As victims of stereotypes and racial profiling, Muslims are portrayed very negatively in today’s society, and this has become an issue that needs to be addressed immediately. After the 9/11 terrorists attacks, ‘Islamophobia’ (prejudice toward Islam), has increased drastically in the United States. Not only is this affecting innocent Muslims, but also their rights to freedom of religion and speech in a ‘democratic’ country.
The fact that “Know Your Rights” workshops are in demand around our city; this should immediately sound horrid. In these workshops, discussions are held by legal representatives from the National Lawyers Guild and the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-NY)’s Civil Rights Manager, Cyrus McGoldrick.
Topics covered are: reacting to hate crimes, knowing your legal rights as an employee, what to do when faced with discrimination, knowing your rights as a student, what to do if law enforcement contacts you, what do while being stopped by the police, knowing your rights as an airline passenger, what to do if the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) contacts you, how to communicate with congress, and what do when faced with job discrimination. All these subjects are demonstrated by role-play, and genuine examples.
Through out this decade, innumerable innocent Muslims have been held as prisoners, been unnecessarily questioned and have become victims of hate crimes because of their ethnicity and creed. Acknowledging that these situations do exist is the reason why the “Know Your Rights” workshops are so significant, and necessary. Although it is a good way to advocate awareness, this prevalent fear and hatred toward Muslims needs to be eliminated.
Taking into consideration that the FBI, NYPD, and CIA are mostly targeting Muslims who are young, disenfranchised, and not observant, shows the desperation on part of law enforcement to accuse innocent citizens.
Syida Nadia Salar, a Muslim and religious studies teacher when asked, “What is your biggest concern in society today, and why are you here at the ‘Know Your Rights’ workshop?” stated: “I came to the United States a year ago. I pray at the mosque here every day. I need clarification to justify what really is going on,” she said.
These departments also have surveillance on popular hang-out spots, schools, restaurants, cafes and various other places that cater mostly to Muslims.
Beena Ahmad, a member from the National Lawyers Guild when asked, “What do you think the Islamic Community can do to help prevent social-profiling and stereotypes, while helping to achieve religious freedom?” She stated, “there are obviously different Islamic communities. Some of the things in asserting our rights are creating dialogue, polls, and try our best to keep away from ignorance.We need to start being more assertive then demanding.”
Islam is the 2nd largest religion world-wide. The surveillance of Muslims and invasion of their privacy, freedom of religion and speech within the Islamic community is a battle we will overcome. In the process of justifying obstacles that Islamic communities face, workshops like “Know Your Rights” might be the best option for Muslims to become more aware and attentive of their surroundings. The United States being called “The Land of the Free” has clearly lost its value.