By Sikander Hashmi, Special to The Gazette
EDISON, N.J. – As I write this piece, I know editors at this newspaper will read it before it goes to print. But is anyone else going to gain access to it before it’s made public? Big Brother perhaps?
That’s quite possible. Information leaked by Edward Snowden, the American who previously worked for the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and most recently as a contractor for the National Security Agency, indicates that emails, photos, chats, social-media sites and practically all Internet activity have been monitored by the NSA since 2007. Officials have sought to reassure Americans that the authorities are only focusing on foreigners, which includes Canadians like myself. Even if I weren’t physically in the United States, authorities could legally read through this article the moment I composed the email to the editor — even before I hit send, because I’m using the email service of a U.S. company.
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By Sikander Hashmi
The moment I saw my Twitter feed light up with breaking news alerts about a terror bust last Monday, my heart sank. I was worried not because I wanted a potential terror plot to go ahead, but because April had already been a difficult month, and the last thing I needed to hear was that there had been another potential terror threat.
First there was the revelation that two young Muslim men from London, Ont. had allegedly travelled to Algeria and taken part in an attack on an oil refinery in mid-January. Both were reportedly killed. There was the expected barrage of questions, concerns and criticisms regarding our communities that I was still dealing with.
The Boston Marathon bombings were particularly difficult. To watch fellow human beings go through such a sudden and terrifying event was heart-wrenching. It reminded me of the many civilian deaths and injuries occurring almost daily in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and many other parts of the world. Except this time, it hit a lot closer to home. I was born in Montreal, have lived in Toronto and have relatives in New York, so Boston is a city I can identify with.
The “oh no, I hope it’s not a Muslim” moment came and went quickly, as the suspects were soon identified as Muslims. Only a few days had passed since the terrible bombings, and the overall sadness, concern about violent radicalism and fear of backlash hadn’t dissipated. The latter was so strong that last Friday, as I prepared to leave home to lead our weekly prayer service, I actually considered saying proper goodbyes to my wife and two young children in case something terrible happened and I never returned.
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Also: Authorities must work to build Muslims’ trust