Opinion: Muslim Civil Liberties Under Attack on the Fourth of July

July 2, 2005

Source: The Washington Post


On July 2, 2005 The Washington Post ran an opinion piece by Colbert I. King. "On this Fourth of July, what must Muslims in America be thinking? Do they feel within or beyond the pale of our national celebration?

Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union released a report last month called 'U.S.: Scores of Muslim Men Jailed Without Charge.' The groups charge that after Sept. 11, 2001, the Justice Department, operating behind a wall of secrecy, thrust scores of Muslim men living in this country into a world of indefinite detention without charge because of baseless accusations of terrorist links. The men -- 70 in all -- were held as 'material witnesses.' Sixty-four were of Middle Eastern or South Asian descent. Seventeen were U.S. citizens. All but one were Muslims. Many weren't told why they were arrested and were not given immediate access to lawyers or allowed to see the evidence against them. The report said that court proceedings were conducted against the men behind closed doors, and that all the court documents were sealed. 'Almost half of the [men] were never brought before a grand jury or court to testify. The U.S. government has apologized to 13 for wrongfully detaining them. Only a handful were ever charged with crimes related to terrorism,' according to the report.

In a time of national peril, protecting America from terrorists should be paramount, you might argue. Yes, but pulling Muslims of Middle Eastern descent off the streets for indefinite incarceration because they have worked, dined or prayed with someone who looks like them or has a similar name and is under suspicion as a possible terrorist -- this is inconsistent with our notions of justice and the full and free exercise of rights. Think about it as we commemorate our anniversary."