Stories of Muslim immigrants who were arrested and detained as terrorist suspects in the wake of 9/11.
For this volume in the publisher’s Studies in Oral History series, scholar Shiekh recorded interviews with some 40 Muslim immigrants among more than 1,000 similarly detained by the United States. She selected six to demonstrate a pattern of racial profiling that led to arrest on suspicion of terrorism, prolonged detention under unrelated criminal charges or immigration violations, and finally deportation. A brief history of Muslim immigration to the United States precedes the narratives. In each case, the author describes the circumstances of the arrest and provides background on the individual. She then lets the person tell his own story, inserting paragraphs of clarification from time to time, resulting in a close-up portrait of a human being under enormous stress. The stories of lengthy detention in high-security jails, sometimes in isolation, and of psychological and physical abuse, challenge the government’s position that the detainees were simply picked up and deported for immigration violations. Shiekh’s interviews reveal not only the state of mind of detainees during their incarceration but also how the arrest and terrorist charges damaged the individual’s reputation and livelihood once back in his native land, how this impacted his family and how it has affected attitudes toward the United States. The author argues that in an emotionally charged political climate that equated looking like a Muslim with being a terrorist, the U.S. government violated the basic civil rights of a vulnerable group, as it did in World War II to Japanese Americans. Shiekh, who was inspired to write this book after her two brothers were investigated by the FBI as possible terrorists, makes absolutely clear where her sympathies lie, and she urges lawyers to take up these cases and seek reparations from the government.
Illuminates the strains between national security and civil liberty and puts a human face on some often-demonized members of society.