Racism in the USA?
Why, I never heard of such a thing...
by Alma Calle
Sheik Mohamed Abdirahman Kariye is one of many black Muslims who are being targeted by the resurgence in nationalized racism commonly referred to as the War on Terror. Kariye, a Portland resident originally from Somaliland, is a well-known international spiritual leader who travels and lectures extensively. Last September, Kariye was arrested at the Portland Airport by the Portland Joint Terrorism Task Force amidst huge headlines of purported TNT traces found in his luggage. The newspapers in the days following the arrest were filled with accusations and innuendos of Kariye's involvement with global terrorism, and yet the only legal charges against him were Social Security fraud and possessing a government document. Ten days later, a small article appeared in the back pages of these same newspapers (if it appeared at all) that quietly announced the FBI had failed to detect any traces of TNT in Kariye's luggage. Indeed, the final charge against Kariye is one count of Social Security fraud, to which he pleads not guilty.
The impact of this kind of media bias is quite predictable. The stories and rumors initially written by a handful of unethical and racist reporters and editors (for example, Jim Redden of the Portland Tribune) get endlessly recycled through the various newspaper, television and radio outlets until the public begins to believe that Kariye really is guilty until proven innocent.
And it does not stop there. For example, Seattle community activist James Ujaama was arrested this summer for allegedly conspiring to set up terrorist training camps in Oregon. In reporting the case, the mainstream media ignored Ujaama's long list of awards for years of community service dedicated to youth entrepreneurship and philanthropy, and instead focused on his alleged intent to commit "violent jihad." In the pretrial court hearing, the judge denied Ujaama bail based on "secret evidence" that Ujaama's own lawyer was not able to view. (Check out www.thestranger.com for more details.)
Meanwhile, the Muslim immigrant population in the US lives in constant fear of being arrested and/or deported for minor infractions of the law or mere accusations of being a terrorist. Stories circulate about people who go to work and never return, only to call from halfway around the world after being deported. The US government is now demanding that nationals from 18 countries need to report to the INS to subject themselves to fingerprints, mugshots, and interviews that detail names and addresses of their relatives, friends, and associates within the US.
The groundwork is being set for massive roundups of people to be either deported, arrested or detained based on their nationality, religion, and race. Indeed, this process is already underway and precedes the predictable fascist state that history abhors.
There is a way out of the mess, but only if the American public stands up for the ideals it claims to uphold; for instance, the right to a fair trial (this includes equal access to evidence), access to a lawyer (this includes client/lawyer confidentiality), and the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.
No excuses. Find your voice. It is desperately needed.
[Kariye's trial is set for Friday, December 13, 2002 at 1:30 pm in courtroom 12a of the Federal Court Building at 1000 SW 3rd, PDX.)