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Theology Thursdays: Are Black Muslims Being Targeted As Terrorists and Mistreated In Jails? by Anthony Asadullah Samad

In light of six black men being charged with attempting to link to Al-Qaeda, and plotting to blow up the Sears Tower building in Chicago, it's time to ask the question. What question? There are many…and they all involve the targeting and mistreatment of African American (or what the government prefers to call, Black) Muslims. The latest version of “The 'Black Man' did it,” 21st Century style. You knew, eventually, the government would find a way to loop black men into terrorist plots. You could've bet dollars to donuts on it. The question, this time, is not why, but how did the black men--now wrapped in the anti-Islam sentiments become the target of the new “McCarthyism,” the ongoing witchhunt for terrorists. If terrorism has a face--as our Arab (and even our Sikh) brothers and sisters have found out--it's not an individual, it's a whole group of people. Only time it's an individual is if he's a white male, then he's just a troubled “individual.” Timothy McVeigh was a trouble individual, but six black men from Miami (and one in Atlanta) are now “the homegrown terrorists” society needs to watch out for. So now that they've wrapped in black Muslim men, they can (try to) “officially” assert that all Muslims are terrorists. And now they're (black Muslims) are being treated as such.

I'm as much for catching terrorists as the next guy--but the government's sudden arrest of these individuals and the sudden (renewed) attention on terrorism and gay marriages leads me to believe that this is no more a button the administration pushes when they want to divert the government's attention away from dissatisfaction ratings and unpopular moves checked by the Courts than a new terrorist threat. It just doesn't all add up when you look at what these brothers were “charged” with. First of all, black people don't do explosives--too afraid they might blow themselves up. Secondly, black people can't get explosive--they can't even get a dozen rifles and two hundred rounds of ammunition without somebody reporting their a**es. A white boy, on the other hand, can buy up the whole damn store and nobody wouldn't ask them s**t. These brothas couldn't even get uniforms, radios and boots, stuff security firms and militia groups get all the time--that's a major reason this makes you go, “Hmmmm…” Third, black people don't try to build armies--if they built one, why wouldn't they use to protect themselves against police abuse, not attack the government. Hell, it was only six of them. You got to give me more than that. If they had said there were a hundred of them, or even 50, a case could be made that there was some actual “organizing” goin' on, but six? Give me a break. Lastly, the government claims they were trying to contact with Al Qaeda--to get $50,000. Really? How are these six men--with no money going to full ground war, when the government is spending billions of dollars and can't Al Qaeda nowhere? What's $50,000 going to finance? What number did they have? Who was their contact? Even the government had to admit that this was more “aspirational that operational.” There was a much greater value here--the tie-in of black Muslims on the domestic terrorist front, that's my suspicion. Now everybody's a suspect based on this faulty premise of a case. For months, black Muslim inmates have been threatened, harassed, beaten and otherwise mistreated in their religious _expression as the government was making (up) the case to confront black Muslims. They finally got the break they needed and acted on it, but it's not enough to convince that this was a threat.

However, as we've seen in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, treatment of Muslim detainees have been indicative of an expressed hatred toward Muslims that both the U.S. government and the military turned a blind eye to, until it became so brutal that even right-mined soldiers could no longer take it. Are the soldiers being charged with killing four Iraqi detainees homegrown terrorists? Yes, they are. Are they being represented in that context? No they're not. You can probably surmise for yourself the reasons, but just know the anti-Islamic (not anti-terrorist) sentiments played a role. It's time that the government acknowledge what's going on here.

The politics of fear had reached a stalling point--until a new factor, black men, had been introduced. Now black Muslim groups can expect constant surveillance and government harassment. But the mistreatment of Muslim prisoners must stop--but who really cares? The government doesn't because the homegrown terrorist must be stopped at all cost, right? As long as they don't look like President Bush. Everybody else is suspect. Religious profiling just got racial.

Anthony Asadullah Samad is a national columnist, managing director of the Urban Issues Forum ( and author of 50 Years After Brown: The State of Black Equality In America. He can be reached at

Anthony Asadullah Samad

Thursday, July 13, 2006

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