Equality: not for Arabs and Muslims

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“Equality under the law” is an idea all Americans cherish because it ensures that they are treated fairly beneath the law. But what about those who aren’t citizens? What about immigrants and foreigners? Do they too deserve this “equality”? The answer is yes.

In 1985, the United Nations proclaimed the Declaration on the Human Rights of Individuals Who are not Nationals of the Country in which They Live. This document states that non-citizens have the right to life and security. This includes freedom from arbitrary arrest, detention, and protection against irrational or unlawful interference with privacy, family, home or correspondence.  However, since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the United States government has defined hundreds of Arab and Muslim men as “enemy combatants.” No longer considered “citizens,” these “enemy combatants” are held without any trial, charges, or access to legal representation. Such inhumane treatment of people under the pretense of security is wrong. Security transpires, not through the use of fear and harm, but through strength in numbers and in the quality of our decisions. Sadly, it seems our government is intent on using fear and harm.

Discrimination is defined as the treating of people differently because of their race, religion, ethnic group, color, creed, political opinion, or other status or characteristic, when there is no legal justification for doing so. For our government to actively discriminate against Arabs and Muslims because they share the same skin color or religious beliefs as our enemies is not only morally wrong, but also contributes to a growing distrust between our government and the Arab and Muslim communities. The arrest of actual terrorists will not come from the arrests of innocent men.

As Americans, we often consider our nation to be the model for human rights thanks to our concepts of  democracy, freedom and basic rights for every person. Even the Statue of Liberty, one of our country’s most celebrated monuments, serves as a symbol to welcome immigrants. Unfortunately, our society lacks a strong voice for the Arab and Muslim communities. While organizations do exist to combat the violation of such civil liberties, our government continues to conduct such atrocious actions. To stay silent in the face of such injustice and to allow these injustices to continue compromises the very American ideals that so many of us treasure.