CAIRO – A large number of US civil rights groups have come today with a broad-based coalition, issuing a strong-worded letter to ask President Barack Obama to "provide a full public accounting" of surveillance practices on American Muslim leaders.
"This is an outrageous continuation of civil rights era surveillance of minority community leadership by government elements who see threats in all patriotic dissent," the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization, said in a statement obtained by OnIslam.net.
The worrying revelations were made public after new documents from whistleblower Edward Snowden confirmed that the NSA and the FBI spy on Muslim-American leaders, including Republican Party politicians and military veterans.
The Intercept reports that the Feds are using tactics and techniques intended for catching terrorists and spies to monitor the email accounts of prominent Muslim-Americans.
The names of those spied on included Faisal Gill, a longtime Republican Party operative and one-time candidate for public office who held a top-secret security clearance and served in the Department of Homeland Security under President George W. Bush.
Asim Ghafoor, a lawyer who has represented clients in terrorism-related cases, Agha Saeed, a former political science professor at California State University and Nihad Awad, CAIR executive director, were also among names.
Hooshang Amirahmadi, an Iranian-American professor of international relations at Rutgers University was also spied on.
"The Obama administration continues to allow some government agencies to treat all Americans as objects of suspicion. It is time for a full public accounting regarding surveillance of American minorities,” CAIR said in its own statement.
“This includes explaining the use of the blatantly prejudiced 'Mohammad Raghead' as a placeholder in a document describing how to properly format surveillance justification."
Since 9/11, Muslims, estimated between six to seven million, have become sensitized to an erosion of their civil rights, with a prevailing belief that America was stigmatizing their faith.
Muslims’ anger has grown against the New York police following revelations in 2011 by the Associated Press that the NYPD used undercover agents to spy on Muslim communities.
A report by the AP said that the NYPD sent out undercover officers into ethnic communities to track daily life and monitor mosques as well as Muslim student organizations.
Apart from CAIR statement, a broad-based coalition of 45 organizations, led by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) urged Obama to take 'full public accounting' for government surveillance of US Muslim leaders.
"The First Look report is troubling because it arises in this broader context of abuse. Documents obtained through an American Civil Liberties Union Freedom of Information Act request show that the FBI has been mapping a broad spectrum of communities, including American Muslim communities, the African American community and Latino American communities, without any basis for individualized suspicion,” the coalition said in a letter to Obama.
“Under the guise of community outreach, the FBI targeted mosques and Muslim community organizations for intelligence gathering. It has pressured law-abiding American Muslims to become informants against their own communities, often in coercive circumstances.
“It has also stigmatized innocent Muslims by placing them on the No Fly List and other watch lists. In short, the government's domestic counterterrorism policies treat entire minority communities as suspect, and American Muslims have borne the brunt of government suspicion, stigma and abuse.
The coalition has also condemned these government practices as hurting all communities , not only American Muslims.
"These practices hurt not only American Muslims, but all communities that expect law enforcement to serve and protect America's diverse population equally, without discrimination,”
“They strike the bedrock of democracy: that no one should grow up fearful of law enforcement, scared to exercise the rights to freedom of speech, association and worship."
Signatories to the coalition letter include a galaxy of American rights, legal and interfaith groups, such as ACLU, Amnesty International, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, Human Rights Watch and Islamic Society of North America.Muslim Public Affairs Council, T'ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries, have also signed the letter.
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