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Showing Up in Solidarity #15YearsLater: Reflections from our Accomplices & Family

This past Sunday, on the 15th anniversary of 9/11, over 60 people created mock checkpoints across Washington, D.C. and shut down the intersection of 14th St and U St NW for two hours. As queer and trans Muslims and South Asians, we demanded an end to the legalized profiling of our people, especially by Secretary Jeh Johnson and the Department of Homeland Security.

Our partners, accomplices, and political family showed up in solidarity. They recognized that our movements for freedom are deeply connected. They recognized themselves in our struggles, and showed up in deep solidarity for our collective liberation. Here, in their own words, they explain why they took part in our #15YearsLater action, and their vision for our shared liberation.

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#15YearsLater Black Muslim Lives Matter PC: Nate Atwell

Angela Peoples, GetEQUAL – PC: Nate Atwell

Angela Peoples, GetEQUAL:

We cannot commemorate the tragic events of September 11, 2001 without also addressing the devastating violence and harm that stemmed from racist profiling and criminalization of our communities, all in the name of “safety” and “national security.” LGBTQ people of color feel the impact of this culture of fear, Islamophobia and anti immigrant sentiment every day. We will continue to stand with our Asian American and Pacific Islander family to reject this violence and demand an end to all institutions and systems that criminalize our existence.

API Resistance:

Right now Muslim majority countries in West Asia are going through the series of exploitative, Orientalist wars that plagued East and Southeast Asia in the 20th century. When one quarter of Muslims in America are black or of African-descent and when the countries with the top four largest Muslim populations are in Southeast and South Asia we need to realize that we can no longer divide our identities by race or religion. We must forget the borders that have been imposed on our lands and on our bodies. We must stand up against injustice everywhere. We will not be free until each one of us is free.

Darakshan Raja, Muslim American Women’s Policy Forum:

This was one of few multiracial, people of color led actions that centered Islamophobia. At a moment when Muslim women, femmes, trans, queer and gender non-conforming folks are being specifically targeted, it is important to build solidarity. And we need to be real that we have so much more work to do.

photo credit IG @themauricio

Lakshmi Sridaran, SAALT – PC: IG @themauricio

Lakshmi Sridaran, South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT):

It was important for SAALT to support this weekend’s action to go beyond words and help people get a snapshot of the kind of profiling and surveillance our communities have experienced in the last 15 years to illustrate the largely untold story of the victims of post 9/11 government policies. It was powerful to be on the streets to educate white people and also share common experiences with other people of color and people who identify as queer and transgender who experience this impact on a daily basis.

Maha Hilal, National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms:

As we work towards ending the destructive policies of the post 9/11 era, we recognize the role of simultaneously empowering our communities to take action against these policies. We hope this will bring us one step closer to getting justice for ALL those who have been impacted by the policies of the War on Terror.

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We are part of movements larger than ourselves. We are part of fights for queer people of color liberation, Black liberation, immigrant rights, justice for Muslims, API liberation, and more. Only through movement building across our communities will we be able to achieve freedom for all our people.

The participants in #15YearsLater demonstrated that building such movements is not just necessary, but possible. We can – and we will – take the streets together, build political family, and have each others’ backs. We will achieve our liberation, together.

Thank you, again, to everyone who showed up for our collective liberation this Sunday. We will be in struggle with you, side by side, until we all get free.

The National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA) is a federation of LGBTQ Asian American, South Asian, Southeast Asian, and Pacific Islander (AAPI) organizations. We seek to build the organizational capacity of local LGBTQ AAPI groups, develop leadership, invigorate grassroots organizing, and challenge queerphobia and racism.

LGBTQ South Asian, Muslim and Black Communities Protest 15 Years of Profiling on 9/11

MEDIA RELEASE for September 11, 2016
Contact: Sasha W., NQAPIA Organizing Director, 909-343-2219, sasha@nqapia.org

**#15YearsLater #RedefineSecurity #BlackLivesMatter**

LGBTQ South Asian, Muslim and Black Communities Protest 15 Years of Profiling on 9/11

WHO: NQAPIA, KhushDC, and dozens of supporting organizations
WHAT: #15YearsLater: Performative Action to End Profiling of LGBTQ South Asian & Muslim communities
WHERE: Washington DC
WHEN: Sunday, 9/11/16

10:30am-12:30pm – performing “checkpoints” across DC in Adams Morgan, Dupont Circle, Verizon
Center (Chinatown), and other locations
1-2pm – Rally at 14th and U St., NW

On the 15th anniversary of September 11th, organizers with the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA) and KhushDC will take part in a performative action to end Islamophobia and the legalized profiling of LGBTQ South Asian, Muslim and Black communities, which has intensified in the 15 years since 9/11. We are creating “checkpoints” in high-traffic areas of DC that replicate the various “checkpoints” South Asian, Muslim, Arab, Middle Eastern, and Black people experience every day – being stopped when passing through TSA, being denied service because of religious markers, being called terrorists, being kicked off of flights, etc. Black Muslims experience this profiling at an even higher frequency, leading to brutality or death at the hands of law enforcement.

Almas Haider, NQAPIA board member, said, “9/11 changed my life. Overnight I went from a carefree 11-year-old to being on the receiving end of verbal and physical harassment. 15 years have changed nothing. The harassment continues and government policies have strengthened, targeting my community simply for how we look or how we pray. We are guilty simply for existing.”

Sasha W., NQAPIA’s Organizing Director, added, “I feel the aftershocks of 9/11 every day. From profiling at the airport, to verbal harassment on the street, to surveillance outside my apartment, the policies enacted in the wake of 9/11 have legalized the profiling and surveillance of my people. I cannot feel ‘safe’ until the legalized profiling, surveillance, and harassment end.”

Our daily experiences of profiling are connected to a larger system that targets Muslims and those perceived as Muslims. Policies mark us as potential threats, which enables government agencies, law enforcement and the general public to treat us accordingly. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) – including the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) – has no legal protections against profiling. The Priority Enforcement Program (PEP) detains and deports people profiled as a danger to national security. The FBI’s Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) program profiles Muslim youth. The FBI’s Terror Watchlist disproportionately targets Muslims, South Asians, Black people, immigrants, and people of color, without explanation.

Numerous studies have documented the impact of Islamophobia. A Gallup poll found that nearly half of all Muslims – 48 percent – reported that they, personally, had experienced racial or religious discrimination in the past year. In a Columbia University survey, 28 percent of Muslim high school students in New York reported being stopped by police as a result of racial profiling. A labor market study found a 10 percent decrease in earnings for Muslim and Arab men immediately after 9/11, with the effects greater in areas with a higher incidence of hate crimes.

Haider added, “There has been no acknowledgement of the violence being wrought on my community. And we cannot stand idly by, waiting for that to change.” We will set up “checkpoints” across DC on 9/11 to demonstrate how our communities have suffered in the past 15 years, and to continue our campaign to pressure the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) into ending this legalized profiling.

The National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA) is a federation of LGBTQ Asian American, South Asian, and Pacific Islander (AAPI) organizations. We seek to build the organizational capacity of local LGBTQ AAPI groups, develop leadership, invigorate grassroots organizing, and challenge homophobia and racism.

Against Islamophobia: LGBT & MASA Letter to Administration, Candidates & Policymakers

TO:
Barack Obama, President of the United States
Hillary Clinton, Candidate for President of the United States
Donald Trump, Candidate for President of the United States
Paul Ryan, Speaker of the US House of Representatives
Nancy Pelosi, Minority Leader of the US House of Representatives
Mitch McConnell, Majority Leader of the US Senate
Harry Reid, Minority Leader of the US Senate
Jeh Johnson, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security

As organizations representing diverse LGBT communities and Muslim, Arab and South Asian communities, we write to express our deep concern regarding the divisive rhetoric and reactionary public policy objectives that have emerged since the mass shooting in Orlando. Our communities are still in mourning after forty-nine, mostly LGBTQ Latinx lives were lost and dozens more were injured. At the same time, many of our organizations have come together through words and actions to express our unity and solidarity.

At this moment, as we collectively attempt to respond to the massacre in Orlando, it is vital that our political leaders set the right tone and example for the rest of the nation. Unfortunately, in the 48 hours since the tragedy, many political leaders have resorted to divisive and inflammatory rhetoric by characterizing the Orlando massacre as an act of terror, and by calling for policies and actions that would disproportionately target those who are Muslim or come from South Asian and Middle Eastern countries.

We ask that the President, presidential candidates of the Democratic and Republican parties, Congressional leaders, and Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security set the right tone: send strong and frequent public messages about the importance of coming together rather than giving into backlash; refrain from dangerous anti-Muslim sentiment; and resist enacting policies that will harm our communities in the name of national security.

We ask that you affirmatively recognize the homophobia and transphobia that motivated this violence, and refrain from defining the shooting as an act of international terrorism—a term reserved in public discourse for acts committed by Muslims. Instead, we ask that you call it what it is: a hate crime against the LGBT community and an act of gun violence.

Although we recognize the tragic nature of the shooting, and the immense fear the shooter caused, the word “terrorist” becomes the norm only when the shooter is Muslim, or perceived as such. As a result, in the wake of 9/11, we have seen devastating hatred towards Muslim, South Asian and Middle Eastern communities. Those of us who are queer and trans* have been especially vulnerable to violence and backlash. This characterization has resulted in broken noses and bruised bodies. It has blamed and held entire communities responsible for every action associated with those words.

We call on you, our leaders, to remind the public that we must not scapegoat Muslim, South Asian, and Arab communities for the act of one person. Whatever warped justification the shooter may have claimed, his actions are a hate crime. Every religious tradition explicitly condemns the killing of innocent people, but murder knows no faith. We do not want to see our communities live through another surge of harmful policies as a result of the massacre in Orlando. Our LGBT communities will not be used as a justification for Islamophobia, which impacts so many of us.

Alongside dangerous rhetoric, reactionary public policies that trade individual liberties for a façade of security based on fear have led to devastating consequences for Muslim, Arab and South Asian communities in the 15 years since the 9/11 attacks. These communities, and especially our queer and trans* community members, have borne the brunt of laws and policies such as the Patriot Act, special registration or NSEERS, arbitrary interrogations, unlawful watch lists, unprecedented rates of detentions and deportations, inappropriate profiling, and surveillance by federal and local law enforcement authorities of mosques, Muslim student associations, restaurants, and cricket and soccer games.

15 years later, we do not want to live through the “spirit of 9/12” yet again. We call on you to curtail policies such as:

  • The Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) program, including intelligence gathering from the Internet and social media, which targets Muslims and has been shown to be ineffective. We are particularly concerned about H.R. 5471, the Countering Terrorist Radicalization Act
  • Expansion of FBI access to a range of revealing and personal details about individuals’ online communications, or Electronic Communications Transactional Records (ECTR)
  • Immigration enforcement that disproportionately profile our communities, such as the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Priority Enforcement Program (PEP)

We ask you to:

  • Roll back existing Countering Violent Extremism programs, especially the “Don’t Be a Puppet” program that asks young people to criminalize each other
  • Issue a guidance from the Department of Homeland Security banning legalized profiling based on race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation and gender identity without exemption, including in national security and immigration enforcement. Community organizations have been in conversation with DHS about this guidance for months, but we have not seen a result
  • Promote common sense legislation to keep guns out of dangerous hands, without further criminalizing Muslims, immigrants, people of color, and people with mental health struggles

We request a meeting with you to further discuss these matters. This is a time when we need our leaders to stand with us to denounce prejudice, violence, and policies that inflict harm on any community. Our strength is our unity. We look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance
Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC
Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, AFL-CIO (APALA)
Asian Pacific Islander Queer Sacramento Coalition
Asian Pacific Partners for Empowerment, Advocacy and Leadership (APPEAL)
Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations
Brown Boi Project
Collaboryst
Emerge USA
Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement
Freedom Inc
GALA, Inc. (Guam)
Gay Asian Pacific Alliance
i2i: Asian Pacific Islander Pride of Chicago
Juntos
KhushDC
KmB: Pro-People Youth
MASALA
Muslim American Women’s Policy Forum
NAPAFASA
National Asian American Pacific Islander Mental Health Association
National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum
National CAPACD
National Center for Lesbian Rights
National Korean American Service and Education Consortium
National LGBTQ Task Force
Pride ASIA
PRIDE Marianas
PrYSM
Q-WAVE
Queer Asian Pacific-Islander Alliance
South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT)
Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC)
Southerners On New Ground (SONG)
Trikone
Trikone NW
Trikone-Chicago
UMD AASU
UTOPIA Seattle
Veterans For Peace
Veterans For Peace, Milwaukee Chapt. 102
Viet Rainbow of Orange County (VROC)
VietLEAD
We Belong Together
Witness to Mass Incarceration
18MillionRising.org