Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Islamic Community Center of Phoenix (ICCP)

Old Islamic Community Center of Phoenix (ICCP), November 2011 (Photo by: Ben Tsegai)
New ICCP building, November 2011 (Photo by Hannah Al-Ghareeb)  
This location occupied by the Islamic Community Center of Phoenix (ICCP), was once a Baptist church and is now an Islamic mosque and community center. This institution provides a safe space for religious worship, social support, guidance, and communal unity for Muslims of many nations. The original center has been in use since 1984, however moved to the present address in 1997. However the process to create a new upgraded center beside the current one started in 2004, and is currently awaiting donations to complete phase two of its final construction. The current location has about 400 loyal worshippers, which of whom have donated their own funds to assist in the new center’s 1.5-2 million dollar estimated cost. It has been known to provide services to new Bosnian immigrants, as well as people from Afghanistan, Sudan, and Somalia recalled Usama Shami, the community board chairman.

The new center will be a gated property of 16,000 square feet designed with a main dome about 42 feet, smaller domes around it, a library, shop, office for the religious scholars, a kitchen in the basement for catering events like weddings, a covered courtyard, as well as security cameras to prevent hate crimes and/or vandalism.

There is no illusion that hides the increased discrimination, prosecution, and fear that has surrounded Muslims, American-Muslims, Arabs, and immigration of Muslims into the U.S., in the post 9/11 era. Both immediately as well as years after have been followed by discrimination of all types on all levels with much persistence through misconceptions about the Muslim religion. Whether it is unequal opportunity at jobs, suspicious accusing attitudes and taunts within neighborhoods and schools, or simply the unfair treatment of Muslims by the U.S. law enforcement and government, discrimination against Muslims in the post 9/11 era has become the new institutionalized racism.

The government and media are involved in a dual partnership in creating and utilizing these strong misconceptions. Since September 11th, there have been a series of Acts implemented for the safety of the American people. These new laws are used to closely monitor the activity of Muslims at mosques, Islamic centers, airports, immigration offices, and institutions involving money; especially charities.

Some of the programs and acts passed that limited the freedom of mobility, prosperity, and rights as primary or even secondary citizens, were Early Detention, Material Witness Statue, Mass Interviews, National Security Entry-Exit Registration Systems (NSEERS)Program, Material Support Prosecutions , and the Invisible Investigative Steps. These will briefly be defined. Early detention occurred after the trade center attacks and was spurred by the investigation PENTTBOMB that sought to identify those involved in the attack. 1,200 individuals across the U.S. were detained only one of which was not Muslim, and 40% were not given Notice to Appear (NTA), that officially explained the reason for detention. The Material Witness Statues was used for many years although nowhere near the extent with Muslims, allows the government to arrest and detain people that may give a testimony. The witnesses must be able to give information to a criminal case and/or have a reason to not require a subpoena; coincidently this case mostly has to do with foreign nationals. There also happens to have no time limit for detention in this case, as with many, so the vagueness of the law may be bent and abused to convenience. The Mass Interviews occurred two months after the attacks, and rounded up 3,216 people of Arab or Muslim decent, from countries “which intelligence indicates al Qaeda terrorist presence or activity”. This included people who had come into the U.S. after 2000, or who were using student visas to go to school. None of which were found to have any terrorist affiliation. The National Security Entry-Exit Registration Systems (NSEERS) program required the photographing and digital fingerprinting of aliens going into the U.S., annual registration if residing longer than a month, and exit registration. All of the 25 high security countries other than North Korea were primarily Muslim/Arab countries. Now, the Material Support Prosecutions put great suspicion on funds raised or contributed “never intended to further terrorism could subject someone to terrorism support charges”. For ‘material support’ is broad and may include “any physical asset (e.g. a book), training, [or] expert advice”. This explains why charities are being more and more investigated. Finally, the Invisible Investigative Steps include acts such as the Patriot Act.

The discriminatory oppression of Muslims can be related to the U.S. government’s history of controlling the prosperity and vulnerability of other racial groups that they decide “unfit” to be ideal citizens or simply groups which need to be controlled. The government and media use isolated events and misconceptions to generalize racial groups, thus criminalizing the people that have something in common with the actual criminals. There seems to be a pattern here. Whenever criminality is associated with a group, there is a decrease in compassion, concern for humane treatment, and allows for the rationalization of the “spaces of exception”. This occurred with the Japanese internment camps after Pearl Harbor, by using the same ideology of “some of them may be dangerous, so they all are a threat”. It is seen with associating the Mexican illegals crossing the border with the drug cartel movements. This criminalization rationalization is even seen within the camps of our time, such as Guantanamo Bay, the holding and interrogation camps overseas, which are excluded from the Geneva Convention because they are or may be affiliated with the war on terror.

The state plays the largest role in institutionalizing this discrimination with the subjection of Muslims and America. The loose labeling done by the government and media determines the power and rights of Muslims in America, and thus determines their vulnerability and relationships with the state.

Although the discrimination persists, there has been an increase in Muslim migration to the U.S, as well as positive turnovers. People from Islamic Community Center of Phoenix have said that although they were negative, the attacks "also made people more interested in learning about the faith, [Usama] Shami [board chairman of the ICCP] said. And, at the same time, it made Muslims aware of the need to build bridges (to non-Muslims)."

This is the very reason for activism, so that people oppressed by the government can share experiences, and make strides toward change. Places like the ICCP provide this freedom and innovation needed for positive change. All in all, the Islamic Community Center of Phoenix is a space of significance. For space and land represent power and freedom to choose and practice religion even if its origins may be from a “foreign” country, of whom its citizens may be “forever foreign”.

- Ben Tsegai and Hannah Al-Ghareeb



➢ ISLAMIC FAITHFUL AWAIT NEW MOSQUE BUILDING WILL RISE AT I-17, ORANGEWOODAnchors, Sarah. Arizona Republic [Phoenix, Ariz] 04 June 2004

Arizona Republic [Phoenix, Ariz] 12 Sep 2001: EX.17.

➢ Muslims in America after 9/11: The Legal Situation
Philip Heymann*

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