Voices in Focus: Muslim Students React to News of NYPD Spying

Here’s what’s on our radar this Friday morning:

* Students around the region expressed shock, fear and discomfort after last week’s Associated Press revelations that the NYPD monitored and spied on members of Muslim student associations in colleges, Colorlines reported.

“We had no reason to believe this sort of thing was happening,” said Faisal Hamid, a 20-year-old history major at Yale who is the vice president of the university’s MSA. “After surprise, many of us were really scared we’d been monitored, that there were files with our name on it.”

Hamid is one of nearly a dozen Muslim students who said that they now worried they might be watched wherever they go. “Is the person next to me in a Friday prayer or another activity an informant taking our name down?” asked Hamid.

One of the students named in the NYPD reports told Colorlines that he has changed his behavior:

Jawad Rasul says he was never at risk of being entrapped because he would never have agreed to do anything illegal, but the experiences of being trailed by by two different informants has changed how he acts in the day to day. To get ahead of those watching him, Rasul says he’s tried to be as transparent as he can about his life.

“What I do is constantly update my facebook profile because someone told me that the anti-terror and other law enforcement agencies don’t like surprises. So to keep the pressure off me I update everything on my wall with anything I am doing because I know they are most likely watching me.”

* Feet in 2 Worlds ran an opinion column on a new measure that would increase the number of work visas allocated to the Irish by 10,500 per year. The measure, proposed by the Massachusetts Republican Senator Scott Brown, “would qualify Ireland for the E-3 visa program which currently applies exclusively to Australian nationals,” reporter explained:

Roy Beck, executive director of NumbersUSA, a group that advocates for lower levels of immigration tossed race into the mix, arguing that measures like Brown’s favor white immigrants.

“They’re basically upset because they don’t have the special privileges that they once had,” Beck told the Boston Globe, referring to Irish advocates. “They have to share those privileges with Latinos and Africans and Asians.”

[Michael Innis-Jiménez, a University of Alabama professor and expert on Latino and labor issues] who is of Irish and Mexican descent, admitted that he thinks race is a factor.

“Sure, I think race is always in play with national-level U.S. immigration policy,” he said. “But I think it is a bit more complicated.  It is also about economic class and political clout.  Few Americans are going to complain about more white, educated Irish immigrants. Most of them will end up in the Northeast.”

* Speaking of Feet in 2 Worlds, if you missed the organization’s discussion yesterday, “The Detention Dilemma,” you can watch a streamed version of it here.

* Taking advantage of the Oscars buzz around “The Help,” a movie about African-American domestic servants living under Jim Crow laws, the National Domestic Workers Alliance has sought to bring to light the challenges facing today’s domestic workers, Colorlines reports. In the YouTube video above, “Meet Today’s Help,” the organization urges viewers to support a domestic workers’ bill of rights.

Despite criticisms that “The Help” offers an “excessively soft and beautiful view of Jim Crow,” Rinku Sen reports, the NDWA found the film useful for spurring discussion:

The film’s focus on African American domestic workers gave the organization a link to the core of their issue. Domestic workers are excluded from parts of the National Labor Relations Act as a result of compromises FDR’s administration made with Southern politicians in the 1930’s to protect the interests of segregationists.

“The movie allowed us to talk about that history,” said [NDWA Director Ai-jen] Poo, “and how the lack of respect that domestic workers have in this country is tied to the history of slavery and Jim Crow.” That history is at the crux of the lesson guide the Alliance designed for self-organized Oscar parties.

Publicity still from "The Help."

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