By Julia Sarcinelli
Shannon Al-Wakeel, Muslim Justice League (MJL) executive director and co-founder, gave a presentation on Thursday, March 9 in the Alumni Room on policies that violate the civil rights of Muslims.
MJL is a nonpartisan group that advocates for human and civil rights threatened under national security pretexts.
Al-Wakeel, an attorney, was one of four Muslim women who founded MJL in Boston in 2014, following the implementation of the Department of Justice pilot program, Counter Violent Extremism (CVE), one year after the Boston Marathon Bombings.
She said they found CVE concerning because despite its name, it is based on the theory that if you meet certain conditions, you might be on the pathway to extremism.
This allowed law enforcement to encourage social service providers “to basically do things that are unconstitutional,” such as referring people to interventions to change those extremist beliefs and
sharing with law enforcement information protected by confidentiality requirements.
“Unfortunately, under the new administration, there aren’t any indications that this is going to get any better. In fact, we have heard through the press [President Donald Trump] is going to rename this Countering Islamic Extremism, or something similar to make the focus even less mistakable,” she said.
Al-Wakeel said Trump’s recent executive order denying entry for people from seven countries was reduced to six. This second travel ban will suspend refugee entries for 120 days, along with suspending entry of non-visa holders from Libya, Sudan, Yemen, Somalia, Iran and Syria.
She said there has also been the recent implementation of the new office Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement, which will serve victims of crimes specifically committed by undocumented people, “as if those crimes are somehow qualitatively different from when they are committed by anyone else. But this is an opportunity for the administration to lay the groundwork for further propaganda, frankly, that portrays certain communities as inherently threatening.”
Trump’s campaign promise of a Muslim registry was thought by many to be built around the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System, which was initiated in 2004 and required immigrants from 26 countries to register, according to Al-Wakeel.
She added this resulted in 13,000- 14,000 people being deported, as many were coerced into signing deportation waivers, and many were detained and interrogated for days.
Al-Wakeel said there are already a couple of Muslim databases in place, such as the No Fly List.
For the No Fly List, people are not noti ed when they are added and it is extremely diffcult to get off of the list. If they try to get their name o\, they can often be visited at their house by FBI agents who say they can get them off the list if they work for the FBI as an informant.
After the Boston Marathon Bombing, Al-Wakeel said the FBI went to visit Russian-Muslims at their homes. However, it wasn’t unusual since FBI agents have been visiting Muslim houses on a regular basis. These visits are often not based on a criminal investigation, but an effort to recruit informants.
“Most people, knowing that they’ve done nothing wrong and feeling loyal to this country and wanting to help law enforcement, let them into their homes. ... A couple minutes later, or perhaps a couple conversations later if they come back repeatedly, they realize they’re in serious trouble and they didn’t expect it,” she said.
Al-Wakeel said it is easy to make a false statement, or be accused of making a false statement, which can lead to up to seven years in prison.
She added this is why the MJL offers free legal advice. Not every visit by the FBI is about recruiting informants, but it does make Muslims feel unsafe in many places, including decreasing attendance in mosques.
As for action, Al-Wakeel said it can be challenging to know how to help. She suggested for people who want to be active bystanders to find organizations like MJL that they feel align with their politics and educate themselves about their agendas.
“If you get on their LISTSERVs and if you attend their events, that is a great way to learn about what actions they’re actually asking people to take,” she said, adding people can also visit