Shaping Islam in America: 10 Young Muslim Visionaries – Farhana Khera, the Advocate Part 4
From Islamica Magazine
In America, law and politics have a hard time separating themselves. When it comes to issues of civil liberties and civil rights, you can hardly tell them apart. Enter Farhana Khera, former Counsel to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee and co-founder of Muslim Advocates, a legal and policy advocacy organization.
Khera’s six-year tenure on the Judiciary Committee coincided with the tragic events of 9/11, and she subsequently became well-acquainted with the USA PATRIOT Act, racial and religious profiling, and other civil liberties issues raised by the government’s antiterrorism policies. But the events of that day also opened her eyes to a tremendous void in the American legal and political process. Khera’s passion for civil rights took on an urgent objective—making a place for and providing a means by which Muslim Americans could protect America and shape its future.
Khera’s legal and political experiences helped shape the mission and program priorities for Muslim Advocates, an organization she recently cofounded with other Muslim American lawyers. As the country’s first Muslim American legal and policy advocacy organization, Muslim Advocates is a pioneering effort in promoting justice and equality for all Americans by providing strategic legal thought and activities. Its efforts have already begun to pay off. Muslim Advocates is a respected voice among federal officials and members of Congress, regardless of party affiliation. For example, in response to the suspected plot to attack trans-Atlantic American jetliners from Britain last summer and its aftermath—with some in the media calling for racial and religious profiling of Muslim air travelers—Muslim Advocates persuaded the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to publicly reject these calls. Secretary Michael Chertoff, in USA Today and MSNBC, called racial profiling ineffective and wrong. Muslim Advocates also recently made its first court appearance when it joined an amicus, or friend of the court, brief sponsored by the Center for National Security Studies and the Open Society Policy Center. The case challenged President Bush’s asserted power to hold individuals indefinitely, without charges or trial, on U.S. soil.
The first step toward reclaiming the civil rights of Muslims is understanding, respecting and protecting the laws that accord those rights. Khera and her team’s efforts in this regard demonstrate that segments of the community are interested in engaging the law and social justice from a broader platform that includes protecting individuals regardless of their religious background.