Fighting the Demonization of Ordinary American Muslims—Like Me

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JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images

By Ali Albassam, Security with Human Rights volunteer

Newt Gingrich recently proposed that American Muslims be tested and questioned on their religious beliefs—and face deportation.

Gingrich told Fox News:

“The first step is you have to ask them the questions. The second step is you have to monitor what they’re doing on the Internet. The third step is, let me be very clear, you have to monitor the mosques.”

Gingrich’s comments are the latest in this trend: After horrific terrorism attacks, pundits take to cable news to offer discriminatory, anti-Muslim proposals and rhetoric. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

What If Eating Caused You Excruciating Pain? This Man’s Impossible Choice

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Michelle Shephard-Pool/Getty Images

I just ate an apple. Later, I’ll try to resist the temptation to munch on crackers. I keep hearing about the importance of a “clean diet.” I think that means no crackers. Maybe carrots instead?

As I make these decisions, I can’t help but compare them to the ones this torture survivor makes every day. If he eats, he will experience excruciating pain. If he wants to avoid the excruciating pain, he cannot eat.

This man weighs about 110 pounds. I have seen him through glass, in a makeshift courtroom at Guantanamo, and he seems frail, a wisp of a person, a man broken and hardly repaired. His name is Mustafa al Hawsawi. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

CIA Torture Just Got One Step Closer to Facing Accountability

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Director of Central Intelligence Agency John Brennan, December 11, 2014. (JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

Director of Central Intelligence Agency John Brennan, December 11, 2014. (JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

“You rarely win, but sometimes you do.” I keep a poster up in my office with this quote from Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. To me, it perfectly summarizes Amnesty International’s work of pushing back against the human rights abuses carried out in the name of national security. That’s because we’re fighting against fear and hate, which are powerful, intimidating adversaries. But recent victories have reminded me that there’s something stronger than fear and hate, and that our fight is worthwhile. We may feel sometimes as if human rights rarely win – but this time, they did. And they won big. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Scholars Jailed in Turkey’s On-Going War Against Freedom of Expression: How You Can Take Action

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Esra Mungan, Muzaffer Kaya, Kıvanç Ersoy and Meral Camcı are academics currently held in pre-trial detention in Istanbul after they held a press conference on 10 March 2016, reiterating their support for a statement they had signed in January. The appeal for peace criticizing ongoing curfews and security operations in south eastern Turkey and calling for a resumption of peace talks between Turkey and the armed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) initially attracted 1,128 academics across Turkey. A further 1,084 academics since signed to appeal, bringing the total to 2,212 signatories.

Esra Mungan, Muzaffer Kaya, Kıvanç Ersoy and Meral Camcı are academics currently held in pre-trial detention in Istanbul after they held a press conference on 10 March 2016.

Turkey has suffered from a series of horrendous attacks in recent months.  The security challenges it faces are very real. Unfortunately, the rhetoric coming out of Ankara suggests that, under the umbrella of fighting terrorism, the most basic civil liberties are to be targeted.

Citizens from all walks of life, including journalists, scholars, lawyers, and thirteen year olds sharing stuff on facebook, have all been targeted by the Turkish authorities simply for expressing ideas that the government doesn’t like.  Turkey’s current campaign against academics who signed a “peace petition” is emblematic of a much larger problem.  It is time to take action.  It is time to add your voice to those calling on Turkey to respect the most basic rights of freedom of expression.

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What’s the State of Human Rights Around the World?

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In 2015, Amnesty International investigated the human rights situation in 160 countries and territories worldwide. Progress continued in some areas, but many people and communities faced grave human rights abuses.

FOE

At least 113 countries arbitrarily restricted freedom of expression and the press. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

To be a Muslim in America Right Now

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JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images

To be a Muslim in America right now is to fear that your best days — your most ordinary days — are behind you. Anti-Muslim hate and fear-mongering is going mainstream, and the future is a startling unknown.

Many fear that the vicious rhetoric we are hearing is a harbinger of things to come: discrimination, harassment and violent attacks on Muslims, or people who look Muslim that spreads and even becomes a new normal. That could set the stage, one day in the not-so-distant future, for government policies like mandatory registration of Muslims and internment.

Could that really happen? Perhaps my background as an American Muslim makes me more sensitive to the possibility. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Waterboarding Is Torture: 3 Things You Need to Know

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Still from 'The Stuff of Life'

For years, Amnesty International has witnessed public figures repeating misconceptions and inaccuracies about waterboarding.  This American debate on torture has mostly got it wrong – here are three realities you need to know:

  1. Waterboarding is slow-motion suffocation

People who take the time to learn about Waterboarding see how horrific it is.

But many people don’t. Media and public figures often describe waterboarding as a form of “enhanced interrogation”—a euphemism that rationalizes and sanitizes torture. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Muhammed, What Were You Thinking About When You Accepted the Reality of Your Death?

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Fayha Shalash, the wife of Palestinian journalist Muhammed al-Qiq, sits with her son at her home in the West Bank village of Dura on January 20, 2016. Al Qiq is seen in the poster.  Photo: Wisam Hashlamoun/APA images

Fayha Shalash, the wife of Palestinian journalist Muhammed al-Qiq, sits with her son at her home in the West Bank village of Dura on January 20, 2016. Al Qiq is seen in the poster. Photo: Wisam Hashlamoun/APA images

Muhammed -What were you thinking about when you accepted the reality of your own death?

What thoughts and images went through your mind when you realized you were willing to risk permanent physical damage or even death to gain your freedom?

Were you thinking about the softness of your babies’ cheeks? How they smelled so fresh and their skin felt so soft after bath time?

Muhammed al Qiq, a Palestinian journalist and father of two small children, has been on hunger strike for over seventy-five days – refusing everything but water, to protest the torture and other ill-treatment to which he says he was subjected to in Israeli custody, and to demand his release from detention he believes is motivated by his work as a journalist. He was placed under administrative detention, unable to see the evidence against him and unable to challenge the ‘evidence’ or his accusers in a fair judicial setting. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

This is Why Obama’s Speech on American Muslims Matters

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US President Barack Obama speaks at the Islamic Society of Baltimore, in Windsor Mill, Maryland on February 3, 2016. / AFP / MANDEL NGAN        (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

US President Barack Obama speaks at the Islamic Society of Baltimore, in Windsor Mill, Maryland on February 3, 2016. / AFP / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

I never thought it would happen, and it may never happen again. On Wednesday, President Obama visited a U.S. mosque for the first time in his presidency. He quoted from the Islamic holy book, the Quran. And he unequivocally denounced anti-Muslim hate.

This may sound uneventful, but it was actually bold. Muslims, Islam and the Quran are nearly dirty words in the U.S. political mainstream right now. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST