Hardly a week goes by without some significant incident of Muslim profiling making headlines in the United States. Recently, it was the story of a Transportation Security Administration manager who said he was instructed by his superior to profile Somali Americans; he works at the Minneapolis Airport; the Twin Cities are home to one of the largest Somali-American communities in America. He refused, and reported it to Washington TSA officials.
The week before it was Southwest Airlines that was in the news, twice, for removing passengers from planes. In one case, a UC Berkeley researcher was pulled off a flight after a fellow passenger heard him speaking Arabic on his phone. In the other, a Maryland mother, who was wearing a hijab, was forced to get off a flight.
Anti-Muslim prejudice, discrimination, and violence is encouraged in part by government policies that profile and target Muslim communities. The threats and violence against Muslims are also fueled by government policies that rest on the same underlying prejudice, namely that all Muslims are somehow suspect and that it is rational, indeed necessary, to treat them differently.
The issue in Tanvir is the FBI’s use of the No-Fly List to coerce Muslim Americans into spying on their religious communities. The plaintiffs in the case were either placed on the No-Fly List after they refused to become informants against their communities or were offered a chance to get off the list by becoming informants. In June 2015, just days before the first court hearing in the case to challenge their continued placement on the No Fly List, all the plaintiffs were informed by the government that they had been removed from the list. The district court judge went on to dismiss the remaining damages claims from the case. CCR is appealing the dismissal of the damages claim because, although the plaintiffs are now free to travel, they endured years of anguished separation in which they could not see wives, children, and aging, ill relatives; and, this is the only vehicle to make sure this form of abusive profiling does not continue into the future.