Project SALAM presents at the People's Summit
The Post-9/11 Targeting of Muslims: Naming the Victims, Naming the Repression
Lynne Jackson and Cathy Callan, Project SALAM (Support and Legal Advocacy for Muslims)
Hundreds of innocent Muslims have been targeted, prosecuted, and convicted in the hysteria and fear following 9/11, using the FBI and Justice Department’s new paradigm of preemptive prosecution––prosecuting someone on suspicion alone, before a crime has been committed. This paradigm has turned the reasonable necessity of preventing terrorism into a governmental dragnet aimed primarily at Muslims, based on the false assumption that since the 9/11 terrorists were Muslims, all Muslims are prone to terrorism, although activists from the environmental, animal rights, and anti-war movements have also been prosecuted as domestic terrorists. Besides its questionable legality under the Constitution and reversal of the presumption of innocence, a fundamental principle of American law, preemptive prosecution in effect redefines “terrorism” to include anyone whom the government and law enforcement agencies deem to be in opposition to them. As a result, dissent has now been criminalized, Islam as a religion is now suspect, and Muslims are now at the top of the list for terrorism prosecutions.
A variety of tactics are used against defendants once they are arrested, to get them to plead guilty, cooperate as informants, or conversely to silence them. For example, federal prosecutors can hold defendants before trial in solitary confinement under a legal device called Special Administrative Measures (SAMs). Pre-trial solitary confinement can last for years and impair defendants’ mental ability to cooperate in their own defense or testify coherently.
After trial, defendants with terrorism convictions may also be sentenced to highly restrictive isolation prisons called Communication Management Units (CMUs), in retaliation for expressing their constitutionally protected religious beliefs or unpopular political views, or for challenging rights violations in the federal prison system. It is no accident that the majority of prisoners in CMUs are Muslim; according to the Center for Constitutional Rights, the proportion of Muslims in the two CMUs is so high––upwards of two-thirds––that this over-represents the proportion of Muslim prisoners in BOP facilities by at least 1,000%.
In this workshop, we will discuss the tactics used in preemptive prosecution, through examples of several cases already prosecuted in the federal courts; SAMs and solitary confinement; and identify the effects of isolation, excessive sentences, and CMUs on prisoners and their families.
Lynne Jackson of Albany, NY and Cathy Callan of Delmar, NY are co-founders of Project SALAM (Support and Legal Advocacy for Muslims). Their involvement with the issue of preemptive prosecution began when two Muslim men in Albany, Yassin Aref and Mohammed Hossain, were sentenced to fifteen years in prison after being entrapped by the FBI. In 2006, Cathy organized a support group for the two men when she was informed that they had ten children between them. This group became the Muslim Solidarity Committee, which later morphed into Project SALAM. In 2010, Lynne organized the campaign for the Albany Common Council to pass the Albany Resolution, which urges the U.S. Justice Department to implement the recommendation of its own Inspector General and establish an independent panel to review the convictions of Muslims who have been preemptively prosecuted to ensure their fair treatment under the Constitution and Bill of Rights.
Related Documents of Interest
New York Magazine: 'Little Gitmo'
When an upstate imam named Yassin Aref was convicted on a suspect terrorism charge, he was sent to a secretive prison denounced by civil libertarians as a Muslim quarantine.
Sites of interest:
Project SALAM: Support and Legal Advocacy for Muslims
Democracy Now! 'Entrapment or Foiling Terror? FBI's Reliance on Paid Informants Raises Questions about Validity of Terrorism Cases'
FBI engineers terror plot, creates terrorist