In This Episode
- Tomorrow marks 20 years since 9/11. The terrorist attack caused a ripple effect that has influenced many parts of American history and culture, but it also fueled a rise in Islamophobia. We hear from Shahana Hanif how two decades of anti-Muslim bias has hurt and transformed the lives of American Muslims. When the attack happened, Hanif was a 10-year-old growing up in Brooklyn. Today, she lives in Brooklyn and is running for New York City Council, where she is likely to become the first Muslim woman ever to serve.
- And in headlines: the Justice Department sues Texas over its anti-abortion law, Biden mandates vaccines for all federal government employees and contractors, and Facebook and Ray-Ban team up to make high-tech glasses.
- Show Notes:
AP: “Two Decades After 9/11, Muslim Americans Still Fighting Bias” – https://bit.ly/3hjRdHI
Gideon Resnick: It is Friday, September 10th. I’m Gideon Resnick.
Priyanka Aribindi: And I am Priyanka Aribindi, and this is What A Day, reminding you that you should still get your flu shot even if it is not the trendy vaccine right now.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, there is nothing wrong with a vaccine that’s been around the block.
Priyanka Aribindi: It is older, it’s wiser. It is a vintage vax, everybody.
Gideon Resnick: You can learn from your elders. On today’s show, the Justice Department sues Texas over the state’s new anti-abortion law. Plus, Facebook and Ra-Bans have teamed up on techno-shades that are only mildly alarming.
Priyanka Aribindi: Hmm. But first, tomorrow will mark 20 years since the terrorist group al-Qaida launched an attack that brought down the World Trade Center, taking the lives of nearly 3,000 people. The attack caused a ripple effect that influenced many parts of contemporary American history, including culture, foreign policy, and policing. It also fueled a rise in Islamophobia. In the wake of 9/11, anti-Muslim policies, rhetoric and attitudes were exacerbated across the country.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, and in 2011, for example, the Associated Press found that the NYPD was running a surveillance program for almost a decade that illegally spied on Muslims in New York and New Jersey. And in 2017, former President Trump launched a travel ban on Muslim countries, just to name a couple of the many examples and how they have continued throughout the decades since.
Priyanka Aribindi: Today, we wanted to hear how anti-Muslim biases since 9/11 have hurt and transformed the lives of American Muslims like Shahana Hanif. When the attack happened, she was a 10-year old growing up in Brooklyn. Today, she still lives in Brooklyn, where she is a community organizer and is also running for New York City Council, where she is likely to become the first Muslim woman ever to serve. Shahana, welcome to What A Day.
Shahana Hanif: Thank you so much.
Priyanka Aribindi: Thank you for being here.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, of course.
Priyanka Aribindi: So if you are above a certain age and you grew up in the US, you have your own memories of where you were on 9/11, your experience of that day. I wanted to ask you about your memories and your experience on that day.
Shahana Hanif: Yeah, I mean, it’s been hard, in my new position and role I’m being sort of forced to remember 10-year old me in the fifth grade at PS230, which is just a block away from where I’m at right now, filled with debris. My middle sister, Sabiya and I were also brought home, with a lot of confusion and chaos as to what was happening and why there was so much debris everywhere. And weeks after 9/11, Sabiya and I were walking to the mosque, on our way to the mosque a driver in red light pulled down their window and screamed out “terrorist.” And so to know that us kids, 10-year old, she was 9—this is our reality. Being seen as a threat, being seen as the carriers of what took place on 9/11. This stranger calling us a terrorist really defined how I grew up out here.
Gideon Resnick: And what was it like sort of in the weeks, months and years after that, sort of wrapping your head around, you know, having those biases directed towards you?
Shahana Hanif: Yeah, I mean, one of the first things I had done is to bring the other young people together in our basement with the support of an older cousin who helped us write a letter to then-President George W. Bush. I mean, we wanted safety. We wanted him to respond to us. We, of course, never heard back. But I think like that, that demonstrates the sort of like next steps, because the act of writing that letter, I think, when I look back right now, I’m like shit, like, I, [laughs] I was going to be, I wasn’t going to be quiet.
Gideon Resnick: Right
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. You started to answer this a bit, but I want to know a little more about how your personal experience, you know, experiencing this bias, aside from your experience community organizing, how that has affected, you know, your views and your politics.
Shahana Hanif: So throughout undergrad is when I was really able to understand the violence enacted by our government with the Patriot Act, the creation of the NYPD demographics unit, the formation of ICE—that all of this was happening. These horror stories were caused by harmful, violent, xenophobic, Islamophobic legislation. So being a part of student activism on campus was critical for my politicization and really understanding these histories that were not shared with us, and needing to reclaim what was happening and speak our truth. And so that fight continues.
Gideon Resnick: And what do you think has changed, if anything, over the past 20 years?
Shahana Hanif: On the politics end, and the electoral world, we are seeing many more Muslims run for office and many of us who are running lived through the post-9/11 aftermath. It’s no surprise to me that many of us are also running on really progressive leftist democratic socialist agendas, and then also winning. 20 years ago, if someone had said like, you know, I want you to run for office, like I would have not even known what that meant because 20 years ago, like which Muslim ran for office on a leftist agenda? So I’m, the observation I have is that, like so many of us were politicized in this way, that we’re bringing our fight to city, state, federal levels.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, absolutely. So we mentioned earlier that the NYPD once conducted this mass surveillance on Muslim communities. And I was also reading this essay in New York magazine yesterday from someone whose high school interest in photography led to an actual FBI investigation it appears. Another person reported her because she looked of Middle Eastern descent. It is insane. We can link to it in our show notes. But so what needs to change with local or national policy so that Muslims don’t continue to be profiled in this way?
Shahana Hanif: The fight that I’m involved in right now is that in the past two budget cycles of the city council, we did not take any money away from the police department’s budget. We fattened it up a little bit more. And so the divestment of the police department’s budget is a priority coming in. The conversation about abolishing ICE is top priority, too, because similar to the ways in which informants exist, ICE has been operating through the pandemic, picking up undocumented folks, detaining them, separating them from their families. ICE cannot exist. That is an agency that came out of 9/11, directly after 9/11. So those are like top two demands that I’m going to be fighting for. I know that that’s not an easy fight. Legislators cannot be quiet or hide during this moment. And as the first Muslim woman elected to the New York City Council, I feel more responsibility on ending surveillance and demilitarizing the police department.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, and just to close, you are an adult and kind of have your own experience with this in the past and kind of going into it. But I want to know a little bit more about what you say to Muslim kids when you meet them or talking to them about the ways that this is impacting them with people who are born into this and maybe don’t understand as much about how it started.
Shahana Hanif: Our young people ought to know how government has treated us, and communities of faith, communities of diverse ethnicities. We ought to know these histories. And so, but I want young people to grow up in a place where they get to call their home, that they’re not forced out of their neighborhoods because community centers don’t exist or they don’t have the after-school programing that they want, or they feel that when something happens, they can’t turn to an adult or a mentor to share and seek out support. So we have a lot of work to do, but I’m inspired by young people because young people are leading the way. I’m really excited to bring on young people through the campaign into City Hall, and so I’m excited for that partnership.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah.
Priyanka Aribindi: Bold note to end on.
Gideon Resnick: Seriously, yes. Thank you so, so much, Shahana Hanif. She was a 10-year old in Brooklyn when 9/11 happened, and is now running for a seat on the New York City Council where she could be the first Muslim woman to serve there ever. Thank you so much again for all of your time.
Shahana Hanif: Thank you!
Priyanka Aribindi: We will link to a recent article featuring Shahana Hanif and her story in our show notes. And that is the latest from now. It is Friday, WAD squad, and today we are doing a segment called The Solution, where we propose a fix to a news story that has created chaos in our world. Deadline announced CBS new reality competition yesterday, a show called “The Activist” which puts people against each other to see who can do the most good. The show features celebrity co-hosts Usher, Priyanka Chopra, and Julianne Hough, plus six contestants. Together, they will tackle the least politically-charged causes CBS could think of which are health, education and the environment. Quantifying someone’s activism is no easy task, but thankfully the show’s producers have figured it out. They will judge contestants based on online engagement and social metrics—OK—adopting “the black square model” of making a difference.
Gideon Resnick: Oh Lord.
Priyanka Aribindi: The show is that premiere on October 22nd, but so far the response has been extremely negative, with lots of people describing it as cynical, toothless, and a transparent attempt to cash in on suffering. OK!. So for the CBS activism contest, here is the solution:
Gideon Resnick: All right, we need to make every celebrity watch the full Gal Gadot “Imagine” video every day before they get out of bed in the morning. In watching their peers sing a song to people in lockdown while also living in the house from the movie Parasite, the celebrities will be reminded of the power of performative activism to induce a full-body cringe that requires treatment with acupuncture. Now they’ll see that there’s a difference between making a meaningful effort to help, and simply reminding people that you read the news occasionally. And importantly, if they’re ever invited to host a show that has them say lines like say “sorry, reproductive justice, but I’m sending you home” or “because you got the retweets, you won potable water for the developing world,” they will decline, change their addresses and promptly enter witness protection. Now, getting celebrities to finish the “Imagine” video is going to be hard since scientists have shown that by minute one, it causes a fight or flight response that is akin to an attack by 10 bears. But it will be worth it. For this show in particular, it will grind production to a halt by Usher’s third viewing, leaving CBS with millions of dollars they can no longer spend on their cage-match for activism. After trying to start their own charity under the James Corden “Karaoke Without Borders” brand getting absolutely ripped to shreds, maybe they will just give the money away.
Priyanka Aribindi: Maybe, just maybe. That was The Solution. We will be back after some ads.
Gideon Resnick: Let’s wrap up with some headlines.
Gideon Resnick: The Department of Justice has sued the state of Texas over a new law that bans abortions after six weeks, before most people even realize they are pregnant. During a press conference yesterday afternoon, Attorney General Merrick Garland said the new law defies the Constitution and deputizes random people in Texas to report doctors, drivers, or anyone who may help someone get an abortion.
[clip of AG Merrick Garland] Because the statute makes it too risky for an abortion clinic to stay open, abortion providers have ceased providing services. This leaves women in Texas unable to exercise their constitutional rights, and unable to obtain judicial review at the very moment they need it.
Priyanka Aribindi: In essence, the DOJ is asking the federal court to rule that the Texas law is invalid under the 14th Amendment and the Supremacy Clause, which says federal law takes precedence over state laws. The DOJ is also seeking a permanent injunction against the law, which would bar anyone in Texas from enforcing it.
Priyanka Aribindi: And I am not a legal scholar or a lawyer, I just know I hope it works.
Gideon Resnick: Yes.
Priyanka Aribindi: President Biden addressed the nation yesterday and had this to say:
[clip of President Biden] My message to unvaccinated Americans is this: what more is there to wait for? What more do you need to see? We’ve made vaccinations free, safe and convenient. The vaccine has FDA approval. Over 200 million Americans have gotten at least one shot.
Priyanka Aribindi: That is on facts. In his speech, Biden also announced a slate of more stringent requirements intended to curb a surge in COVID-19 cases across the country. Most notably, he signed an executive order requiring government employees and contractors to be vaccinated, with no option of being regularly tested to opt out. The new plan also requires all businesses with 100 or more employees to require workers to be vaxxed or tested regularly or face big fines. Biden also said he would require health care workers at facilities getting funds from Medicare and Medicaid to be fully vaccinated. These new rules are expected to affect as many as 100 million people. And in similar news, yesterday, Los Angeles became the first major school district in the country to require all students 12 and older, who are physically coming into classes, to get vaccinated.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, these are coming, these mandates. They are. That’s just, I’m just telling you the truth, from my lips and Joe’s. Brazil’s right-wing president, Jair Bolsonaro is bravely standing up FOR misinformation on the Internet, including but not limited to posts saying that he is incredibly healthy and has only gotten COVID a normal number of human times. Yesterday, Bolsonaro passed an order banning social media companies from taking down specific types of content, content like his own claims that the only way he’ll lose next year’s election is if it is rigged. Now, this is the first time a national government has prevented Internet companies from removing content that violates their platform’s rules. Social media companies are rightfully speaking out, saying these rules will allow misinformation to spread more than it already does. Thankfully, this out-of-pocket law might not last long. Legal experts say the country’s Supreme Court could strike it down before companies have to comply.
Priyanka Aribindi: Good. Good luck to them. Also in social network fun—I don’t know if we’re calling it that, but we’ll go with it—Facebook has revolutionized the way we can be scared that strangers are taking pictures of us by making normal-looking Ray-Bans with cameras in them. Released yesterday, the so-called Ray-Bans Stories are equipped with two five megapixel cameras, two speakers, and three microphones—this is a lot of gear—and they sync with an app called View to send pictures and videos straight from your eyes to your phone. Unlike the ill-fated Google Glass that came out in 2013, Facebook’s glasses don’t augment reality, so you can’t look through them and see turn-by-turn directions or things like that unless you printed them out. But Facebook’s history of protecting people’s privacy is what we call very bad. But they have taken some actions to preempt concerns. For instance, they have included a white light that turns on when after the product is recording, informing everybody around you that your glasses have become spyglasses. The smart shades started 299 or you can access similar technology for purposes that are equally scary by joining the CIA—I don’t, these are, this is spy gear. I don’t know what to tell you.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. I don’t know why you need this, but if you feel that you do—
Priyanka Aribindi: You can get them I guess. Go off.
Gideon Resnick: No one is stopping you. And those are the headlines. That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, warn us if your glasses are recording please, and tell your friends to listen.
Priyanka Aribindi: And if you’re into reading, and not just posts remove from Jair Bolsonaro’s internet like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Priyanka Aribindi.
Gideon Resnick: I’m Gideon Resnick.
[together] And imagine there’s no hunger.
Priyanka Aribindi: I can’t say that. I can’t take myself seriously.
Gideon Resnick: I’ve been roped into a scheme, yet again.
Priyanka Aribindi: [laughs] Again.
Gideon Resnick: What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Charlotte Landes. Sonia Htoon and Jazzi Marine are our associate producers. Our head writer is Jon Millstein, and our executive producers are Leo Duran Me. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.