‘We have to channel fear into organizing’: Muslim-Americans prepare for Trump’s ‘Muslim registry’

US Politics
on 30 Comments

Donald Trump’s ever-shifting call for a discriminatory ‘Muslim registry’ has led to the fitting invocation of Martin Niemöller’s poem, “First They Came”, as well as the misguided creation of Register US, a website whose unidentified authors call on Americans to enter their personal details and pledge to ‘register as Muslim’ should Trump follow through with his proposal to forcefully catalogue Muslims. Filmmaker Michael Moore, and senior writer at Newsweek, Kurt Eichenwald, even promised, should Trump’s administration create a Muslim registry, to convert to Islam and “sign up”.

As of publication, there have been at least two vague surveillance program concepts floated by Donald Trump—one which would target Muslim-Americans, and one that would instead focus on Muslim immigrants entering the United States. There have been no specific explanations offered as to how either of these proposals would be implemented, nor has any member of Trump’s administration confirmed who exactly will be cataloged. Nevertheless, the prospects are certainly terrifying, regardless of what Muslim community will be at the mercy of the state’s surveillance apparatus.

Like much of Donald Trump’s platform, the concept of a Muslim registry is borrowed, in this case from The National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS), which was inaugurated in 2002, thanks to the War on Terror. According to a report from Penn State Law, The NSEERS Effect: A Decade of Racial Profiling, Fear, and Secrecy, “the most controversial piece of NSEERS required non-immigrant males who were 16 years of age and older from 25 specific countries to register at local immigration offices for fingerprinting, photographs, and lengthy, invasive interrogations”, and violators were fined and in some cases even deported—but for North Korea, every country on the NSEERS list has a majority Muslim population, most of them Arab. The civil rights organization South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) released a statement in May 2012 calling for the Department of Homeland Security to dismantle the NSEERS after the Obama administration announced that it would not terminate the program. With this in mind, it is more than possible for Trump’s administration to bring NSEERS back to life. CNN received information from “a source familiar with the incoming administration” who claimed that “there will be a database and it’ll be similar to the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS).”

Protest against NSEERS “special registration” in late 2003. (Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Protest against NSEERS in late 2003. (Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Open campaign hostility aimed at Muslims has arguably influenced attacks against mosques, women wearing the hijab, and even members of the Sikh community who are associated with Muslims based on their religious dress. In late March, research from a YouGov/HuffPost poll revealed that “most Americans (51%) now support banning Muslims entering the United States.” Imraan Siddiqi, Executive Director of CAIR-Arizona, tells Mondoweiss that he’s “this is a time where we have to channel fear and concern into organizing.”  “It’s going to take a multi-faceted effort to stand up against draconian policies that may be coming down the pipeline,” Siddiqi went on to say.

He argues that rather than standing back “we have to strengthen our bonds with allies, engage with our elected officials and continue to support institutions that will challenge these abuses through the legal system.” Siddiqi finds that based on past statements made by Trump and his transition team, there is a legitimate concern regarding heightened surveillance of the Muslim-American community, and Muslim institutions. “We’ve seen this type of policy play out during the Patriot Act, so nothing is out of the realm of possibility.  But rather than sitting in fear, we have to ensure that we stand up for our rights—even during the darkest times.” In terms of what allies can do, Siddiqi recommends that non-Muslims lend support to the ACLU, CAIR chapters, and similar organizations. “Interfaith partners can build task forces and coalitions—and educate the public, and apply pressure to elected officials representing large groups of people,” Siddiqi tells Mondoweiss.

Sana Saeed, a journalist based in San Francisco, tells Mondoweiss that the fear she is seeing in her community “is real and devastating.” “Muslims should absolutely be be worried about a so-called Muslim registry while being aware that not only have we had it before in the form of NSEER (and most recently HR-158) but also that the government has been keeping files on countless Muslims, Muslim communities for well over decade,” Saeed says. “Chances are that the Trump registry will resemble NSEER [meaning it would target immigrants] so it can bypass the unconstitutionality of ‘religious tests’. That doesn’t mean citizens should breathe out a sigh of relief and further create a dichotomy between citizen and immigrant.”

Saeed hopes that the Muslim community uses this opportunity to form coalitions with other communities “especially undocumented immigrants who are also facing the threat of deportation, [because both] struggles will, as they have for a long time, overlap.”

Any response to Donald Trump’s registry proposal, if it is to have any impact, should keep in mind the existence of a state surveillance apparatus that has long focused on Muslims, both at home and abroad. We can’t fight against one arm of this apparatus and neglect the system itself. It must all come down.

About Roqayah Chamseddine

Roqayah Chamseddine is a Lebanese-American writer based in Sydney. She writes the Sharp Edges column at Shadowproof and politics at Paste Magazine. She tweets at @roqchams.

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30 Responses

  1. kalithea
    November 21, 2016, 11:28 am

    Well, what a relief! Finally a topic of serious concern, as opposed to a discussion on the non-existent anti-Semitism in Trump’s cabinet, gets the lead headline it deserves.

    If I were part of the Muslim Community this is what I would suggest. Get together with Black Lives Matter, because blacks in America have been fighting discrimination and oppression for a longer time and they may be able to impart wisdom on how to tackle this enormous challenge in a country where ignorance is bliss and racism is rampant. Of course, there are ways to try to sensitize the American mass on how painful it is to be profiled and marginalized for doing nothing wrong, and Blacks have been dealing with this scourge for a long time, and maybe they can guide you and maybe it might help for the two to join in solidarity to fight this injustice. This goes for Latinos as well. There should be an overlap of the three most threatened groups on this issue, because there is strength in numbers. Joining together on these issues will create a powerful movement and coalition that politicians/legislators would be foolish to ignore.

    None of us white, Christian, Jewish, even Asian (Japanese Americans should be reminded of what they suffered) should sit back in complacency and allow this kind of fascism to infect our society. This profiling must be condemned by the rest of us everywhere it rears its ugly head.

    America is becoming more like Israel every day; but Palestinians have it much worse. The influence of Zionism in America via police training in Israel, Airport security contracted to Israeli firms, and other tools of oppression Zionists excel in is infecting the American system, including Zionist influence in American government policy and finally the demonization of Islam and Muslims by Zionists via mainstream media (especially Fauxfoxnews) and increasing propaganda is staggering, toxic and contagious.

    Don’t give up; as I stated, networking, reaching out to other groups also threatened with suppression and oppression on overlapping issues will strengthen your cause.

    • johneill
      November 22, 2016, 12:16 am

      i’d say the overt zionism of many right-wingers in trump’s transition team and proposed administration is anti-semitic, or comes from a place of ‘racial purity’ not unlike segregationist policies in israel. not to say that that issue is more important than counteracting it.

  2. Maghlawatan
    November 21, 2016, 11:40 am

    It is shameful

    Anyway Patti Smith has good song

    In heart I am a Muslim
    In heart I am an American

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b1o68h4Usqs

    Fuck Trump and all his empty promises

    Van Jones
    http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2016/11/van-jones-donald-trump-sanders-clinton-racism
    The usual pattern of demagogues is to promise the moon, fail to deliver, and then blame vulnerable others for those failures. He’s promised the moon. Now he has power. He’s going to fail to deliver. He’s not going to be able to bring a bunch of coal jobs back and a bunch of factory jobs back in this global economy. Period. Because you can’t. It’s not going to happen.
    When he fails to deliver and the economic pain is the same as it is right now, he’ll have two choices. He’s going to have to spend a bunch of money on infrastructure jobs, which, frankly, I’m not mad at. Especially if they’re not only in the red states. That will have, against the overall economy, some multiplier effects, but relatively limited impact. He’s not going to want to pay for it, so he’s going to have to do that depth of finance, which will have some economic consequences, maybe mild. Then he’s going to start blaming people. He’s going to start a war, he’s going to start attacking immigrants or Muslims or Black Lives Matter or whatever. Because he’s going to have to distract them from the no jobs. I think we have every reason to hope for the best but to expect and prepare for the worst.

  3. Maghlawatan
    November 21, 2016, 11:45 am

    Gideon Levy
    http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.754073
    These racists love Israel because it’s carrying out their dreams: to oppress Arabs, to abuse Muslims, to dispossess them, expel them, kill them, demolish their houses, trample their honor. This bunch of trash would so
    dearly love to behave as we do.

  4. scott9854958
    November 21, 2016, 5:59 pm

    Aside from all of the soppy, overheated rhetoric, I think most people feel Islam has a problem and that it isn’t addressing it. Sure, it’s easy to hold up a sign saying “I”M NOT A TERRORIST” like you’ve just passed the bar exam and deserve a cookie but does that really negate the fear people have considering that Muslims commit terrorist acts far, far out of proportion to their % of the population? I wonder what solutions people have for this or should we just consider shootings and bombings to be the “new normal” or like Kellyanne Conway said “like extreme weather.”

    • Annie Robbins
      November 21, 2016, 6:07 pm

      Muslims commit terrorist acts far, far out of proportion to their % of the population?

      where? on the globe? in the US? what’s your source?

    • Mooser
      November 21, 2016, 6:48 pm

      “I think most people feel Islam has a problem”

      Oh, if “most people feel” that, I must feel that way too. But I’m thankful you avoided soppy overheated rhetoric.

      • Annie Robbins
        November 21, 2016, 7:26 pm

        it’s a hasbara point scoring technique called the “bandwagon effect”. you can read about it under 7 Basic Propaganda Devices in the hasbara handbook. hops frequently does that, prefaces his opinion w/ ‘most people’ think yada yada yada.

        quoting from the handbook http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2014/08/israeli-propaganda-handbook-7-basic-propaganda-devices.html

        Bandwagon

        Most people, when in doubt, are happy to do what other people are doing. This is the bandwagon effect. People are happy to be part of the crowd, and subtle manipulators can play on this desire by emphasizing the large size of their support. Although it is reasonable that people are given a chance to find out how many other supporters a speaker or movement has, often it is possible to create the impression of extensive support – through gathering all supporters in one place, or through poorly conducted opinion polls – in an attempt to persuade people who are keen to follow the crowd.

        Remember that playing with perceptions of numbers supporting a cause can be problematic if this means that genuine supporters become complacent.

        Palestinian activists’ success at creating the impression that they have enormous support is hard to counter. The most obvious and most effective response is to try and seem even better supported. Otherwise, simply start to deal with the issues, especially using ‘plain folks’ techniques, to gain support that is committed, and not just jumping on the bandwagon.

      • Maghlawatan
        November 21, 2016, 11:16 pm

        Islam does have a problem. It’s called Imperialism

        Guilt, sin and blame

        They keep asking what’s wrong with us. We keep answering what’s wrong with you is what’s wrong with us

        People need to stop using the Islam and women meme. Hillary lost, people
        Hillary is OVER

        Trump won. Would you prefer your daughter to have cancer or feminism?
        That wasn’t Mullah Fuckwit in Afghanistan.
        No, it was the Chief of Strategy at the White House

        Everybody please get with the program.

      • Keith
        November 22, 2016, 12:13 am

        MAGHLAWATAN- “Islam does have a problem. It’s called Imperialism”

        Damn straight, Maghlawatan, damn straight! One helluva video as well!

      • MHughes976
        November 22, 2016, 5:51 pm

        There’s a certain risk that Mr.X, being a resident of London or New York, is a terrorist. – very low, thank the Lord. What is the increment of risk if we know that Mr. X is not only a Londoner or a New Yorker but also a Muslim? I think that it’s negligible and that discussion ought to start from that point. Would you think otherwise, Scott?

    • talknic
      November 21, 2016, 7:09 pm

      @ scott9854958

      What you “think” must be fun. It seems you can say anything without bothering to provide any evidence what so ever.

      • scott9854958
        November 21, 2016, 8:12 pm

        So I need a Wikipedia link to posit that people feel there’s a problem within the Islamic community? A problem of extreme violence, misogyny and quiet acceptance from the majority?

        Hey, here’s some evidence. Donald Trump won. There, your evidence. Bon appetit.

        Muslims also feel there’s a problem. Check out Zuhdi Jasser sometime. I bet he knows a lot more about Islam than you do.

      • Annie Robbins
        November 21, 2016, 8:44 pm

      • Annie Robbins
        November 21, 2016, 8:49 pm

        So I need a Wikipedia link to posit that people feel there’s a problem within the Islamic community?

        stop whining, we already know this country is filled w/islamophobes. you made the allegation that “Muslims commit terrorist acts far, far out of proportion to their % of the population”.

        i asked you who your source was. there simply is no wikipedia link to confirm this because it is not true. the only sites on the internet making these sorts of allegations are racist sites designated as hate sites by the SPLC. so either back your allegation or back off.

      • talknic
        November 22, 2016, 12:13 am

        @ scott9854958 November 21, 2016, 8:12 pm

        “So I need a Wikipedia link ..”

        Wikipedia is third hand opinion by dint of its editorial policies.

        Some actual statistics might be more in line

        “Hey, here’s some evidence. Donald Trump won. There, your evidence. Bon appetit.”

        It’s not evidence for your assertion.

        “Check out Zuhdi Jasser sometime”

        So confusing … Who to believe? http://www.debbieschlussel.com/5181/the-sad-truth-about-dr-m-zuhdi-jasser-star-narrator-producer-of-the-third-jihad/

    • Marnie
      November 22, 2016, 12:42 am

      Gee Scott8675309 – you should be ashamed for not trying harder.

      Non-Muslims Carried Out More than 90% of All Terrorist Attacks in …
      http://www.globalresearch.ca/non-muslims-carried-out…90…terrorist-attacks…/5333619

      Are All Terrorists Muslims? It’s Not Even Close – The Daily Beast
      http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/…/are-all-terrorists-muslims-it-s-not-even-close.html

      All Terrorists are Muslims…Except the 94% that Aren’t | loonwatch.com
      http://www.loonwatch.com/2010/01/not-all-terrorists-are-muslims/

      And while I’m talking about irrational, racist beliefs readily accepted by the AWM,

      KING: 3 white men shot 6 cops & 3 other white men are on trial – NY …
      http://www.nydailynews.com/…/king-3-white-men-shot-6-cops-3-white-men-trial-article-1.28...

  5. gamal
    November 21, 2016, 7:56 pm

    those of an scholastic bent might enjoy

    “Ambiguous State of Being”: Identity
    Construction in Contemporary ArabAmerican
    (post-9/11) Poetry”

    by Radwan

    “Corbey and Leerssen
    (1991) argue that the construction of this Othering (for example, as expressed in the literary productions of the Arab-American community even before 9/11), ―can be detected at the root of much injustice and suffering‖ (xvii). Such an approach intends to highlight how American racial structures (or hierarchies), with their multiple socio-historical connotations, influence Arab-American group studies and the development of an Arab-American critical analysis.

    According to Leerssen (2007b), the image of the ―Arab‖ in the European imagination:

    was never sharply distinguished from the Islamic religion (which is centered on the Arabian holy places of Mecca and Medina, and whose holy book, the Qur‘an, is in the Arabic language). Most characteristics attributed to Arabs therefore are part of the more general discourse of European […] Orientalism.(94)
    European Orientalist discourse has made its way into American representations of Arabs, Islam and the East in general. However, in America, Orientalism has been thoroughly racialized, ―something that was central to the early Arab immigrant experience since the late-19th century, when race had cultural, political, and legal implications”

    http://doras.dcu.ie/21029/1/Thesis_FINAL_E-version_Edition.pdf

    • Maghlawatan
      November 21, 2016, 11:39 pm

      I like the way you work it

    • Maghlawatan
      November 22, 2016, 12:16 am

      Arabic is different. Cos it comes with a deep well of culture. Continuity and a different Weltanschauung.

      When I lived in Cairo I realised you can’t say certain things in arabic. Like “war on terror”. Cos it was nonsense. Every language comes with its own power dynamic.

      I come across various immigrants in Europe. Might see them on the train or whatever. I always listen out for the language. I have come across people who say Hamdulillah but just as part of a language I don’t know.

      I got a sweatshirt printed with hamdulillah/ الحمدلله on the front and البيت لنا و القدس لنا /the house is ours and Jerusalem is ours on the back. I know it from a Fairuz song .https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XrNaPFgyNkE

      I wore the sweatshirt in Geneva. It brings out the noor el ain in people. There are more Muslims than would would think.
      I went into a restaurant for a pizza. The waiter was very friendly. I ordered . He smiled every time he went past. Eventually he came over and said “hamdulillah”.
      I asked him if he spoke spoke Arabic. No, Afghanistan. Farsi.
      But it was such a nice interaction. Ya’ni.

      I was in a bus and had my back turned and there were 3 sephardi Israelis behind me, They saw the Fairuz quote and one of them said “WTF”. But I don’t like arguing with Zionists in public. So I just ignored them.

      I want to do a tshirt with “Zionism is doomed, Hillel was right ” in Hebrew next

      • talknic
        November 22, 2016, 8:26 am

        “.. a tshirt with “Zionism is doomed, Hillel was right ” in Hebrew next”

        or

        Zionism doesn’t speak for this Jew

      • echinococcus
        November 22, 2016, 11:50 am

        The canard of any language necessarily coming as a package deal with culture, etc. has been debunked a long time ago and repeatedly in linguistics. True, many languages have a higher frequency of expressions referring to a shared pool of stories, but these expressions may and are learned independently of the reference.

        And yes, you can say and write “harb ‘ala elirhab” without a problem (as I strongly suspect you know). It’s just as absurd and zany and ridiculous as it already is in English or any language, only slightly more correct than in the English version you used, along with most people.

      • Maghlawatan
        November 22, 2016, 2:11 pm

        Écho I don’t agree . Every language comes with a different way of looking at things. Because languages don’t have the same words for what is important. But carry on

  6. kalithea
    November 22, 2016, 2:44 pm

    Forgive me all for having to quote that nut job Flynn to make a point:

    Islam is a political ideology; it’s a political ideology. It definitely hides behind this notion of it being a religion.

    We are facing another ‘ism,’ just like we faced Nazism, and fascism, and imperialism and communism. This is Islamism, it is a vicious cancer inside the body of 1.7 billion people on this planet and it has to be excised.

    Notice how he conveniently excludes ZION—ISM. And let me tell you; Zionism is most assuredly a political ideology hiding behind a religion, and is excluding what it considers inferiors of another religion, Islam, from their rights as human beings. Zionism is also the largest proliferator of Islamophobic propaganda in the modern world. Now, Zionism may not be a cancer afflicting every single Jew and white Christian, but it is a cancer that metastasized in America and Europe and subverted democracies to access power over public opinion in order to spread its deception and propaganda and Zionism is Islamophobic at its core, and most of all SUPREMACIST and supremacy imposes occupation, oppression and resorts to political influence and hostile machinations to provoke regime change to neutralize neighboring countries and influence other countries to submit to the will of Zionism. Therefore the blow-back, and revolt in the Muslim world, (referred to as a cancer by Flynn) is in direct response to the real cancer that is metastasizing; the real ISM of the later part of the last Century and early part of this one – ZIONISM, a modern-day supremacist political ideology using a religion, Judaism, to deceive, lure and control.

    And one more thing: Judaism, Catholicism, Protestantism, Hinduism end in ISM; just like Islamism! These are all religions, but NAZISM AND ZIONISM and even NEOLIBERALISM AND NEOCONSERVATISM are the real political ideologies that have much in common, especially supremacism of the imperial kind, and are a blight on humanity and peace in our world.

    Maybe, just maybe, General Flynn is hiding behind the Supremacism he embodies as a Zionist Neocon when he calls 1.7 billion people a cancer. Maybe, he’s afflicted with the worst ISM of all; the malignant Zionist/Neocon cancer.

    • MHughes976
      November 22, 2016, 5:42 pm

      Political and religious ideologies are both legitimate kinds of thing. It would be hard to think of a politicsl idelogy that had no implications concerning religion or a religious ideology that had no implications concerning politics.

  7. michelle
    November 23, 2016, 1:53 pm

    .
    one wonders why the fuss now
    most of the things people taking issue with are just more of the same;
    border wall construction ongoing to the tune of billions yearly
    deportation of illegal residents ongoing millions yearly
    homelandsecurty must have an ever growing list of ,,,, people of a certain faith
    the police/and others have been getting away with murder for ever so long never
    being brought to account by the justice system might be the reason yet nothing
    has been done to correct this injustice that effects chaos
    females being treated like less than/things not new/not addressed
    these aren’t Trump issue(s)
    not yet anyway
    .
    in a few months the ‘buck’ will stop with him
    will he be another smuck and continue to make America
    the biggest middle east terrorist/sponser
    bwo deep pockets for Israel so Israel can continue to terrorize its neighbors
    and fund the Israel lobby with government funded American tax dollars
    .
    will Trump plunge his hands into the bowl of innocent blood just another smuck
    or will he choose a true/just path and make America greater then it’s ever been
    .
    G-d Bless
    .

    • Mooser
      November 23, 2016, 2:56 pm

      Oh, Mr. Trump is a pretty nice guy, but he hasn’t got a lot to say. Mr. Trump is a pretty nice guy, but he changes from day to day.

      Maybe he’ll be pretty much the same as he has been? Or maybe Trump will be touched by the Hand of God, and become a new man. It happens every day.

      • michelle
        November 23, 2016, 3:49 pm

        .
        Trump is one leg at a time like the rest of us
        i would die before i would support the unfinished form of a person to be ripped to pieces
        Trump has never been put to this test
        one hopes he makes better choices than those that served before him
        .
        children should be safe when they play ball at family picnics on the beach
        parents/grandparents should not ever have to collect the body parts of their children
        we did cause this durring the term of our last POTUS
        .
        hope and change didn’t do much lots of parties though
        this one does hope make America great will do just that
        .
        a sign of proof would be standing rock haven’t we done enough to our first Natives
        there has to be a better choice
        .
        G-d Bless

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