The Patriot Act of October 2001 is more than 20-years old. In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, the U.S. government placed a heavy focus on Arabs in America. This justified an increase in surveillance and policing against them. It also inspired the convergence in common struggles for liberation, out of a growing consensus about the fact that we cannot abolish police without abolishing U.S. military and empire building.
The “anything goes” context of 9/11 opened up possibilities for expanded forms of policing and surveillance that are unconstitutional. The National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS), also known as “special registration,” put in place by the Department of Justice in 2002, targetedArabs and Muslims, as well as those of the Middle East or South Asia, are all eligible. Overly broad interpretations of “material support” laws denied people — generally Arabs and Muslims — their freedom and even threatenedSome forms of humanitarian aid.
None of this was new. All this was preceded by President Richard Nixon’s “Operation Boulder,” which law professor Susan M. Akram has described as “perhaps the first concerted US government effort to target Arabs in the US for special investigation with the specific purpose of intimidation, harassment, and to discourage their activism on issues relating to the Middle East.”
Ironically, Timothy McVeigh’s 1995 Oklahoma City attack opened the door to the Clinton administration pushing forward a legislative effort allowing the government “to use evidence from secret sources in deportation proceedings for aliens suspected of terrorist involvement. Under the measure, the government would not have to disclose the source of the damaging information to the person whom it is seeking to deport,” The New York Times reported. A white extremist, then, had carried out a deadly bombing, but it was Arabs and Muslims (including Black Arabs and Black Muslims) who faced the prospect of deportation without ever being able to confront their accuser — or even know the identity of those accusing them.
A new court was established by the 1996 Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act. It is charged with hearing cases in which the government seeks deportation of aliens accused of terrorist activity. This court will only hear cases involving secret evidence in the form classified information. The 1996 Illegal immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act expanded the secret evidence court to allow for easier use of secret evidence to deport lawful permanent residents as terrorists.
As Arab and Muslim communities were subjected institutionalized racial profiling,This too encouraged individual anti-Arabic and Islamophobic actors to continue intimidating and committing acts of violence towards Arab and Muslim people every day. These violent incidents grew by over 500% between 2000 and 2009; since 2016, there have been 484 incidents of hate-motivated aggression have been reportedMany more will remain. unreported.The U.S. military tortured and killed thousands of people in the Middle East, North African, and South Asian regions. The U.S. government also supported authoritarian dictators like Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak who would further the U.S. imperialist agenda and simultaneously collaborate in the ongoing colonization of Palestine and siege of Gaza.
According to the Project on Government Oversight’s Jake Laperruque, the U.S., in its rush to crack down on these domestic communities, swept up international communications on an enormous and unprecedented scale. Laperruque notes that the U.S. also spied on internet metadata and internal communications.
This surveillance was finally revealed, which upset and infuriated people from all political horizons, including those who care about ending racial profiling and targeting Muslims and Arabs, as well as those who have spent years inflaming hate. Many sections of society were outraged that their communications were being monitored and recorded by the government. Yet those with history in U.S.-based Global South liberation movements who were targeted by programs like Nixon’s Counter-Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO) or those whose ancestors were killed via collaborations between the KKK and the FBI knew all too well that the Constitution was meant to protect white supremacy rather than protecting us all. The Patriot Act, however, alarms both liberals and radicals because it has the potential to increase policing, surveillance, and repression.
The Fourth Amendment was effectively circumvented by the Bush administration with its George W. Bush administration protections against “unreasonable searches and seizures.”
Attempts to override the entirely bankrupt legislative action of the USA Freedom Act of 2015, was a consequence less out of concern over targeting Muslims and Arabs than anger over the widespread sweeping up of so much information about U.S. citizens — read: white people.
These past 20 years, I lived in three communities: Michigan, Illinois, and California. The fear was real. While 16-year-old working-class Arab Muslim immigrant males were forced to register at their local Immigration and Naturalization Service bureau as part of NSEERS, their loved ones stood by wondering if they would see them again.
The reports of violence against Arabs and Muslims — and those perceived to belong to those categories — were terrifyingly routine. Some stories made it to the mainstream media, but most were spread by word of mouth.
We now witness, in 2021 following the defeat by former President Donald Trump and his open promotion anti-Muslim policies. psychological and emotional incarcerationIt was tough during the Bush and Trump years.
The Arab Resource & Organizing Center in California’s Bay Area along with the Arab American Action NetworkChicagoans have fought back for years in a coalition to support antiimperialist, abolitionist principles. Left-leaning Arabs and Muslim movements are affirming that just because Trump is out doesn’t mean these efforts will relent under President Joe Biden, especially not with his interventionist history and long years of support for Israeli’s colonial policies that have been killing, containing and displacing Palestinians with U.S. weaponry.
These organizations recognize that U.S. empire-building connects movements fighting anti-Black police violence, those pressing back against anti-Arab U.S. militarism and the “war on terror,” as well as groups resisting the militarization of the border and the ongoing colonization of Native land.
The latest news out of Virginia Beach of an ongoing racist attack on a Black family’s home with “music blaring racial slurs and monkey sounds as strobe lights flashed” at the house while authorities dithered sounded all-too-familiar to me. It reminded of my research in 2021 with The Institute for Research on Race and Public Policy The Chicago area has the status of racial justice for Arab Americans.
I was connected to a Muslim woman who was being harassed by her neighbors for three-years, despite a restraining orders. She told me she felt like a hostage in her own home and police were unwilling to stop the ugly attacks from neighbors coming up to the window and shouting, “F–k Arabs, f–k Muslims.” This would be followed by calls for the family to get out of the U.S.
The animosity both families have faced is painful and traumatic and stems from the same root cause — U.S. racial capitalism and empire building. In the past decade, younger generations of Black people, Arabs, and/or Muslims have recognized the need to join our fight against racist police violence.
This was most evident in Ferguson, Missouri. But, it is also visible, for example, in Palestinian-Black solidarity Young people are making efforts in the country. Palestinian Arab activistsBlack activists are encouraged to organize against police violence that disproportionately targets Black people. align withThe Palestinian call for boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel.
According to the 2014 Palestinian Youth Movement report statement of solidarity with Ferguson: “Whether the PATRIOT ACT or COINTELPRO, the targeting and criminalization of our communities must end now.” These efforts have extended through defund the police and abolition efforts uniting both communities.
I vividly remember the formation of national alliances like Racial justice 9/11 in the wake of the unification of social movements against the increasing power of the U.S. government. Similar coalitions are based on the shared concern over U.S. counterinsurgency strategies that repress movement expansion, justifying violently the repressions of Black, Indigenous, or people of colour (BIPOC),-led groups like The Movement for Black Lives.
With the Patriot Act, the Bush administration consolidated its internal war on Arabs with Muslims. It helped Trump show the power to move some of the U.S. citizens toward white supremacy that is more outward-facing. But it also created new alliances. These coalitions have emerged urgently from the racist and imperialist policies first implemented by President George W. Bush and then even more openly adopted by Donald Trump.
I wouldn’t wish those first traumatic months in 2001-2002 on anyone. But the solidarity that I feel is a result of the overreach and unconstitutional natures of the Patriot Act, along with the racism of Trump’s government, gives me some hope.
For all Trump’s efforts to roll back previous social movement wins, many breakthroughs came out of his 2016 presidential victory. More grassroots mutual aid movements are forming, proving the necessity of cultivating practices of collective love as an alternative to state violence. Two Muslim women from North Africa and Palestine, one Palestinian and one North African were among the first to enter the U.S. Congress in 2019. They were Palestinian American Rashida Tlaib (Somali American Ilhan Omar) and Palestinian American Rashida Tlaib (Palestinian American). Rep. Cori Bush joined them earlier this year, having been active in the Ferguson demonstrations. She has also openly spoken of solidarity between Black Americans with Palestinians.
In the midst of the Israeli onslaught against Gaza this past May, Representative Bush tweeted: “The fight for Black lives and the fight for Palestinian liberation are interconnected.” She added: “We oppose our money going to fund militarized policing, occupation, and systems of violent oppression and trauma.” Tellingly,She spoke out against apartheid.
They are a voice of reason in the halls and halls of Congress. They are under attack. Yet we must remember that the long U.S.-led war on terror is an extension of the U.S.’s colonial, expansionist and racial capitalist project, rather than an exception. After Trump’s defeat, we cannot remain in celebratory hope. Barack Obama and Bill Clinton were both complicit in the war against terrorists, but they also helped expand it.
As Kali Akuno posted, Brian Drolet & Doug Norberg shared on Facebook on October 27, in their critique of efforts to “save democracy,” this stance is not “an argument to avoid or ignore fighting the further advance of fascistic authoritarianism. It is a critique of a view that restricts people to fighting against certain variants of capitalist governance to the exclusion of fighting against the capitalist system itself.”
If anyone recognizes that President Biden does little to help the U.S. achieve democracy, equality or diversity, it’s my Arab immigrant community. With Trump’s 2024 election looming and racist provocateurs preparing to contest the 2020 election of the centrist candidate, there is no sign that social transformation is occurring. This is why it is important to imagine a radical alternative future.
Twenty years ago, I recalled Arab activists like Rana ElmirThey demanded an end to the Patriot Act. They had to confront it and realized its potential dangers. They shouted at protests that it not only expands the containment, repression, and profiling of Arabs and Muslims, but could also massively expand the U.S.’s power to repress all progressive and BIPOC communities.
We are here. Nicole Nguyen, expert on surveillance And the war on terror, reminds us that by expanding the concept of the “violent extremist” the United States has repressed resistance against the war on terror and Resistance against the police
Faced with such repression, we cannot help but expand our practices of solidarity and create hope through the convergence in shared struggles to liberate. These shared struggles are rooted in collective BIPOC Traditions of Care, nurturing relations and each other, as well as in commitments to horizontal, nonhierarchical self-determination.