From the Civil Rights Desk
Did anyone else feel like they were hit by a speeding train this past November? For many American Muslims in the Bay Area, that’s exactly what it felt like.
The harassment and intimidation against American Muslims after the 2016 general elections was nothing short of a national outbreak of hate. Donald Trump’s victory was being celebrated, and our office received about numerous complaints of Bay Area Muslims experiencing harassment at school, home, on the streets, in public transportation, grocery stores, other places of business, and in the Masjids. Hijab wearing American Muslim women were the most vulnerable to these Trump-inspired acts of hate. One Muslim student at San Jose State University was physically attacked from behind on campus. The assailant went straight for her headscarf, nearly choking her to death. CAIR-SFBA stepped in to assist the student and to also work with the school and the Muslim Student Association to ensure the safety of all students on campus.
Unfortunately, for many who were paying attention to the news or just their general surroundings after November 8th, this is likely not shocking information. But November was off to a rocky start from the very beginning, and the results of the elections had little to do with it. What wasn’t so open and obvious to very many people was that many American Muslims were paid a surprising visit by an unsolicited party.
In the days leading up to the elections, the FBI conducted a nationwide sweep, knocking on the doors and visiting the homes of law abiding American Muslims. The Bay Area community was part of a nationwide FBI sweep that specifically profiled and targeted American Muslims prior to elections about possible pre-election terrorism. Community members were asked appalling questions about whether they personally knew al-Qaeda leaders killed in U.S. military airstrikes the prior month or whether they knew of anyone who wished to cause harm to Americans at home or abroad. Nothing connected these individuals to each other or to any alleged threat. In fact, nothing connected them at all except the fact that they were Muslim and shared a similar ethnicity.
CAIR-SFBA fielded several calls from Bay Area Muslims who were still reeling in a state of shock from the visits. Some were able to secure business cards and agent’s contact information. CAIR-SFBA immediately contacted those agents individually to inquire about the sweep and to provide legal representation for the targeted community members. It was clear that the people who were visited were neither suspect of terrorist activity nor under investigation by the FBI.
CAIR-SFBA is always committed toward protecting the constitutional interests of American Muslims in the Bay Area. Shock, anxiety, and fear are natural reactions for anyone on the receiving end of an FBI visit. We advise community members to invoke their right to remain silent and their right to an attorney any time law enforcement is involved.
If you or a loved one experience a hate crime or incident, or are contacted by law enforcement, no matter how small a matter you may think it is, we strongly urge you to report it immediately to CAIR-SFBA immediately. All reports to CAIR are confidential and there is no charge for our services.
Civil Rights Coordinator