As the election year begins, the Arab and Muslim communities on
campus are gearing up to send President Bush a strong signal. Many
have reconsidered their support for him, in part because of the
Patriot Act that Bush has asked Congress to reaffirm.
In the aftermath of Sept.11, 2001 the Patriot Act was almost
unanimously passed by a Congress still shaken by the al-Qaida
Measures of the act allow for surveillance of suspected homes,
tapping of phone lines and access to personal records to better
protect against future terrorist attacks.
Many Muslim and Arab students claim the Patriot Act comes at the
cost of everyone’s civil rights and particularly their own.
Because the Sept. 11 attackers were of the Islamic faith, many
Muslim students said they feel that U.S. officials have used the
Patriot act to target Muslims.
Last week’s State of the Union address has only caused
more frustration as Bush told Americans they must renew the Patriot
act, alarming some Muslim student groups who were awaiting the
expiration of certain parts of the act in 2005.
LSA senior Irfan Shuttari, a Muslim student on campus, believes
the continuation of the act will further endanger the rights of
Muslims in America.
“An action like the Patriot act is the extent we wanted to
take (to protect
America from terrorism), but … hundreds of citizens have
lost their rights. So even though we voted for him, it’s not
what we asked for,” said Shuttari, who chairs the Political
Committee of the Muslim Students Association.
Shuttari was among the many Arabs and Muslims in the United
States who endorsed Bush as a presidential candidate in the 2000
election. LSA senior Salah Husseini said he believes many Muslims
decided to support Bush based on his pre-election promises.
“During the (presidential) debate he was all about getting
rid of secret evidence,” said Husseini, president of the Arab
American Anti-Discrimination Committee. Bush also promised to get
rid of unfair airport security targeting Arabs, he added.
“I don’t think he had the intention of doing any of
that. … It fooled a lot of people.”
But Steve MacGuidwin, the president of College Republicans, said
he feels these security measures are important in keeping terrorism
out of the U.S.
“It is important that we sacrifice the smallest of civil
rights for the larger security (of Americans),” MacGuidwin
He added that the courts have justified the security measures
set out by the Patriot Act by ruling in the government’s
favor in cases regarding detainees in Guantanamo Bay.
Don Herzog, a professor in the Law School who specializes in the
First Amendment, spoke to students last Wednesday in Hutchins Hall
about the Patriot Act.
“What actually happens on the ground is very clear, which
is that you’re much more likely to trigger the state’s
interests simply by virtue of being Arab American,” he said.
He added that this was not the intention of the act as originally
Mike Phillips, vice president of College Republicans, also
emphasized that the Patriot act was not written to target Arabs and
Muslims, and he finds no reason for their discontinued support of
Bush due to the Patriot Act.
“Some of the claims that have been made about Arabs and
Muslims are not as extreme as the media has made it out to
be,” Phillips said.
The text of the act in one of its earlier sections ascertains,
“The civil rights and civil liberties of all Americans,
including Arab Americans, Muslim Americans and Americans from South
Asia, must be protected, and … every effort must be taken to
preserve their safety.”
Husseini agrees that the act was not specifically set out as a
discriminatory policy but he said it has nonetheless, perhaps
unintentionally, led to the targeting of Muslims and Arabs. He said
the case of Rabih Haddad as hit particularly close to home for him,
referring to the co-founder of the Islamic Relief charity from Ann
Arbor who was deported last year for alleged ties to terrorist
Both Husseini and Shuttari said the Muslim community would not
be supporting Bush in November.
“I think most of the Arab and Muslim groups realize it was
a huge mistake,” said Husseini.
They both said that they had not yet chosen a definite candidate
to support in this year’s election. However, Husseini said
the Muslim community is debating between endorsing retired
Gen.Wesley Clark or former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, both of whom
do not fully support the Patriot act.
“Conservative candidates are no benefit to Arabs or
Muslims,” Husseini said. “I think they learned their
lesson with Bush.”