Amna Akbar and Keanne Theorharis offer the lead piece in a forum over at The Boston Review, with responses by Wadie Said, Sudha Setty, Lisa Stampnitzky, Tarek Z. Ismail, Sahar F. Aziz, and Su'ad Abdul Khabeer:
Focused largely on the domestic War on Terror (and only briefly touching on the interconnected global dimension), this forum examines the paradigms and legal infrastructure of U.S. domestic counterterrorism policy. The essays look at the impact of surveillance and the lack of First Amendment protections for American Muslims; the deference of federal courts to government assertions of national security; the rights-abusing paradigms of preventive prosecution, radicalization, and extremist networks; and the intersectional realities of American Muslims as (predominantly) communities of color in the United States.
These essays highlight the public silences and racialized assumptions that constitute some of the devastating legacies of 9/11 in law and culture. They show us the dangerous paradigms that have built and nourished anti-Muslim policy and law enforcement. Taken together, they reveal six key misapprehensions—even more dangerous now under a Trump presidency —that we must understand and challenge if we do not wish to see a world defined by bans and registrations.
One: Framing a defense of Muslims based solely on innocence, thereby leaving in place the idea of the “dangerous” Muslim who might deserve special measures.
In the days after the ban was announced and the first immigrants were detained, tens of thousands of people packed airports across the country: “Not in our name, not on our watch,” the protestors said. But much of this public outcry rested on a particularized notion of Muslim innocence, emphasizing the children and elderly detained at airports in inhumane conditions. But the airport has long been a place of peril for Muslims—for those Muslims whose actions, travel patterns, or social media posts are deemed questionable and who are then held for extra screening (devices searched, associations questioned, more and more information required to be allowed to pass through) and for those who are placed on the No Fly List—with almost no public challenge. The No Fly List is a secret list, expanded considerably after 2009, routinely updated without transparency about who is on it or why, and with no clear pathway for getting off the list. In 2013 civil rights groups sued on behalf of clients who were pressured to become informants under the threat of being left on the No Fly List. Democrats have celebrated the No Fly List; for instance, John Lewis’s sit-in to limit access to guns for those on the No Fly List garnered widespread liberal praise.