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Prevent and the London Tube Bombing

The verdict in the Iraqi teenager’s trial came as no surprise. Ahmed Hassan, who had arrived in the UK as an asylum seeker, was found guilty of attempted murder by a jury unconvinced by his defense that he had not meant no harm and merely sought attention when he placed a homemade bomb on a train at the Parsons Green Station in London.
The bomb, packed with “metal shrapnel including screws, bolts, nails, knives and screw drivers,” failed to fully explode but still managed to injure 30 people.

According to the police and prosecutors, Hassan’s motives were “unclear” despite the teenager having previously claimed to a lecturer that he had “a duty to hate Britain” because of the country’s role in the invasion of Iraq and the death of his father in an air raid. He had once complained to the same lecturer that the UK “continues to bomb my people daily.” Continue reading “Prevent and the London Tube Bombing”

How the United States Creates Terrorists

A string of recent attacks in Paris and Orlando have led to renewed calls for surveillance of American Muslim communities from both Republican and Democratic politicians. Donald Trump wants surveillance of “certain mosques.” Ted Cruz thinks mosques are only the beginning and law enforcement should “patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods.” Liberal darling Barney Frank has similarly called for “significant surveillance” of Muslims who adopt “angry Islamic hate views,” regardless of whether there is any reasonable basis to believe they pose a threat.

Such misguided calls for surveillance have recently become far more common, along with an upsurge in violence against American Muslims. They also betray a complete ignorance of the ongoing surveillance efforts against American Muslims, a luxury not afforded to those who have been on the receiving end of such untoward government attention. Various law enforcement and intelligence agencies have pursued extensive surveillance of American Muslim communities since 9/11, a project which now includes the Obama administration’s Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) program.

Continue reading “How the United States Creates Terrorists”

Obama’s Drone Legacy

In the waning months of his presidency, the Obama administration has finally released an assessment of civilians killed in its drone strikes outside areas of “active hostilities.” An Executive Order accompanying the assessment also promises the protection of civilians in counter-terrorism operations, an acknowledgement of responsibility for civilian casualties, and financial compensation for victims or their families.

According to the three-page summary released by the Director of National Intelligence, the US has killed 64 to 116 “non-combatants” in 473 US drone strikes since 2009. It is impossible to compare the government’s aggregate assessment to much more thorough, case-specific information compiled by independent sources such as the The Bureau of Investigative Journalism. Even still, the government figure is absurdly low and previous reporting on civilian deaths in just a handful of drone strikes already approaches the high-end of casualties admitted to by the government.

And yet to quibble with the numbers, even as it is necessary, would be to miss the point. The release of the assessment and the Executive Order has precious little to do with the long-awaited transparency. Instead, it is a calculated attempt to ensure Obama’s legacy is untainted by a program of extrajudicial murder and wanton killing, one which extends beyond any recognizable battlefield.

Continue reading “Obama’s Drone Legacy”

The Longest War Gets Longer

A few days ago, the United States killed the leader of a militant group it does not consider to be a terrorist organization, with which it is attempting to engage in peace talks, as part of the longest war it has ever been engaged in.

So far the justifications offered for the killing of Taliban leader Mullah Mansour only reveal the myopic mindset and desperation which must have led to the decision to authorize the killing.

Continue reading “The Longest War Gets Longer”

CVE Watch

I have been working with MuckRock on an investigative project around Countering Violent Extremism programs being developed and implemented around the country. Here is a brief synopsis of the project:

The programs being designed and implemented across the country under the auspices of Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) have drawn fire from Muslim community members and civil rights activists. They are criticized for unfairly targeting Muslims, being used for surveillance under the pretext of community outreach, and being based on an unfounded theory of radicalization.

Despite the heavy criticism CVE has been subjected to, there remain lingering questions about precisely which communities are targeted, what research (and which experts) agencies are relying on for their approaches, how (or if) government agencies are planning to safeguard civil liberties, which community leaders are being supported and for what reasons, etc.

By making the relevant government documents public, we hope to help answer some of these questions.

You can read my introduction to CVE (and the project) here and an analysis of documents on the drafting of Boston’s CVE strategy here. The project page will be updated as I publish more stories. You can also subscribe to the blog if you want to stay updated.

Native Believer

Ali Eteraz’s debut novel Native Believer is a kaleidoscopic panorama of 21st century America. It is an unadulterated portrayal of an empire that forces all to give in to its logic and does not hesitate to punish those who offer resistance. American Muslims are not so much the subject of the book as they are its raw material. Surveying broad swaths of a breathtaking tapestry, across a landscape populated by a colorfully sundry cast, Eteraz manages to tease out the core contradictions of life in contemporary America. The story is set in a vividly rendered Philadelphia, where loyalties are in constant flux, where roots often act as shackles, and the pursuit of the American dream is hampered at every turn by the relentless pull of a past that never ceases to exist. There is also a lot of sex.

You can buy the book here and here.

MIA on Identity Politics

Yesterday, MIA irked many Twitteratis by sharing some unpopular opinions about Black Lives Matter and the limitation of dissent in the United States. In an interview with London’s Evening Standard magazine, she said:

It’s interesting that in America the problem you’re allowed to talk about is Black Lives Matter. It’s not a new thing to me — it’s what Lauryn Hill was saying in the 1990s, or Public Enemy in the 1980s. Is Beyoncé or Kendrick Lamar going to say Muslim Lives Matter? Or Syrian Lives Matter? Or this kid in Pakistan matters? That’s a more interesting question. And you cannot ask it on a song that’s on Apple, you cannot ask it on an American TV programme, you cannot create that tag on Twitter, Michelle Obama is not going to hump you back.

Interpreted generously, MIA is merely asking why Black Lives Matter has been widely accepted, at least insofar as the mainstream media has seen fit to embrace the term and even profit off of it, while the Muslim victims of the United States seem to be allowed no such privileges.

Continue reading “MIA on Identity Politics”