses Venezuela and North Korea. Yet, 3.0 was justTrump's use of lawfare to fight for what was still effectively a ban against the mainly Muslim nations—Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen
The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the government’s ban, albeit a narrower version of its predecessors, further vilifying Muslims and legitimizing their discrimination.
Hussein Rashid, professor of religion at Columbia University, says that the ruling wasn’t surprising in that it has often ruled “in favor of discrimination.”
However, the highest court’s decision highlights that particularly since the 1978 Iranian Revolution and the 9/11 attacks, “Muslims have been “racialized”: bound together and stereotyped, instilling an idea of Muslims as a foreign threat and brown-skinned,” that includes anyone from South Asia or the Arab world, wrote Rashid after the ruling.
Speaking to teleSUR, Khaled Beydoun, University of Detroit Mercy - School of Law professor is quick to point out that anti-Muslim and anti-immigration policies against non-white, non-Christians didn't begin with Trump or even Bush, but are part of the U.S. founding logic. However, he notes, “there are a lot of parallels with what happened right after 9/11 and what’s happening today.
“After 9/11 you had the passage of the Patriot Act in the same way that now you have the Muslim ban.” Beydoun points out that these state policies are also problematic in that they influence citizens to commit hate crimes against Muslims.
“These policies communicate to citizens to partake in this national project of policing and punishing Muslims. … That’s why you see hate crimes skyrocketing during moments of expanded Islamophobic policies after 9/11 and the Trump moment because you’re seeing policies that are robustly Islamophobic.”
In his new book, American Islamophobia: Understanding the Roots and Rise of Fear, Beydoun reports that in 2016 as Republican rhetoric against Muslims ran rampant, “there were 2,213 anti-Muslim hate incidents recorded,” that was up nearly 60 percent from the year before. Beydoun adds that an average of nine mosques was vandalized or destroyed per day during 2017.
“Trump and his campaign might ... be seen as a delayed post-9/11 backlash,” that legitimizes Islamophobia, Beydoun said in 2016, and the Supreme Court approval of the Muslim ban in 2018 is another example that backlash.
Countering Violent Extremism (CVE):
Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) is a national government program meant “to address the conditions and reduce efforts by extremists to recruit, radicalize, and mobilize followers to extreme violence … and terrorism,” according to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). It builds upon other anti-Muslim institutions such as DHS and the PATRIOT Act.
CVE is Islamophobic and classist at its core, honing in on communities with high populations of poor Muslims, domestic and foreign-born, profiling them as potential terrorists.
An expert on the Muslim policing program, Beydoun says to teleSUR that under the policy: “The FBI … recruits Muslims on the ground to function as watchdogs, data gatherers, and informants within mosques and within a range of Muslim spaces to keep tabs on individuals that they might perceive to be ‘prospective radicals,’ but even individuals who are critical of U.S. domestic or foreign policy and who are influential within Muslim spaces.”
The program allows FBI and local law enforcement officials to recruit Muslim leaders and clergy as government informants to relay ‘suspicious’ activities of the faithful because according to the DHS “there is an identifiable and predictable process by which a Muslim becomes a terrorist.”
The initiative was implemented as a pilot program in Boston, Minneapolis, and Los Angeles by the Barack Obama administration in 2014 and ramped up after the 2015 Paris bombings.
Rather than defund the program as he initially promised, since last 9/11, President Trump tripled CVE finances from $764,000 to $2,340,000, according to a June-released study by The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law. Under Trump, CVE has also spread into law enforcement agencies in several additional cities in Michigan, Massachusetts, and California, and operates in D.C. and eight other states including Texas, Nebraska, and Colorado.
A part of CVE is the ‘knock and talk’ technique. Knock and talk lets police officers go up to a person’s home in one of the CVE cities without probable cause, interrogate whoever is inside and make unwarranted searches and arrests. The program has become a panoptic surveillance system in that it self-censors people’s way of being Islamic and infringes on Muslims’ freedom of religion and expression.
Beydoun says the program is the FBI’s newest way to “monitor Muslims,” encroaching into their “households, places of worship, and most intimate community spaces.”
In order to counter the measure, Beydoun is training “Muslim leaders, clergy, student leaders, activists and lawyers … about CVE, and explaining what this complex system in accessible terms.” He tells teleSUR that his first objective is to “develop consciousness and awareness of the program to try to persuade leaders and people on the ground not to support it.” As a lawyer, he’s teaching people about their legal rights regarding the program.
The 9/11 attacks were 17 years ago, but its influence on U.S. policy and the imagination is still fresh.