Nora Barrows Friedman: Michael, what does this say about the nature of where this country is in terms of the ongoing attacks against Muslims and Arabs and anyone who has to do with helping Palestinians live these days?
Michael Ratner: I think that we have to look at particularly this case as … pre- 9/11, they [the US government] were already going after the Holy Land Foundation, the biggest Muslim charity in the US, the biggest humanitarian donor to Palestinians. As much as Zionists and others were trying to shut it down, there wasn’t the milieu to shut it down. After 9/11, they then had two facts — HLF was aiding Palestinians, and then it’s a Muslim foundation. After 9/11, they shut down six of the main Muslim foundations, by December 2001. The president signed an executive order without due process.
That tells you a lot — that we were starting to attack Muslims not just in Bush’s crusade speech on September 18th, 2001, but shutting down charities, rounding up young men between certain ages, registration, and of course Guantanamo by January 2002.
So what we see is a broad-spectrum attack on Muslims after 9/11. I know from a legal point of view, from surveillance here in New York of every mosque, of every eatery, of the gushing over a film like The Third Jihad, I know it in Los Angeles, from the invasion by informants of mosques, we know it from entrapment, we know it from Guantanamo, from drones, from shutting down Muslim charities. It’s really a broad-spectrum attack of which the legal attack is certainly a key element.
And when I talk about it, I talk about it as we’re in the midst of a plague against Muslims, and we’re only in the midst of it. We’re not necessarily winning, and it’s really serious. People just have to understand that, and have to stand up. We’re not coming out of it yet. The Holy Land Five case just shows how deeply into a plague against Muslims we are … it really is a a plague of Islamophobia, and it is sweeping the country.
That’s only the legal aspects, that’s not all the discrimination, from being kicked off an airplane, from being yelled at in the street, from being physically attacked, all the non-legal ways in which Muslims are discriminated against. And of course it’s very hard for Muslims — it’s hard for them to stand up for cases like the Holy Land Five, or Guantanamo people, without themselves being labeled in society, or watched or surveilled.
I consider this to be a very serious moment, and this case of the Holy Land Five is to me one of the most incredible outrages. [There is] not only my disappointment, but my anger and my feeling that justice has just fled this country when it comes to Muslims.