After last week’s storming of the U.S. Capitol by a right-wing mob resembling a grown-up Halloween party that went wrong (bring your own fur and anti-Semitism), the war on the war is back on track Talked about terror. On Thursday, The Wall Street Journal reported President-elect Joe Biden would “prioritize the passage of a law against domestic terrorism” noting that “he has been asked to establish a post in the White House to oversee the fight against ideologically inspired violent extremists and increase resources to combat them “.
The emphasis on domestic terrorism is not new to Biden said This time, he decided to run for president after a neo-Nazi counter-protester, Heather Heyer, was killed during the infamous Unite the Right rally in 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia, with new laws pending to get into the seat Domestic terrorism likely around the corner.
But that’s a terrible idea.
In order to understand why, we must first consider the reasons this problem exists in the first place. It may come as a surprise, especially given that we are nearing the twentieth anniversary of September 11th, that there is no general federal law that punishes domestic Terrorism. While the USA Patriot Act redefined terrorism to include its domestic diversity, it did not provide specific penalties for such acts. In addition, while prosecutors can still use many of the comprehensive terrorism laws contained in the books to prosecute acts of terrorism domestically, particularly by far-right actors, they simply don’t. As Mike German from the Brennan Center writes “The Justice Department’s inattention to right-wing extremist violence is a matter of longstanding policy and practice, not a lack of authority.” The result is that the term “domestic terrorism” has become “practically irrelevant” from a legal point of view, according to the legal website JustSecurity.org.
It is different when it comes to foreign terrorism. As soon as the government creates a weak link between a person and any of the 69 U.S. Designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs)this person can be exposed to all kinds of dubious law enforcement practiceswhat often leads to heavier criminal chargersand trigger increased penalties according to conviction. With most of the organizations on this list operating in Muslim majority countries, the connection between Muslims and terrorism has become entrenched in our legal thinking, not to mention our larger political and social perceptions. Even in cases where there is no direct connection to a foreign terrorist organization, these are American Muslims still characterized as international terrorists from the Justice Department.
In other words, there is a double standard in terrorism. And the double standard is ingrained in both our laws and our broader culture. Untested, the same double standard feeds on its own great constraints and assumptions and grows like yeast in a warm oven. One result of this is the discourse with which we are all now familiar: white shooters are classified as angry, or desperate, or losers, while Muslim shooters are defined as terrorists. The former are examined as affected. The latter no longer belong to humanity.
So it seems that a national terrorism law might act as a great balancing act, forcing lawmakers to face their own bigotry and preventing us from making any racist assumption that “Muslim” is really just an adjective for the noun. Terrorism. “It is certainly satisfying to call a monster like Dylann Roof a terrorist.
But, as the Center for Constitutional Rights attorney Diala Shamas recently pointed out TwitterThis is a temptation to be resisted. “It’s a trap,” said Shamas writes. “What work does the word terrorism do?” She asks. “It only fuels fear and tarnishes our ability to talk about its causes, understand different forms of violence and protest, and have different relationships[ith] the State.”
Muslim Americans know the harm that the terrorism label does better than most. Over the past twenty years, Muslim-American communities have dealt wave after wave with state repression, including Sweep arrests After the 9/11 attacks, mass deportation programs specifically targeted people from certain Muslim-majority countries (NSEERS) and the widespread use of Spies and informants in our midst. Law enforcement accepted it suspicious if you are a Muslim man who is growing a beard, has quit smoking, or is actively engaged (i.e. leading a normal life). Muslim Charities were closed, their leaders thrown into jail for gross errors of justice. The government has launched its programs to combat violent extremism, including encouraging teachers to keep the programs Tabs on their Muslim students and report on students who criticize the government or the West as possible terrorist recruits.
Part of the program was a website called “Don’t be a puppet, “Allegedly an online game to teach children how to avoid violent extremism. The American Federation of Teachers contradictedand describes the program as “ideological profiling and surveillance” that “will have a deterrent effect on our schools and immigrant communities, jeopardizing children’s safety and wellbeing, and threatening the safety and confidence of entire communities”.
All of this is only a fraction of what happened. I haven’t even mentioned that yet No-fly lists, Muslim bans, law enforcement pressure Spying on their own communities, or the vast amount of resources being spent engaging poor and often intellectually challenged Muslims in fake terrorist attacks.
In one case known as the Newburgh Four, the judge herself stated that “only the government could have turned Mr. Cromitie into a terrorist,” one of the defendants. The judge described James Cromitie, recently unemployed with a history of serious drug use, “a man whose fool is positively Shakespeare in his scope.” The FBI informant in this case had offered Cromitie the staggering $ 250,000, a new BMW, a vacation to Puerto Rico, and his own barber shop if he agreed to the FBI-made property. In sentencing the judge specified“I believe without a doubt that there would have been no crime here if the government had not instigated, planned and carried out it.” Nevertheless, condemnation guidelines prevailed. Cromitie is currently serving a 25-year prison sentence.
In one Boston rating Essay In contrast to the expansion of the war on terror, Atiya Hussein writes: “To be labeled a terrorist means, by definition, that one’s political ideas exist outside the framework of acceptable discourse and legal protest. In this way the terrorist can not only have disappeared as a person, but also his politics. “She’s right, of course. Politics, even when it is most uncomfortable, should be a place for debate and argument, and not left to law enforcement agencies.
Arun Kundnani and Jeanne Theoharis have argued something similar: “Part of the use of the term” terrorism “is to empower law enforcement agencies, dig deeper into the realm of political ideas and associations, and expand the means dramatically.” write.
Right-wing violence is of course deeply worrying. Right-wing extremists have been responsible for the majority of deaths in all US terrorist attacks since 1994 Center for Strategic and International Studies. You are without a doubt a serious and grave threat.
But there are already enough law enforcement powers on the books to deal with far-right violence. The problem is not that we need to expand our laws. Rather, the problem is ensuring that we are applying our laws and that we are applying them fairly, consistently, and to the full. The real scandal here is not the lack of a domestic terrorism law. The real scandal is the free passport that white law enforcement supremacy has had for all these years.
Responding to this recent spate of politically motivated violence by giving the police more powers, even if well-intentioned, will not solve anything. Instead, such a move will give the state – the same state that has exonerated right-wing racist violence in the past – an even greater authority and thereby threaten others, including, and perhaps especially, left-wing deviant immigrants, blacks and indigenous groups Individuals if American History is a Guide. We do not need to extend the scope of the war on terrorism until we all fall under its umbrella in one way or another. Rather, we should try to end it.
It’s not that I’m naive about the dangers ahead. I know how much the far right wing hates me and people like me. But expand both the definition of terrorism and the war on terror – instead of questioning them? I wouldn’t wish that to my worst enemy.