Islam is one of the three Abrahamic religions, just like Christianity and Judaism. None of these religions espouse violence to secure a religious or political objective. But we know that within all religions are fanatical elements that embrace violence and hate to build power and personal agendas using religious and racial ideologies.


The worshippers of hate and violence should never define the soul of any religion or political ideology. But that has not always been the noble rule in America. Racial, religious, and political hatred has resided in the American DNA since the establishment of the Jamestown settlement by the Virginia Company in 1607.


In the 1930s, as the world prepared for its second world war, the FBI, led by renowned racist J. Edgar Hoover and the intelligence arms of the Navy and Army, arrested more than 3,000 suspected “subversives,” half of whom were of Japanese descent. With the full blessing of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Hoover’s FBI developed its own list of subversives based on little or no evidence or manufactured evidence based on the predilections of FBI agents across the country.


This hatred and racism manifested itself during World War II when more than 120,000 Japanese-Americans were placed in “internment camps” following the bombing of Pearl Harbor by Japan in December 1941. Two-thirds of those internees were full citizens born and raised in the United States. 


Beginning in the 1920s and reaching its maniacal peak in the 1950s, America witnessed mass paranoia stirred up a nationwide fear of communists, socialists, anarchists, and other dissidents that grabbed the American psyche. This culminated in the McCarthy Senate hearings, “a series of investigations and hearings “to expose supposed communist infiltration of various areas of the U.S. government.” These “hearings” dragged on for two years, during which McCarthy used slander, innuendo, false allegations, and unsubstantiated claims to destroy political opponents and critics of the government.  


Hoover’s racist “war” on subversives and political enemies pales in comparison to the “war on Muslims” initiated by former FBI Director Robert Mueller in the wake of the 9/11 attack on New York City’s Twin Towers—a war maintained and enhanced by Mueller’s successors, former Director James Comey and current Director Christopher Wray.


The war on Muslims has adversely impacted the lives of millions of Americans and immigrants simply because they are Muslims. 


In a 2023 report titled “Twenty Years Too Many,” the Council on American-Islamic Relations (“CAIR”), America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization, described the impact this way:


“The federal government’s multi-decade effort to recruit a vast network of informants inside the Muslim community, with all the lawlessness and acts of intimidation such an effort entails, has nothing to show for it. The same goes for the practice of patting down some Muslim babies and their diapers for explosives at airports, the policies that cause federal agents to handcuff Muslim mothers and fathers returning to this country, often at gunpoint, in front of their crying and terrified children, and all the interrogations of Muslims in their homes and while traveling about how often they pray and which mosque they go to.”


One of the weapons in the government’s arsenal to wage this war on Muslims is the Watch List, a subset of the federal government’s “Terrorist Screening Database” (TSDB). It is commonly referred to in the law enforcement and intelligence communities as the “terrorist watch list.” This database is maintained by the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center.


The evidence is now abundantly clear that the FBI uses its Watch List to target innocent Muslims, to indirectly link them to terrorism for no other reason than they have a Muslim name. A Swiss hacker provided CAIR with a 2019 version of the FBI’s list containing 1.5 million entries.  


CAIR found that “one scroll through it reveals a list almost completely comprised of Muslim names.” More than 350,000 entries alone include some transliteration of Mohammed, Ali, or Mahmoud; the top 50 most frequently occurring Muslim names. “Of the watchlist entries we’ve reviewed, we estimate that more than 1.47 million entries regard Muslims—over 98 percent of the total.” These people are most often law-abiding and have done nothing wrong but have a Muslim name. They have been given no notice, due process, or opportunity for hearing.  


Mayor Mohamed Khairullah of Prospect Park, New Jersey, was invited to the White House by President Joe Biden this past spring to attend an Eid celebration. When he showed up for the May 1, 2023 event, the Secret Service denied him entry because the FBI assigned him a “secret status” years ago without notice or explanation.


The “Terrorist Screening Database” shares its No Fly List with 18,000 federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, more than 500 private entities, and foreign governments.


Besides having their names, and very lives, linked to terrorism among these law enforcement, private, and governmental entities, millions of innocent Muslims have suffered with the following consequences laid out by ACLU because of their placement on the TSDA’s No Fly List:


  • Inability to travel by air to, from, or over the U.S. because of placement on the No Fly List, which is a subset of the TSDB;
  • Invasive physical searches and heightened scrutiny at TSA checkpoints every time a watchlisted person seeks to fly;
  • Prolonged detention, interrogation, and physical searches at U.S. borders and ports of entry;
  • Extended traffic stops and searches by state and local law enforcement officers;
  • Detention, interrogation, surveillance, and harassment by foreign government officials;
  • Inability to become a naturalized U.S. citizen or permanent resident or obtain other immigration benefits because of lengthy delay or pretextual denial of applications;
  • Unexplained denial of visa applications; and
  • Difficulty obtaining employment that requires a background check.


This type of government-sponsored discrimination, led by the FBI, is precisely why more than half (52%) of the American public has an unfavorable view of Islam, with most tending to associate the religion with violence while having favorable views of Christianity and Judaism. Most of those who share unfavorable opinions about Islam are politically conservative, affiliated with evangelical Christianity, and have racial tendencies that support white Christian Nationalism.


The hardcore religious bias being ginned up and exploited by the FBI is deeply rooted in the history of America. It is as American as apple pie.  


We have a long history of using hatred and fear of “the other” to rally the base and consolidate power. In the current environment of highly divisive politics, Black, Brown, Asian, and Muslim Americans have been used as political pawns to stir up the base and generate fear, which leads too often to violence. It is time for the “Watchlist” to be subject to public scrutiny, exposed for what it is, and eliminated to the dustbin of history.