(ATLANTA, GA - 6/18/2019) The Georgia chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the nation's largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, today presented at Ebenzer Baptist Church’s 'Ending Mass Incarceration' conference in Atlanta.
During the June 18th presentation, CAIR Georgia discussed the unique impact of mass incarceration on the American Muslim community.
“A main interest of ours is criminal justice reform. It is an interest of ours because as Muslims, we are not only interested in defeating Islamophobia and protecting Muslim civil rights. As Muslims, we believe in justice for all people and fighting for justice for all people,” said Edward Ahmed Mitchell, Executive Director of CAIR Georgia.
With American Muslims constituting an estimated nine percent of the American prison population, a uniquely oppressive experience navigating the criminal justice system is identified. For many American Muslims, the issues begin before a criminal act is committed.
“We see discriminatory surveillance of American Muslims,” Mitchell said. “That can be everything from monitoring international phone calls that Muslim Americans have oversees. It could be sending paid informants into Mosques, not only to monitor and see what is going on, but to actually try to needle people and give them ideas to see if they will act out some sort of violent plot that they then can be arrested for."
In addition, some American police training programs include Islamophobic content in their training materials.
Mitchell said, “This kind of teaching – teaching cops to fear the Muslims they are sworn in to protect and serve – leads to the overcriminalization, targeting, and eventually imprisonment of the Muslim community."
Once an American Muslim enters the system, it is possible for prisons to enforce limited access to family and attorneys as well as a complete ban on free speech. 23-hour solitary confinement is also commonly used on American Muslim inmates under a justification of preventing ‘extremist indoctrination’ of other inmates.
American Muslims in Georgia prisons face particular issues.
“The Georgia prison system has a ban on translations of the Quran that they don’t like. If an inmate tries to get religious literature in Arabic, there have been incidents where the prisons will ban them," Mitchell said. "There are restrictions on their ability to wear Islamic clothing and to groom themselves. If two Muslims want to pray together side by side, they are banned from doing so and are punished with solitary confinement."
CAIR Georgia’s presentation furthers the conversation on the unfair, and in many cases unconstitutional, practices of America’s criminal justice system and the issue of mass incarceration in general.