Fighting State-Sponsored Spying and Discrimination with Amira Al-Subaey

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During the Obama administration (or was it in 1984?), a campaign known as countering violent extremism (CVE, and a profusion of other acronyms since) was initiated by intelligence and federal law enforcement agencies to identify and dissuade those prone to radicalization. The Muslim Justice League was founded in 2014 by Muslim women of one CVE pilot city to defund and dismantle that massive increase in state-sponsored surveillance. The league’s deputy director, Amira Al-Subaey, joins us on AMP to discuss the facts and fiction surrounding still-active CVE policy.

According to the government, CVE would put an end to aggressive law enforcement policies by instead recruiting regular citizens like doctors, imams, and teachers to engage in the “soft policing” of their community. What are some of the risks indicating to informants that a person is likely to become a violent extremist, you ask? Things such as, Amira says, growing a beard, political activism, stated feelings of alienation, or increasing your mosque attendance. The surveillance—no surprise—targets Muslims and other immigrant and POC populations deemed a threat. We talk about CVE’s failures (lack of violence prevention, legitimization of anti-Muslim discrimination, disproportionate spying on and incarceration of Black and Brown people) and successes (this parenthetical intentionally left blank).

Amira enlightens us on the sad reasoning behind surveillants and institutions cooperating with these counterterrorism measures and the lengths those facing the worse consequences have gone to to avoid false suspicion. Asad and Amira both ponder the likelihood that they’ve been put on the FBI or DHS’s radar. We cover the repercussions of fighting the movement and social justice groups like AJL that are doing it anyway. Our government’s historical use of the terms “terrorist” and “extremist” and the lack of scientific evidence for “the indicators” leading to extremism are broached, and better ways to keep society safe are posited. The episode transitions to record-breaking ways Amira challenges herself personally, which produces a fitting metaphor for navigating life. She introduces us to abolitionist organizer Mariame Kaba's recommendation of practicing hope as a discipline.
American Muslim Project is a production of Rifelion, LLC.
Writer and Researcher: Lindsy Gamble
Show Edited by Mark Annotto and Asad Butt
Music by Simon Hutchinson
Hosted by Asad Butt

42 episodes