CAIR to Announce Lawsuit in D.C., N.J., Mass., Mich. Seeking End to Secret Government Watchlist

CAIR to Announce Lawsuit in D.C., N.J., Mass., Mich. Seeking End to Secret Government Watchlist

Suit with a dozen Muslim plaintiffs will mark the 20th anniversary (Sept. 16) of Terrorism Screening Dataset

(WASHINGTON, D.C., 9/15/2023) – On Monday, Sept. 18, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, plans to hold a news conference to announce the filing of a lawsuit with a dozen plaintiffs seeking an end to the government’s secret watchlist that almost exclusively targets Muslims for harassment and humiliation when they travel. CAIR’s lawsuit will mark the 20th anniversary (Sept. 16) of the Terrorism Screening Dataset.

NOTE: Mayor Mohamed T. Khairullah of Prospect Park, N.J., is one of the plaintiffs. On May 1, Khairullah was barred from attending the White House’s annual Eid al-Fitr celebration.    

CAIR chapters in New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Michigan will also hold news conferences announcing the lawsuit for plaintiffs in those states.

NJ DETAILS    

WHERE: CAIR-NJ Office, 570 Broad Street, Suite 703 Newark, NJ 07102

WHEN: Monday, September 18, at 12:30 p.m.

WHO: Mohamed T. Khairullah, Mayor of Prospect Park, NJ; Ayah Zaki, Civil Rights Attorney at CAIR-NJ.; Gadeir Abbas, Senior Litigation Attorney at CAIR LDF

LAWSUIT FILESTAMPED COPY: cair-nj.org/lawsuit

LIVESTREAM: cair-nj.org/CAIRNJPresser

CONTACT: CAIR-NJ Communications Manager Dina Sayedahmed, 908-668-5900 ext. 103, dsayedahmed@cair.com

DC DETAILS    

WHERE: CAIR National Office, 453 New Jersey Ave. SE, Washington, DC 20003

WHEN:  Monday, Sept. 18 at 11 a.m.

CONTACT: CAIR National Litigation Director Lena Masri, 202-642-4934, lmasri@cair.com; CAIR Staff Attorney Hannah Mullen, 202-742-6420, hmullen@cair.comCAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-744-7726, ihooper@cair.com; CAIR National Communications Manager Ismail Allison, 202-770-6280, iallison@cair.com

BACKGROUNDER:    

In June, CAIR released a report, titled “Twenty Years Too Many, A Call to Stop the FBI’s Secret Watchlist,” which details the federal government’s use of the Terrorism Screening Dataset to target Muslims, and called President Biden to take action to address the watchlist.

CAIR’s report found that the overwhelming majority, estimated to be around 98 percent, of names on the watchlist are Muslim names. More than 350,000 entries alone in the portion of the watchlist acquired by CAIR include some transliteration of Mohamed or Ali or Mahmoud, and the top 50 most frequently occurring names are all Muslim names.

An individual’s watchlist status is used by government agencies to harass and humiliate people when they travel, to outright forbid people from flying, to deny individuals licenses and permits, to refuse to hire people or fire people already employed, to delay or deny visas and applications for U.S. citizenship or a U.S. passport, and to subject the innocent people on the list to dangerous and invasive law enforcement actions.

READ THE FULL REPORT 

WATCH CAIR’S NEWS CONFERENCE ANNOUNCING THE REPORT

The watchlist is Islamophobic. An expert statistical analysis of leaked portions of the 2019 watchlist estimates that at least 98.3% of the names on the watchlist are identifiably Muslim. That doesn’t happen by accident. The federal government admits that they consider individuals’ race, religion, ethnicity, and national origin in deciding who to place on the watchlist. The government intentionally targets Muslims for inclusion on the list and considers individuals from Muslim-majority countries, travel to Muslim-majority countries, attending mosques, zakat donations to Muslim charities, the wearing of typical Muslim dress, the frequency of Muslim prayer, adherence to Islamic religious practices, Islamic religious study, the transfer of money to individuals residing in Muslim-majority countries, affiliations with Muslim organizations, and associations with Muslims in the United States or abroad to be suspicious.    

The government places individuals on the watchlist without investigating, indicting, or convicting them of any crime. The government admits that it places people on the watchlist even when they are not being investigated or prosecuted for any terrorism-related crime. In practice, that means that innocent Americans—who could not be charged or convicted of any crime in court—are nonetheless targeted for harm and stigmatization by the federal government.    

The government places individuals on the watchlist without any warning or explanation. When someone is placed on the watchlist, they receive no notice from the government. They have no idea why the government considers them worthy of permanent suspicion, have no opportunity to dispute the government’s decision, and no way to confront and counter the supposedly derogatory information on which their placement is based. Instead, one day, out of the blue, based on the way that they’re being harmed and mistreated by federal government agents or other entities, they realize that they’ve been branded as a “known or suspected terrorist.”    

Watchlist placement turns innocent Americans’ lives upside-down. When someone is placed on the watchlist, almost every aspect of their life can be affected. The federal government sends the watchlist to federal agencies, over 18,000 state and local law enforcement agencies, over 500 private entities, and dozens of foreign countries, all of which then take actions to harm and stigmatize listed individuals.

As a result of being watchlisted, innocent Americans are publicly humiliated, surveilled, and harassed when they travel; prevented from attending weddings, funerals, graduations, and other milestone events; separated from their children; denied jobs, security clearances, U.S. citizenship, visas, gun licenses, and other government benefits; and even effectively exiled from the United States.

Watchlist placement extrajudicially sentences innocent Americans to permanent second-class citizenship. CAIR’s lawsuit reveals for the first time that, even on the rare occasion that the government removes an individual from the watchlist, an individual’s past watchlist will continue to haunt them. Federal agencies retain records of past watchlist status and use them to deny formerly-listed individuals access to government buildings, security clearances, federal employment, and other licenses and government benefits.

 

CAIR’s mission is to protect civil rights, enhance understanding of Islam, promote justice, and empower American Muslims.

END 

CONTACT: CAIR-NJ Communications Manager Dina Sayedahmed, dsayedahmed@cair.com, 908-668-5900 ext. 103

 

CAIR, CAIR-NJ Welcome Westfield School Board’s Reversal of Motion to Remove Professor Sahar Aziz

CAIR, CAIR-NJ Welcome New Jersey School Board’s Reversal of Motion to Remove Professor Sahar Aziz

(Washington, DC, 9/13/2023) – The New Jersey chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-NJ), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, today welcomed the Westfield, NJ school board’s unanimous vote to reverse an earlier decision to consider removing Professor Sahar Aziz from the board.

This action targeting the Westfield Board of Education’s first and only Muslim member raised concerns that CAIR-NJ expressed to the board members in a letter on September 8. In the letter, CAIR-NJ pointed to the absence of a “just cause,” writing, “We also ask for clarification on what constitutes a ‘just cause’ that precedes a removal hearing. Furthermore, we ask if other board members who’ve missed special meetings scheduled just days in advance or consecutive meetings were also subject to a removal hearing or equally warned.”

On Monday, September 11, the board voted 7-0 vote to rescind its earlier action targeting Professor Aziz. The public agenda for Monday’s meeting listed only “board action item” as its sole purpose, leaving its purpose unclear which in part prompted CAIR’s letter.

SEE: Westfield Rescinds Decision to Remove School Board Member

In a statement, CAIR Research and Advocacy Director Corey Saylor said:

“The unanimous vote indicates the full board understood the implications of targeting Professor Aziz. 

“Regardless, we will continue to monitor the Westfield School Board to ensure this illegitimate effort to remove Professor Aziz does not manifest in a new form in the coming months.”

In a statement, CAIR-NJ Executive Director Selaedin Maksut said: 

“Board Member Aziz comes with a unique and valued perspective, and we are eager to see her continue in her role at the Westfield Board of Education. 

“We are optimistic that board members will work together to ensure an inclusive and welcoming environment, demonstrating Board Member Aziz’s commitment to Westfield and the Board’s desire for her contributions.”

Saylor and Maksut both thanked the Muslim community local to Westfield and concerned citizens who attended Monday’s hearing.

SEE: Special Westfield, NJ Board of Education Meeting 9/11/23. School Board Member Sahar Aziz’s Remarks

(Note: The version posted by the school board’s version removes portions of Aziz’s remarks.).

SEE: Professor Sahar Aziz’s Full Written Remarks for Hearing

 

CAIR’s mission is to protect civil rights, enhance understanding of Islam, promote justice, and empower American Muslims.

END 

CONTACT: CAIR Research and Advocacy Director Corey Saylor, csaylor@cair.com, 202-384-8857; CAIR-NJ Communications Manager Dina Sayedahmed, dsayedahmed@cair.com, 908-668-5900 ext. 103