Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Muslim Legal Fund of America

Taken from here.

The Muslim Legal Fund of America was established in November, 2001, by a group of Muslim civil rights activists concerned with the growing trend of racial and religious profiling by law enforcement before and after the events of September 11, 2001. While about thirty Muslims were detained indefinitely through the unconstitutional use of secret evidence since Congress passed the Omnibus Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, the Muslim community did not experience widespread profiling and discriminatory prosecution until 9/11.

After the horrible attacks of that day, law enforcement, as well as many members of the general public, reacted by mistreating and violating the safety and civil rights of Muslims in America. This period of time is commonly referred to as the �Backlash of 9/11�.Thousands of Muslims were detained and held without charge during this Backlash, which is still continuing.

Law enforcement agents are questioning Muslims about their constitutionally protected right of free speech, peaceful assembly and religion. Individuals and small vigilante groups reacted by committed acts of discrimination and violence � even murder. Articles, books, speeches and websites that unfairly paint the entire Muslim community as terrorists and Islam as a religion of terrorism appeared with increasing and alarming frequency.

The situation worsened after Congress passed the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001 (USA Patriot Act) with virtually no debate about the merits of the Act�s provisions. Much of the Act expanded the existing Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to allow domestic spying on Americans, citizens and non-citizens, at a level normally reserved for criminal investigations. Wiretaps, searches and other methods of �intelligence� gathering are now allowed without probable cause. Agents only need to demonstrate a desire to seek probable cause.

Shortly after the passing of the USA Patriot Act, other laws and executive orders were passed that placed undue suspicion on the Muslim community. One example was the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS), which requires nonimmigrant aliens from Muslims countries to register with the government. During these special registrations, volumes of Muslims were treated like criminals, fingerprinted, interrogated, detained and deported. Another example was the President�s executive orders to shut down and freeze the assets of the three largest Muslim charities in the United States. These seizures marked the first time in the history of Islam that zakat and sadaqat (Islamic charitable funds) were seized by a government and prevented from reaching their intended recipients.

The government is continuing to target Islamic organizations, Muslim leaders and activists. Law enforcement agents raided numerous Muslim homes and offices, arrested Muslim individuals and continue to focus on the Muslim community in a clearly disproportionate manner while virtually ignoring real security threats from non-Muslim groups and individuals.

The Muslim Legal Fund of America is non-profit, charitable organization committed to preserve, safeguard and promote the civil and legal rights of American-Islamic institutions and Muslim individuals in the United States of America. In the six and a half years since its founding, MLFA received thousands of requests for legal aid and has processed over 450 cases in over 30 states. These cases include federal, immigration, discrimination, indefinite detention, hate crimes and profiling cases. Some cases are high-profile due to the news coverage and government press conferences, but most cases involve everyday Muslims who would be left defenseless without the help of MLFA and its supporters.

MLFA maintains a database of over 350 pre-screened attorneys nationwide to represent Muslims in various types of cases. Individuals who are financially underprivileged can apply to receive financial aid towards their legal defense. Through the generous support of the Muslim community, MLFA was able to provide legal aid to individuals who would otherwise not have the financial means to hire competent attorneys.

As part of its mission to help protect the civil and legal rights of Muslims in America, MLFA regularly conducts workshops and seminars to teach the Muslim community about their rights when encountering law enforcement, discrimination and other issues of concern. MLFA works with several other organizations to promote legal and civil rights for Muslims through education and fundraising. Currently, MLFA is developing a Liberty Task Force of like-minded organizations in an effort to launch a nationwide campaign to educate, motivate and mobilize the community to be civil rights activists by joining and supporting the efforts of organizations that promote liberty and justice for all.

MLFA received its tax exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service in November, 2002 and a fatwa from the ISNA Fiqh Council of North America in March, 2003, declaring donations to MLFA as legitimate Zakat-ul-Mal. MLFA also received endorsements from numerous imams and Muslim leaders, including Imam Siraj Wahhaj, Dr. Abdullah Idris, Sheikh Muhammed Nur Abdullah of ISNA, Dr. Souhail Ghanouchi of MAS and Br. Omar Ahmed of CAIR.

After the horrendous attacks of September 11, 2001, law enforcement and many members of the general public reacted by mistreating and violating the safety and civil rights of Muslims in America. Thousands of Muslims were, and are still, being detained and held without charge due to this backlash.

With the sole initiative to tackle this growing trend and the increase of racial and religious profiling of Muslims, a group of civil rights activists rallied together. And in 2001, The Muslim Legal Fund of America (MLFA) was established. Since then MLFA has been challenging the unconstitutionality of these alarming trends.

Law enforcement officials have questioned Muslims about their right of free speech, peaceful assembly and religion. Individuals and small vigilante groups have reacted by committing acts of discrimination, violence, and even murder. Uncountable articles, books, speeches and websites unfairly paint the entire Muslim community as terrorists and Islam as a religion of violence.

MLFA is dedicated to eradicating this trend and to preserving the civil liberties of Muslims in America.

1 comment:

  1. Profiling has failed us; we don’t need profiling to identify Individuals like the Christmas-Day Bomber or the Fort Hood Shooter! There is a better solution!

    Virtually all media outlets are discussing whether we should be profiling all Arab Muslims; I will in the one-page explain why we don’t need profiling. Over 15 years ago, we at the Center for Aggression Management developed an easily-applied, measurable and culturally-neutral body language and behavior indicators exhibited by people who intend to perpetrate a terrorist act. This unique methodology utilizes proven research from the fields of psychology, medicine and law enforcement which, when joined together, identify clear, easily-used physiologically-based characteristics of individuals who are about to engage in terrorist activities in time to prevent their Moment of Commitment.

    The Problem
    Since the foiled terrorist attack by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian national on Northwest Flight 253 to Detroit, the President has repeatedly stated that there has been a systemic failure as he reiterates his commitment to fill this gap in our security. This incident, like the Fort Hood shooting, exemplifies why our government must apply every valid preventative approach to identify a potential terrorist.

    The myriad methods to identify a terrorist, whether “no-fly list,” “explosive and weapons detection,” mental illness based approaches, “profiling” or “deception detection” - all continue to fail us. Furthermore, the development of deception detection training at Boston Logan Airport demonstrated that the Israeli methods of interrogation will not work in the United States.

    All media outlets are discussing the need for profiling of Muslim Arabs, but profiling does not work for the following three reasons:

    1. In practice, ethnic profiling tells us that within a certain group of people there is a higher probability for a terrorist; it does not tell us who the next terrorist is!

    2. Ethnic profiling is contrary to the value our society places on diversity and freedom from discrimination based on racial, ethnic, religious, age and/or gender based criteria. If we use profiling it will diminish our position among the majority of affected citizens who support us as a beacon of freedom and liberty.

    3. By narrowing our field of vision, profiling can lead to the consequence of letting terrorists go undetected, because the terrorist may not be part of any known “profile worthy” group – e.g., the Oklahoma City bomber, Timothy McVeigh

    The Solution
    Our unique methodology for screening passengers can easily discern (independently of race, ethnicity, religious affiliation, age, and gender) the defining characteristics of human beings who are about to engage in terrorist acts.

    The question is when will our government use true “hostile intent” through the “continuum of aggressive behavior” to identify potential terrorists? Only when observers focus specifically on “aggressive behavior” do the objective and culturally neutral signs of “aggression” clearly stand out, providing the opportunity to prevent these violent encounters. This method will not only make all citizens safer, but will also pass the inevitable test of legal defensibility given probable action by the ACLU.

    As our Government analyzes what went wrong regarding Abdulmatallab’s entrance into the United States, you can be assured that Al Qaeda is also analyzing how their plans went wrong. Who do you think will figure it out first . . . ?

    Visit our blog at http://blog.AggressionManagement.com where we discuss the shooting at Fort Hood and the attempted terrorist act on Flight 253.