Bina Ahmad began her presentation with eight statements, asking audience members to raise their hands for each one with which they agreed.
“I believe my student organization is under surveillance,” she said. A little less than half the room raised their hands.
Bina Ahmad was one of two lawyers from the New York City Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild who came to Houston Hall Sunday afternoon to teach pro-Palestinian activists about their rights.
She and her co-presenter Beena Ahmad, who filled in for Lamis Deek, hosted one of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions conference panels, “BDS on Campus II: Academic Freedom.”
Bina argued that the freedom of speech guaranteed to all Muslim-Americans was being attacked and that Muslim-Americans were suppressed and discriminated against.
She gave tips and advice for what to do when approached by a police officer or how to protect oneself from an invasion of privacy, advising members to remain silent when possible and to keep answers short when questioned.
“In a weird way, I guess it’s reassuring because it kind of confirmed that we have the room to behave the way that we are behaving,” said Banu, a senior at George Washington University, who preferred not give her last name.
“We’re peaceful. We’re trying to use an effective tool to make change in the Middle East, not here to engage violently or even aggressively with our opponents, and there’s nothing illegal or offensive about that.”
When Beena, the second lawyer, took over the presentation, she focused more on past injustices and discrimination against Muslim-Americans.
Beena exposed audience members to the extent of governmental surveillance on Muslim communities in New York City after 9/11.
They were shocked when they heard that the CIA Demographics Unit conducted a human-mapping program to track where Muslims were located in the tri-state area.
“I thought it was really kind of frightening,” Temple University sophomore Sam Pinto said. “People try to say that racism isn’t alive anymore, and here you have the federal government and the [New York police] blatantly perpetuating racism …”
Beena also said the government-hired Muslim informants gain the trust of other Muslim community members and frame them for being terrorists.
She made a point of teaching the tell-tale signs of an informant and how to deal with that kind of situation.
She also told stories of vulnerable Muslims — through poverty, youth or even mental illness — who were persuaded to take part in conspiracies by charismatic informants and later convicted.
Fred R. Guenther, a 1952 School of Veterinary Medicine graduate, believed education about this issue is important. “I think we have a long way to go,” he said. “Things are definitely moving, but it may take a while for it to take effect.”
As she neared the end of her presentation, Beena connected her topic with her co-presenter’s with a message she wanted to make very clear.
“We must change the way Muslims are perceived using this [freedom of] speech,” she said. “We need to keep the First Amendment strong.”Comments powered by Disqus
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