September 2023 Newsletter

Dear Friend – Assalaamu Alaikum,

I hope you and your family are doing well. I’m excited to share this next installment of our regular newsletter. Next month marks one year since I joined Muslim Advocates. We’re approaching that anniversary proud of the impact our new litigation and advocacy is having and grateful to the many new partners who have called on Muslim Advocates for legal support.

Here’s a snapshot of what we are doing right now:

  • New Lawsuit Demanding Answers for Afghan Asylum-Seekers: Muslim Advocates, in partnership with the Center for Constitutional Rights, recently brought a new lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act to obtain information from the Departments of Defense and State about the status of ​​thousands of Afghan evacuees who have been arbitrarily detained in foreign countries. Despite numerous reports of brutal treatment at these government-run facilities, there is shockingly little official information about why these refugees remain in limbo enduring such harsh conditions. Our case demands answers about the treatment of these refugees who by all accounts are trapped for unspecified “security concerns” that are routinely applied to Muslim communities, with no clear process for how, if ever, they will be permitted to continue their quest for asylum and safety in the United States. This new lawsuit was the focus of an outstanding piece in The Intercept featuring Staff Attorney Chris Godshall-Bennett. 
  • Fighting Unwarranted Government Retaliation Against Muslims: This summer, we were asked by the CLEAR Project, Debevoise & Plimpton and the Center for Constitutional Rights to file an amicus brief to help compel a federal appeals court to hold that it is illegal for the government to retaliate against someone for refusing to become an informant on their faith community. Muhammad Tanvir was threatened by the FBI and placed on the No-Fly List after he refused to become an informant against fellow Muslims. He and three others sued the FBI. In our brief, which was joined by several other major civil rights organizations, we told the story of the U.S. government’s discriminatory surveillance and targeting of Muslims dating back to the 1950s. This lawsuit could help determine what, if any, accountability the government faces for such overreach.
  • Sounding the Alarm on the Discriminatory Data Collection on Muslims: Muslim Advocates Senior Policy Counsel Sumayyah Waheed also recently published an opinion piece in The Hill warning about prayer apps that are used by the government and law enforcement agencies to purchase personal data about Muslim people. Muslim Advocates is part of a coalition of civil rights organizations that is fighting back against warrantless surveillance and other unscrupulous, high-tech data collection practices. We’ve met with staffers from both chambers to press the urgent need for reform. Sumayyah’s op-ed has been an important opportunity to break through and tell the story of how these data collection practices harm us all. As Sumayyah put it in The Hill, “no American should wind up in a mass surveillance program, period—and certainly not because they chose to download a prayer app.”
  • Briefing Congressional Offices on Surveillance: Finally, Muslim Advocates continues its beltway advocacy on a range of policy questions confronting Muslim communities. On September 11th, Staff Attorney Chris Godshall-Bennet was invited by the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus to discuss the impacts of government surveillance on Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim and South Asian communities. Chris briefed congressional staffers about the harmful impact of government surveillance and data collection on communities of color.

The stakes are as high as ever for Muslim communities; we are building power and fighting discrimination in a precarious political moment. The impact Muslim Advocates is having—for our clients and the communities that call on us—is the result of your commitment to this essential organization. Our deep thanks to you and to the many partners we work with.  

P.S. We hope you’ll join us at Common Voices, Collective Action, an in-person celebration of art, advocacy and community happening on Nov. 1 in New York City. Tickets are available now!

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