Patriot Acts: Narratives of Post-9/11 Injustice tells the stories of individuals in the United States whose rights have been abused as a result of the racist, Islamophobic backlash and the so-called War on Terror that followed the attacks of 11 September 2001. Patriot Acts is part of the non-profit Voice of Witness publishing project, which aims to “illuminate human rights through oral history,” and has published books on the aftermath of hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, wrongful incarceration and undocumented immigrants. Compiled and edited by Alia Malek, a civil rights lawyer turned journalist, Patriot Acts features testimony from 18 individuals who lost family to racist vigilantes, were swept up in immigration raids under the guise of national security, fired from a job, or subjected to extraordinary rendition.
The persecution of Muslim Americans in the US court system is shown through the experience of Palestinian American Ghassan Elashi, who cofounded what was formerly the largest Islamic charity in the US, the Holy Land Foundation. He is now serving a 65-year sentence in a Communications Management Unit — special detention centers for terror convicts (this was the subject of Malek’s investigative feature”Gitmo in the Heartland” published by The Nation last year).
Elashi and four of his colleagues — dubbed the Holy Land Five — were subjected to two extraordinary trials that, amongst other court precedents, relied on testimony from an anonymous Israeli intelligence agent. The men were accused of providing material support to Hamas, a Palestinian political party declared a terrorist organization by the US State Department, by funding Islamic charitable committees in Palestine through the Holy Land Foundation.
Though the five were not accused of any violent acts, “prosecutors focused on the killing of Israeli soldiers and civilians by Palestinian elements, and specifically Hamas, as opposed to the actions of the HLF [Holy Land Foundation] or the defendants themselves”.