Saturday, February 24, 2018

Evangelicals in the USA

Evangelicals are America’s most powerful religious affiliation. As a group, white evangelicals form one-fifth of all registered voters in the United States and make up one-third of all voters who identify or lean Republican.

With such a prominent group influencing U.S. politics and democracy, 24/7 Wall St. found the share of each state’s population who identify as evangelical with data from public policy think tank Pew Research Center.
While there are many different evangelical sects, they are unified by certain core beliefs. Central to evangelism is the belief that only conversion, or a personal “born again” experience, leads to salvation. The emphasis is also on spreading the word of God (or evangelizing) through one-on-one sessions or organized missions.
Compared with other high income nations, the U.S. stands out as exceptionally religious. Of the 70.6% of Americans who consider themselves Christian, evangelism has consistently been the most popular denomination. In fact, at least one quarter of the population in nearly 30 states is affiliated with the evangelical faith.
The global pattern of low religious affiliation in high income nations can also be observed among states. The median household income exceeds the national median in only four of the 25 states with the higher shares of people identifying as evangelicals. The opposite is true among the states with relatively low shares of evangelicals.
As a whole, evangelism has shrunk in the United States. While still accounting for 25% of all U.S. religious affiliation, the share of evangelicals has decreased a whole percentage point in just seven years. Notably, the largest decline occurred in the evangelical stronghold region of the South, where self-identified evangelicals dropped from 37% to 34% of the population between 2007 and 2014.
Meanwhile, the religious affiliation that has flourished the most during this period is no religion at all. The “no association” group, which comprised 16% of the population in 2007, today comprises 23% of the population — the second largest belief system in the United States.
To identify the most and least evangelical states, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed a 2014 survey of all 50 states and their religious makeup by the Pew Research Center. Growth trends were determined by comparing the percentage of adherents to the religion in a previous survey conducted in 2007. The sample size was over 35,000 Americans.
You can find these states with % affiliation by clicking here.
Many of the racist supporters for Trump's agenda come from this group.
Check this racist agenda and their love of Trump:

IMANA is raising fund for providing medical assistance to the Rohingyas of Myanmar

Here below is a message from Dr. Najma Khanani of the IMANA. She will be going to Rohingya camps in Bangladesh with IMANA.
Please, help the organization to render help to the 800,000 Rohingya refugees now forced out of their homes in Arakan (Rakhine) state of Myanmar and settle in Bangladesh as a result of genocidal crimes of the Myanmar government and bigots of the Rakhine state.

You can find the link to donate in IMANA's website.

Please be a part of bringing aid to the Rohingya refugees who are being forced to flee from their homes in Myanmar to take refuge in Bangladesh.
I will be traveling to the refugee camps in Bangladesh as part of IMANA's Save Rohingya Medical Mission Team along with three other physicians on March 16. We will be providing medical care to the refugees in the camps that have resulted due to the forced exodus of the Roihingya from their homes in Myanmar. The camps are spread over several miles with close to 700,000 refugees living in unimaginable conditions. They are completely dependent on humanitarian aid. The team of four doctors with local staff will see about 3,000 patients in a one week period.
PLEASE OPEN YOUR HEART AND DONATE GENEROUSLY TO THIS CAMPAIGN. YOUR DONATION WILL GO DIRECTLY TOWARD MEDICAL CARE FOR THE REFUGEES. Your donation goes for on the ground costs only, such as medicine and needed equipment. The volunteer medical team will defray their own cost to go on the mission and all fundraising we do goes only to IMANA.
The devastating plight of the Rohingya of Myanmar can not be understated. I first vaguely heard about this issue several years ago. Then a very dear friend of mine asked me to join her on a trip to NYC to meet someone who was trying to work to help the Rohingya. After meeting this individual, my friend and I quickly realized any work towards aid at that time for the Rohingya would require undertaking some risk. At that time the Rohingya were still mostly in Myanmar where the government was not allowing for any aid. The devastation, abuse and inhumane treatment of the Rohingya continues in Myanmar today. Please go to this link on NPR to learn more about this very real issue.
With the IMANA Save Rohingya Mission I now have an opportunity to "do something". You can also be apart of doing something with your donation. IMANA has requested I raise $1000. However I have faith in my family and friends, so I have raised the bar for you all to $5000, because I know you want to "do something" too.
PS. The identity of my dear friend will be revealed when we hit 5K

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Burma: Scores of Rohingya Villages Bulldozed

New Satellite Images Show Destruction Indicating Obstruction of Justice
Watch :Burmese Government Demolishes Rohingya Villages | Human Rights ...
Inline image 1 31 mins ago
Time series animation of satellite imagery capturing the demolition of multiple villages in Maungdaw  township between January 8 and February 19, 2018. 
The report below is shared from Human Rights Watch:

India Among 'Worst Offenders' In Press Freedom

"Philippines, India and the Maldives score high for corruption and have fewer press freedoms and higher numbers of journalist deaths."
India has been ranked 81st in the global corruption perception index for 2017, released by Transparency International, which named the country among the "worst offenders" in terms of graft and press freedom in the Asia Pacific region.
The index, which ranks 180 countries and territories by their perceived levels of public sector corruption, placed India at the 81st place. In the 2016 India was in the 79th place among 176 countries.
The index uses a scale of 0 to 100, where 0 is highly corrupt and 100 is very clean.
India's score in the latest ranking, however, remained unchanged at 40. In 2015, the score was 38.
Transparency International further said, "in some countries across the region (Asia Pacific), journalists, activists, opposition leaders and even staff of law enforcement or watchdog agencies are threatened, and in the worst cases, even murdered".
"Philippines, India and the Maldives are among the worst regional offenders in this respect. These countries score high for corruption and have fewer press freedoms and higher numbers of journalist deaths," it added.
In the last six years, 15 journalists working on corruption stories in these countries were murdered, as reported by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).
In the latest ranking New Zealand and Denmark were placed the highest, with scores of 89 and 88, respectively. On the other hand Syria, South Sudan and Somalia were ranked lowest with scores of 14, 12 and 9, respectively.
Meanwhile, China with a score of 41 was ranked 77th on the list, while Brazil was placed at 96th with a score of 37 and Russia was at the 135th place with a score of 29.
Further analysis of the results indicates that countries with the least protection for press and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) also tend to have the worst rates of corruption.
The analysis, which incorporates data from CPJ, showed that in the last six years, 9 out of 10 journalists were killed in countries that score 45 or less on the index.
"No activist or reporter should have to fear for their lives when speaking out against corruption. Given current crackdowns on both civil society and the media worldwide, we need to do more to protect those who speak up," Transparency International Managing Director Patricia Moreira said.

Why so many in West Bengal (India) are talking about Hindu Samhati

Written by Ravik Bhattacharya

ON FEBRUARY 14, an organisation called Hindu Samhati held a rally in Kolkata and, in what is seen as a first for Bengal, presented 14 members of a Muslim family as an example of “ghar wapsi”, while calling for similar programmes across the state. When its members assaulted journalists who tried to speak to the family. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee promised action, four persons were arrested on charges including attempt to murder; they were granted bail Thursday.
While all this has brought attention, Hindu Samhati has been at the forefront of several right-wing activities, often aggressively, ever since it was founded in 2008 by Tapan Ghosh, 64, a former member of the RSS and the VHP, which he quit in 2007. Chief patron Ghosh was among those arrested and granted bail.
The outfit, which accuses the RSS and VHP of a soft approach, claims to have grown to about 50,000 members in the state — most of them former RSS pracharaks — and spread to Assam and Jharkhand in the last two years. Along the way, it has been probed in several cases relating to communal violence; Ghosh himself has been arrested at least seven times in connection with a number of cases.
What it does
The narrow Bhuban Dhur Lane leads to house number 5, atop which stand two CCTV cameras stand out against the rest of the North Kolkata neighbourhood. Inside, the walls are lined with books including volumes of the Quran alongside Hindu religious books and files of court cases.
Debtanu Bhattacharya, who used to be as an RSS pracharak from 1992 to 2007, working in Bengal and the Northeast, joined Hindu Samhati in 2013 and is now president.
In a conversation days after Ghosh’s arrest, Bhattacharya described how Hindu Samhati is different. “I have seen villages that have had RSS shakas for three decades, yet Hindus are displaced from there. When it comes to direct action, RSS seems to take a step backward,” Bhattacharya said. “Our leader Tapan Ghosh stands by our cadres… We say we did it, we are prepared to go to jail. We take care of families of cadres who are in jail; the Sangh disowns its followers when they land in trouble.”
He stressed that Hindu Samiti is not affiliated to any political party. It is known to have lobbied for support abroad; the Samhiti website mentions an address by Ghosh at the House of Commons after he had been invited the National Council of Hindu Temples, UK.
Bhattacharya described the outfit’s work. “We work at village level, where we prepare for Hindu resistance. Self-defence is a constitutional right. We ask villagers to keep weapons that are legally allowed. There are guns and bombs in every village, and if those are used during a clash, what else can we do?” he said. “So far, we have facilitated marriages of over 300 Muslim girls to Hindu youth in our anti-love jihad campaign and settled them in various parts of India. We have rescued over 200 Hindu girls who had either married Muslims or tried to. We gave them shelter.”
Sujit Maity, Samhati assistant secretary, added: “We provide financial and legal support to families of arrested or convicted youth.” The outfit claims to be providing regular assistance to the families of 11 youths convicted in a 2014 case in Birbhum, involving the alleged gang-rape of a tribal girl who was in a relationship with a Muslim .
It is also backing a schoolboy who had posted a Facebook comment in 2017, when he was 17, leading to communal clashes in North 24-Parganas, where one person died, followed by clashes in Bashirhat. The trial is in progress.
“The boy cannot return home. So, after talking to his family, we are now his guardian and have arranged for his shelter and education,” said Samir Guha Roy, Samhati vice-president, a former ABVP leader from Bengal.
The organisation says it doesn’t believe in training or owning assets. “We do not even bother about membership drives or setting up offices. We channelise men and funds for village defence and other work,” said Bhattacharya.
The outfit has 100 members who work daily and are provided travel allowance, while 15 are full-timers whose entire expenses are borne by the outfit, it said.
It claims to run on donations. It has a monthly bulletin paper, apart from websites in Bengali and English. It details what it calls “attacks on Hindus” and its programmes in its mouthpiece ,  and online, with the help of a seven-member amateur online team.
Taking note
Urban Development Minister Firhad Hakim called it an “unruly and barbaric organisation”. “It should be banned… The government has taken strong action,” he said. Praveen Tripathi, joint commissioner of Kolkata Police (headquarters), said: “We have started a case [assault] and arrested four persons. The case will continue. We are keeping a watch on them,”
The Opposition accused the ruling party of being soft on the organisation. “Such outfits have links to the RSS, however hidden that is,” said CPI(M) leader Shyamal Chakraborty. “It is the present government that allowed them to hold a rally in the heart of the city, whereas Opposition parties like us are denied permission.” Congress leader Om Prakash Mishra said , “It is an alarming development. Though such outfits have their own organisation, they share the worldview of RSS… They are also soft on Trinamool Congress.”
The VHP disassociated itself from Hindu Samhati’s activities. “We do not support such organisations,” said Sachindranath Sinha, VHP organisational secretary in Bengal. “They are in no way connected to us. Some of their leaders may have once been with VHP, but they left. They are a reactionary force and history has shown us that in India reactionary forces do not last long.”

The Question of Sanctions: South Africa and Palestine

Sanctions against apartheid South Africa are, in the opinion of the writer, the only instance when sanctions have achieved their objective. They were also driven by civil society rather than by governments.
By contrast, US sanctions since the 1950s against Cuba, Iraq, Iran, Venezuela, Zimbabwe, North Korea and numerous other countries have proved dismal failures. Even worse, they have inflicted unjustifiable misery upon the very people they were purportedly intended to assist.
The former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright remains infamous for her notorious comment on television that the deaths of five hundred thousand Iraqi children was a price worth paying in pursuit of US sanctions against the Iraqi government and Saddam Hussein. The cost of reconstruction for the devastation inflicted on Iraq since 2003 is estimated at US$100 billion.
At question is whether US government sanctions are actually intended to achieve any objective, or are merely “feel-good” gestures intended to satisfy a domestic political audience? So-called “smart sanctions” — freezing assets and imposing travel bans on foreign government officials — have also proved completely ineffective.
South Africa’s Experience: Sports boycotts and fruit boycotts against apartheid South Africa over a twenty-five year period from 1960 until 1985 raised awareness about human rights abuses in South Africa, but most certainly did not bring down the apartheid government. Trade boycotts are inevitably riddled through with loopholes. There are invariably businessmen who, for a discount or premium, are prepared to take the risks of flouting trade boycotts, including mandatory arms embargoes.
The consequences however, for ordinary people in the boycotted country are that wages for workers are cut (or jobs lost) to reflect the discount on exported goods or, alternatively, that prices for imported goods are inflated by the premium paid to a foreign exporter prepared to break the boycott.
In the “national interest,” banks and/or chambers of commerce are always prepared to issue fraudulent letters of credit or certificates of origin to thwart the intentions of trade sanctions. As an example, Nedbank during the Rhodesian UDI days from 1965 until 1990 provided dummy accounts and front companies for its Rhodesian subsidiary, Rhobank.
Similarly, end user certificates in respect of the arms trade are not worth-the-paper- they-are-written-on because corrupt politicians are handsomely recompensed for flouting arms embargoes. As another example, the Togolese dictator, Gnassingbe Eyadema (1967-2005) profited immensely from the “blood diamonds” for weapons trade, and his son Faure has continued in power since his father died in 2005.
The United Nations Security Council in November 1977 determined that human rights abuses in South Africa posed a threat to international peace and security, and imposed a mandatory arms embargo. At the time, the decision was hailed as a major advance in 20th century diplomacy.
Yet as an article in the Daily Maverick on apartheid profits (including the linked 19 previous installments) published on December 15, 2017 highlights, the US, British, Chinese, Israeli, French and other governments, combined with a variety of rogues, were willing to flout international law to support the apartheid government and/or to profit from illegal transactions.
Massive expenditures on armaments, including nuclear weapons — plus a premium of more than US$25 billion spent to bypass oil sanctions — by 1985 led to a financial crisis, and South Africa defaulted on its relatively low foreign debt of US$25 billion in September that year. South Africa was self-sufficient except for oil, and assumed that, as the world’s main gold producer, it was impregnable. The country was however, also on a fast track to civil war and a prospective racial bloodbath.
Television coverage around the world of civil unrest stirred international revulsion with the system of apartheid, and amongst Americans resonated with the civil rights campaign. More than two-thirds of South Africa’s debt was short-term and thus repayable within one year, hence the foreign debt crisis was a cash-flow problem rather than actual bankruptcy.
All the military equipment, including those nuclear weapons, proved useless in defending the apartheid system
In response to public pressure, Chase Manhattan Bank in July precipitated the “debt standstill” by announcing that it would not renew the US$500 million in loans that it had outstanding to South Africa. Other US banks followed, but their combined loans amounting to just over US$2 billion were alone exceeded by that of Barclays Bank, the largest creditor. A rescheduling committee, chaired by Dr Fritz Leutwiler of Switzerland, was established to reschedule the debts.
Divestment is a peculiarly American response given the role of pension funds on the New York Stock Exchange, and shareholder activism. For instance, Mobil Oil, General Motors and IBM withdrew from South Africa under pressure from American shareholders, but sold their South African subsidiaries at “fire sale prices” to Anglo-American Corporation and other companies that were prime beneficiaries of the apartheid system.
The “debt standstill” provided the South African Council of Churches and other civil society activists with an opportunity to launch the international banking sanctions campaign at the United Nations in October 1985. It was an appeal to international bankers by [then] Bishop Desmond Tutu and Dr Beyers Naude to request the banks participating in the rescheduling process that:-
“rescheduling of South Africa’s debt should be made conditional upon the resignation of the present regime, and its replacement by a government responsive to the needs of all South Africa’s people.”
As a last nonviolent initiative to avert a civil war, the appeal, was circulated through the US Congress, and became incorporated into the terms of the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act. President Ronald Reagan vetoed the bill, but his veto was then overturned by the US Senate in October 1986.
Rescheduling of South Africa debt became the conduit to access to the New York inter-bank payment system, a much more critical matter because of the role of the US dollar as settlement currency in foreign exchange transactions. Without access to the seven major New York banks, South Africa would have been unable to make payment for imports or receive payment for exports.
Given Archbishop Tutu’s influence, US churches pressured New York banks to choose between the banking business of apartheid South Africa or the pension fund business of their respective denominations. When David Dinkins became Mayor of New York City, the municipality added a choice between South Africa or the City’s payroll accounts.
The objective of the international banking sanctions campaign was repeatedly declared:
The end of the state of emergency
Release of political prisoners
Unbanning of political organizations
Repeal of apartheid legislation, and
Constitutional negotiations towards a non-racial, democratic and united South Africa.
There was therefore a measurable end game, and an exit strategy. The timing was fortuitous. The Cold War was coming to a close, and the apartheid government could no longer claim the “communist threat” in its appeals to the US government. President George Bush senior succeeded Reagan in 1989 and met the church leaders in May that year, during which he declared that he was appalled by what was happening in South Africa and offered his support.
Congressional leaders were already considering legislation during 1990 to close loopholes in the C-AAA and to prohibit all South African financial transactions in the US. Because of the role of the US dollar, this would have also impacted on third-country trade with countries such as Germany or Japan. In addition, the United Nations set June 1990 as the deadline to abolish the apartheid system.
The British government under Mrs Margaret Thatcher attempted – unsuccessfully — to thwart these initiatives by announcing in October 1989 that she in conjunction with the South African Reserve Bank had extended South Africa’s foreign debt until 1993.
Following the Cape Town March for Peace in September 1989 led by Archbishop Tutu, the US Under-Secretary of State for African Affairs, Henk Cohen issued an ultimatum demanding compliance by the South African government of the first three conditions of the banking sanctions campaign by February 1990.
Despite apartheid government protestations, that was the background to President FW de Klerk’s announcement on 2 February 1990, the release of Nelson Mandela nine days later, and the commencement of constitutional negotiations to end the apartheid system. Mandela himself acknowledged that the most effective boycott of apartheid came from American bankers, saying:
“they had previously helped to finance South Africa’s highly militarised state, but now abruptly withdrew their loans and investments.”
Mandela did not appreciate the distinction between loans and the New York inter-bank payment system, but the South African minister of finance acknowledged that “South Africa could not manufacture dollars.” Without access to the New York inter-bank payment system, the economy would have collapsed.
Following the apartheid government’s announcements on 2 February 1990, it was then not necessary for the US Congress to pursue the intended complete severance of South African access to the American financial system. That option remained open however, should negotiations between the apartheid government and the African National Congress fail.
The “writing was on the wall.” Rather than risk destruction of the economy and its infrastructure and a racial bloodbath, the apartheid government opted to negotiate a settlement and to move towards a constitutional democracy. This is expressed in the preamble to the Constitution that declares:
We, the people of South Africa.
Recognise the injustices of our past,
Honour those who suffered for justice and freedom in our land,
Respect those who have worked to build and develop our country, and
Believe that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity.”
With banking sanctions having “balanced the scales” between the two parties, constitutional negotiations proceeded between the apartheid government, the ANC and other political representatives. There were many setbacks, and it was only in late 1993 that Mandela decided that the transition to democracy was finally irreversible, and that financial sanctions could be revoked.
Given the success of sanctions in ending apartheid, there was considerable interest for some years in sanctions as a means of resolving other long-standing international conflicts. There has been blatant misuse, and consequent discrediting, of sanctions by US as an instrument to assert American military and financial hegemony in the world.
This is illustrated by US sanctions against Iraq, Venezuela, Libya and Iran, which sought payment for oil exports in other currencies and/or gold instead of US dollars, and then followed by “regime change.”
Banking technology has of course advanced dramatically in the subsequent three decades since the South African banking sanctions campaign. The place of leverage is no longer in New York, but in Brussels where Society for Worldwide Inter-bank Financial Telecommunications (SWIFT) is headquartered.
SWIFT is essentially a giant computer which authenticates the payment instructions of more than 11 000 banks in over 200 countries. Every bank has a SWIFT code, the fifth and sixth letters of which identify the country of domicile.
Palestine: The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement was established in 2005, and is modeled after South Africa’s experience. Whilst it took more than 25 years for sanctions against apartheid South Africa to make significant impact, the Israeli government is increasingly frantic about BDS which, inter alia, has been nominated for the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize.
It is noteworthy that the award of the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize to Desmond Tutu gave huge momentum to international solidarity with the anti-apartheid movement. The Norwegian Pension Fund, which administers funds of over US$1 trillion, has blacklisted the major Israeli arms company, Elbit Systems.
Other Scandinavian and Dutch institutions have followed suit. Church pension funds in the US are also becoming engaged. Younger and progressive Jewish Americans increasingly distancing themselves from the right-wing Israeli government, and even sympathizing with Palestinians. European governments in 2014 warned their citizens of the reputational and financial risks of business transactions with Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
The UN Human Rights Council in January 2018 has collated a list of over 200 Israeli and American companies that are actively involved in facilitating and funding the Occupation of Palestinian Territories in defiance of the Geneva Conventions and other instruments of international law.
In response, the Israeli government has allocated substantial financial and other resources in legislative initiatives – both within Israel and internationally — to criminalise the BDS momentum, and to smear the movement as anti-Semitic. This is however, already proving counter-productive, as illustrated by controversies and court cases in the US.
The American Civil Liberties Union has successfully challenged such attempts, eg in Kansas, citing violations of the First Amendment dealing with free speech, as combined with long traditions in the US — including even the Boston Tea Party and the civil rights campaign — of boycotts to advance political developments.
The letters IL in the SWIFT code identify Israeli banks. Programmatically, it would be a simple matter to suspend transactions to and from IL accounts. This would block payment for imports and receipt of proceeds for Israeli exports. The difficulty is political will, and the influence of the Israeli lobby.
The precedent and efficacy of SWIFT sanctions has however, already been established in the case of Iran. Under pressure from the US and Israel, the European Union instructed to SWIFT to suspend transactions with Iranian banks in order to pressure the Iranian government to negotiate the 2015 Iranian nuclear weapons agreement.
It is now acknowledged that the so-called “peace process” mediated by the US government was simply a cover to extend the Occupation and further Israeli settlements “beyond the green line.” The prospect now of new negotiations under the auspices of the United Nations between Palestine and Israel challenges the international community to assist in ensuring that such negotiations are successful.
To the objective of assisting such negotiations by balancing the scales, it is suggested that SWIFT sanctions against Israeli banks would strike at the Israeli financial and political elites, who have the clout to influence the Israeli government to comply with four stipulated conditions, namely:
To release immediately all Palestinian political prisoners,
To end its occupation of the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and Gaza, and that it will dismantle the “apartheid wall,”
To recognize the fundamental rights of Arab-Palestinians to full equality in Israel-Palestine, and
To acknowledge the right of return of Palestinians.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Muslims Face Increasing Discrimination, State Surveillance Under Trump

US President Donald Trump received another setback last week when the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, located in Richmond, Virginia, ruled against the latest version of his Muslim ban. In its ruling, the court stated that the ban is “unconstitutionally tainted with animus towards Islam” and that its central purpose is “to exclude Muslims from the United States.” Despite the ruling, “Muslim Ban 3.0” will remain in effect while the Supreme Court considers the case.
The decision by the Fourth Circuit has been cautiously welcomed by Muslims, many of whom have endured prolonged separation from their loved ones as a result of the ban. The Muslim ban has always been a reactionary gimmick aimed at shoring up the most backward elements of Trump’s political base and whipping up anti-Muslim hysteria in the country.  It was clearly designed to reinforce the bogus notion that Muslim-Americans and Muslim immigrants constitute a unique threat to “national security.”
The consistent, calculated attempt by Trump and his supporters to portray ordinary Muslims as potential security threats has had a devastating impact on Muslim-Americans, contributing to an increase in hate crimes against Muslims and fostering a general climate of fear and uncertainty within the community.  There are also indications that the government is planning a further crackdown on the democratic rights of Muslims, with increased surveillance of Muslim communities in the works.  Indeed, reports from around the country this month demonstrate how the US is increasingly becoming hostile territory for Muslims.
Earlier this month, the non-profit organization, South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) released a report that showed a dramatic rise in incidents of harassment and violence against South Asians and Arabs. SAALT documented 302 of these incidents between November 2016 and November 2017, representing a 45 increase in the number of incidents recorded in the year leading up to the 2016 elections.  Non-Muslim South Asians, including Hindus and Sikhs, are also targeted by racists in increasing numbers, demonstrating that sometimes a dark-skinned appearance is enough to invite insults and attacks from the bigots. According to the SAALT report, 20 percent of the perpetrators of the incidents of harassment and violence it recorded directly referenced Trump or one of his policies, indicating a strong link between Trump’s anti-Muslim vitriol and the uptick in attacks on Muslims and South Asians. The SAALT report reinforced the findings of the FBI’s latest Uniform Crime Report, which was found a 20 percent increase in hate crimes against Muslims in 2016.
In addition to the rising incidents of harassment and violence against Muslims, there are signs that the federal government intends to ratchet up spying against the Muslim community. Two weeks ago, Foreign Policy magazine obtained a draft report, produced by the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at the request of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), in which the CBP recommends subjecting Sunni Muslim immigrants, including permanent residents, to long-term surveillance.  In its report, the CBP declared that a broad range of Sunni Muslims are potentially “vulnerable to terrorist narratives,” based on so-called “risk indicators” such as being young, male and having origins in the “Middle East, South Asia and Africa.”  Last October, it was also revealed that the DHS plans to collect social media information from all immigrants to the US, including permanent residents and naturalized citizens.  The draconian measure would have a powerful and destructive chilling effect on Muslims throughout the US, forcing them to think twice before openly expressing their political views.
While the latest news from the DHS is ominous indeed, it should be pointed out that the assault on the democratic rights of Muslims began long before Trump came to power.  This was underscored earlier this month when the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) revealed that, in 2016, the Boston Police Department (BPD) used social media monitoring software to spy on the private conversations of Muslims.  The BPD had a list of “trigger words” such as “ummah” (community) and “Muslim Lives Matter,” that activated the software.  The BPD’s spying program was eventually discontinued, with no evidence that it prevented any crimes.
One might expect that the police, busy as they are hounding the working class and racial minorities, would have little time to engage in such activities.  However, the BPD’s spying program is nothing new.  In fact, it pales in comparison to the massive spying operation carried out by the New York Police Department (NYPD) in collaboration with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), in the years following 9/11. In 2010, the Associated Press uncovered the existence of the NYPD-CIA spying program, which included the monitoring of Muslim students groups across 16 college campuses across the Northeast in 2006-2007.  The Associated Press had also discovered that, for several years, the NYPD had been spying on mosques and Muslim-owned businesses, even sending informants to monitor sermons.  Ordinary Muslims going about their daily lives had their license plate numbers recorded and faces photographed.
The use of paid informants by US authorities is particularly sinister. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is believed to have more than 15,000 informants on its payroll.  It is known to recruit Muslims of dubious character for the purpose of manufacturing “terror plots” to ensnare vulnerable Muslims. The informants are trained to seek out young, impressionable, often unemployed and isolated Muslims known to have expressed “radical views.”  After gaining their trust, including through favors such as providing money, the informants then bend over backwards to convince their targets to carry out an attack.  In his 2013 book, The Terror Factory: Inside the FBI’s Manufactured War on Terrorism, investigative journalist Trevor Aaronson showed that only 1 percent of the more than 500 defendants charged with federal terrorism offenses in the decade following 9/11 were actually involved in terrorist activities.  In the overwhelming majority of cases, the “terror plots” were entirely cooked up by the informants. One of the more infamous examples of this FBI tactic was the case of the Newburgh 4, which involved the entrapment of 4 deeply impoverished African-American from Newburgh, NY on bogus terrorism charges after an FBI informant gained their trust by providing both financial and emotional support to the vulnerable men.
The FBI is continuing to use informants, as demonstrated by the ongoing case of Samy Hamzeh, a Muslim man from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Hamzeh, who believed that the Masons were involved in a plot to discredit Islam by supporting ISIS, was arrested in 2016 after he purchased two machine guns from a paid FBI informant who had previously been a trusted friend, allegedly for the purpose of attacking a Masonic center. According to his lawyers, Hamzeh is a “Palestinian Walter Mitty” who was manipulated and exploited by self-serving informants.
The use of paid informants by the FBI is revelatory in that it shows the determination of US authorities to exaggerate the threat posed by Islamic terrorism.  If Muslim terrorists can’t be found, they must be created. If one takes an objective look at the studies done on the attitudes and values of Muslim-Americans, it’s difficult to conclude that they pose a danger to their non-Muslim neighbors. Muslim-Americans tend to reject the more retrograde aspects of Islam, preferring to conform to 21st century norms and values. For example, last year, the results of a survey by the Pew Research Center showed that, in contrast to white evangelical Christians, the majority of Muslim-Americans believe that homosexuality should be accepted by society.  Another Pew survey showed that the majority of Muslims in the US support the right to an abortion in most cases.  Interestingly, the Pew survey conducted last year found that 24 percent of Muslims raised in the US have left the religion altogether, no longer identifying as Muslim. Indeed, the only people talking about Sharia law in this country are the Muslim-obsessed bigots of the far-right, whose forces are known to engage in terrorist activities at much greater rates than Muslim-Americans and Muslim immigrants.
The increasing marginalization of Muslims in the US has been part of a continuous process, underway since 9/11.  The process started under George W. Bush, was escalated by Barack Obama, and has intensified significantly Trump’s, whose open flirtation with fascism is bringing about a qualitative change in the lived experience of Muslim-Americans. The whipping up of anti-Muslim sentiment by the American ruling class has definite political aims. These include dividing the working class along racial and religious lines, building domestic support for US imperialism’s wars and interventions in Muslim-majority countries, and cracking down on the democratic rights of all Americans in the name of “national security.”  The tactics used against Muslims are also beginning to be utilized against non-Muslims, particularly against political activists. For example, the spying software used by the Boston Police Department against Muslims in 2016, was also used against Black Lives Matter protestors in 2014, and even against Boston high school students opposing austerity measures.