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American Muslim

Metroactive Silicon Valley newspaper
For the Week of August 14-20, 2003

Acts to Grind

Samina Faheem is not your normal American Muslim. That is, instead of keeping low-pro with zipped lips, the 18-year resident of Palo Alto helps stir up chatter with local law enforcers regarding the country's 2-year-old, tightly wound anti-terrorism obsession that has focused, to a large degree, on people who share Faheem's faith. She started an organization called American Muslim Voice and rallies everyone she can to challenge the rollback of civil liberties for Arabs and Arab look-alikes. Faheem helped achieve a victory in Santa Clara County last week. She spoke at the Supes' Legislative Committee against the federal government's Patriot Act and proposed expansions of surveillance and detainment powers.

Faheem related at the meeting about how her Caucasian activist colleagues casually told Palo Alto police officers in June that they blame the U.S. government for the 9/11 attacks. "Bush was coming, and they were asking if Bush could be arrested for violating the civil rights of Iraqis," Faheem recalls. "I was totally stunned." Faheem notes that she disagrees with those anti-American views. "Even if it was my opinion," she continues, "I wouldn't be able to say a single word about that because that would be deemed a threat to homeland security. and I could be put away under secret evidence for as long as the administration wants." With the clear exception of the Sheriff's Department for one, the county seems to have Faheem's back.

After hearing Faheem's comments, and despite an objection from Sheriff's Capt. Edward Perry, Legislative Committee captains Jim Beall and Liz Kniss passed a staff-recommended resolution against abetting the federal government's USA-Patriot Act, more wordily known in hopelessly bureaucratic circles as "Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism." ... The resolution answers Supe Pete McHugh's request that the county consider taking a position on the phantom Patriot Act II, which doesn't actually exist yet in proposed bill form but which frightens civil libertarians nonetheless.

The original Patriot Act drafted by Attorney General John Ashcroft passed the U.S. House 357-66 in October 2001 with little debate and the consent of local Beltway Reps Zoe Lofgren and Anna Eshoo. Rep. Mike Honda cast a losing "no" vote. ... Activists like Faheem, however, have convinced local governments to speak out against the new bill. As of last week, according to the ACLU, more than 140 cities, counties and states have adopted resolutions against the Patriot Act. Municipalities include Palo Alto and Los Gatos. Mountain View is thinking about it. Arcata took the bold step of actually outlawing local cooperation with the federales on anti-terrorism hunts. Kniss and Beall's move to oppose the Patriot Act goes to the full board on Aug. 19. The county isn't taking any action against Patriot Act II at this point because it doesn't yet exist.