Civil liberties forum held in San Jose
By Abdus Sattar Ghazali
Two SF Bay Area civil rights group - the South Bay Mobilization (SBM) and Silicon Valley for Civil Rights - sponsored a forum on the erosion of civil liberties after 9/11 on July 17 at the Unitarian Hall in San Jose. The forum was held under the title of “Stand Up For Freedom - Because Freedom Can't Protect Itself." The topics of discussions included: How the Patriot Act affects people and what should be done to protect civil liberties? Ms. Samina Faheem, the Executive Director of the American Muslim Voice, was the main speaker. She is the coordinator of the Muslim Nationwide Hotline, to help people affected by INS Special Registration. She is also co-founder of Fear To Friendship, a group dedicated to subside the fear after 9/11 by forming life long friendships.
Ms. Samina Faheem said that as an American citizen, she was very concerned about our homeland security but how far will our current Administration go in the name of protecting it? “How much of our civil liberties will they revoke before we stand our ground, unified, and protest, “Enough is enough”? How many more dreams will be shattered before we lose faith in all that we thought we stood proud for?”
She went on to say: Hundreds of years ago, the philosopher Voltaire said, “Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.” Today, those ‘absurdities’ are what the Administration will have you believe about the law-abiding Muslims and Arab Americans living, working and learning here peacefully. Ms. Samina Faheem said the administration would have you believe that given time, your brilliant, amicable colleague at work with whom you have collaborated painstakingly on multiple projects will turn on you.
“From the Administration’s clouded perspective, young Muslim American boys who perhaps sing the National Anthem before their football games alongside their teammates or young Muslim men who are striving to attain a degree in top-notch colleges across the country share one common thread with those terrorists who hold violent contempt for us. That one thread, the Administration would have you believe, is simply that they are Muslims and Arabs, and in their view, that is all you need to know.”(Click here for full text of the speech)
Ms. Riva Enteen, Program Director of the SF/Bay Area Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, was another speaker. Ms. Riva Enteen has worked for the Guild for 13 years, and has been an activist for over 30 years. Soon after 9-11, she helped establish the Guild hotline for people contacted by the FBI or INS. Her work continues to focus on Post 9-11 repression, and speaks frequently to community groups about strategies of resistance. Her 13 year old daughter spoke with her at several anti-war rallies.
Riva Enteen said: “The Bush Administration wants citizens to have no privacy, to be completely transparent to the government but they want the government to be completely secret with no oversight.” She said that less than two years after Congress passed (on Oct. 26, 2001) the USA Patriot Act, giving new, sweeping powers to the federal government to compile information on ordinary Americans, Attorney General John Ashcroft now wants to introduce legislation that would further erode constitutional checks and balances.
“The Domestic Security Enhancement Act would further enhance government powers, eliminating or weakening government oversight and the remaining limits on government surveillance, wiretapping, detention and prosecution.”