The first wave of the Justice Department’s detentions of Americans who are religiously Islamic came in the immediate aftermath of September 11. Anyone who didn’t support the raids that render our Constitution worthless was threatened with the label of “terrorist.” After producing virtually no results, the raids have significantly increased in ferocity, aiming against many prominent members of Muslim communities. As in the days of COINTELPRO, the primary purpose appears to be to denigrate hyphenated Americans—this time, those identifying with a Muslim community.

The Justice Department’s actions appear to be the Department’s infliction of its own brand of terror on Arab Americans. The Department has ignored past negative judicial responses to racial profiling, as it adds to the burden of Arab American concerns about the September 11 tragedy.

Further, the Department seems to have incited a cycle in which Arab Americans are targeted, interrogated, and concluded, based on the number “interviewed,” to be “connected” as a group to the September 11 attacks. Americans need to be apprehensive of this circular logic behind the racial profiling, which has been offered to the American public as support for continued detentions.

The dearth of responses by our American community and by national and local organizations appears to be a statement that no one will help this American group. This statement has sent currents of shock through the Muslim American Community, as the wave of panic created by the Department of Justice spreads. Justice has been turned on its head, as the Department’s recent detentions appear reminiscent of past governmental excesses now considered shameful.

Recent detentions have been increasingly aimed against prominent, law-abiding, and legally instated Muslim Americans, whose condemnation of the September 11 attacks and messages of interfaith unity have been especially contributory to peaceful community relations. Sadly, the Justice Department’s actions leave Americans of Arab descent concerned about what they see as their status as second class citizens. The question to ask of Mr. Ashcroft is: Which American group will “Justice” terrorize next?

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