Omar Zaki

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Board member, CAIR-Southern California

Omar ZakiThe Patriot Act has been the biggest punch in the face to the Muslim community. It takes away due process and attorney-client privilege. It allows the government to wiretap on suspicion alone, without probable cause.

The concern for national security is legitimate – but it has to be in a way that preserves civil and constitutional rights. The Constitution is always tested in wartime, and we’ve failed such tests many times in the past. If we suspend people’s rights, we’re doomed to fail once again.

The Patriot Act has been the biggest punch in the face to the Muslim community.

Eric Rudolph, the Atlanta bomber, who was  involved with the Christian Identity movement, was not called a religious fanatic or terrorist. Of course, he’s a white guy – suppose he were named Mohamed bin Rudolph? The same goes for the Florida doctor arrested for conspiring to bomb a mosque [Robert Jay Goldstein], who was also not charged as a terrorist.

Is the Patriot Act applicable only to Muslims? Or is it a piece of law that applies to all parts of the community?...

We have to be more politically active. Americans don’t have much sympathy for those who have to register. But fighting for one group’s freedom strengthens everyone’s freedom.

The Constitution is always tested in wartime, and we’ve failed such tests many times in the past.

CAIR is developing a community network, with individuals in different districts. We have watchdogs in each area – Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego – all of southern California. Our goal is to eventually do something like this nationally – to work with mayors, city councils, elected officials.

In order to humanize the Muslim constituency in every district, we need real grassroots voices. We need a way to mobilize, to distribute action alerts. We need to push voter registration. This is our opportunity to speak: our numbers are increasing in every election. By 2008, 2010, office seekers will be looking for us.

Is the Patriot Act applicable only to Muslims? Or is it a piece of law that applies to all parts of the community?

We need to find a way to partner with other like-minded groups and coalitions. Working through coalitions legitimizes the effort. It shows that we are not a “special interest” with unique concerns, but people working for equality and justice, in the economy, in education, in what our kids are watching on TV.