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News ::
Fight-back greets gov't harassment of UMass Amherst professors (english)
01 Dec 2002
The fight-back campaign being waged at UMass Amherst against racist, terrorist state repression is one of many at higher-education institutions nationwide. This movement is growing.
UMASS AMHERST
Fight-back greets gov't harassment of professors
By Bryan G. PfeiferAmherst, Mass.The USA Patriot Act
and "Homeland Security" have found a home at the University of Massachusetts at
Amherst--at least temporarily. On Oct. 24 Associate Professor M.J.
Alhabeeb of the Department of Resource Economics, who is a naturalized U.S.
citizen from Iraq, was questioned by UMass police detective Barry Flanders and
an FBI agent from the Joint Terrorism Task Force office in Springfield,
Mass.The interrogation came after the Boston FBI office supposedly
received a "tip" that Alhabeeb was "anti-American" and opposed to U.S. policy
toward Iraq. Flanders, who is paid by the university, has been assigned as a
"liaison" to the task force and works two days a week in Springfield.At
Alhabeeb's office, the officers told him the tip came from someone linked to
Amherst Community Television where Alhabeeb is on the board of directors. If in
fact this is true, Alhabeeb surmises that the informant may be someone
disgruntled with his votes against budget cuts at the station.Alhabeeb
told Workers World that since arriving in the United States from Iraq in 1982 he
has never publicly aired his political views. He said conversations at ACTV were
"all internal, budgetary and administrative talk. I can't recall once that I
talked politics at ACTV." Alhabeeb initially asked that his name not be
publicized for safety reasons--he is married and has two children--but three
local newspapers used his name in articles and the UMass Amherst Daily Collegian
published his picture on the front page.Besides sitting on ACTV's board
of directors, Alhabeeb is a former executive board member of the Massachusetts
Society of Professionals -- the UMass faculty union. He is also one of a few
original Arabic calligraphers in the West. In fact, four days after he was
interviewed, the art exhibition "Islamic Art: Peace & Beauty, Islamic
Calligraphy by M.J. Alhabeeb," began a month-long run in the Augusta Savage
Gallery housed in the New Africa house where the Afro American studies
department is located People on campus first learned of the attack on
Alhabeeb the week of Nov. 10. Longtime U-Mass Sociology Professor Dan Clawson
circulated an email after Alhabeeb told him about the "interview."Calling
for a meeting on Nov. 18 to address the issue, Clawson said, "We need to
organize to stop FBI interrogation of UMass faculty (or students or staff), and
UMass cooperation with and assistance to that process."Police and FBI
investigation of those with dissenting views threatens the integrity of the
university," added Clawson. "In an all-too-typical pattern, such investigations
are targeted first at people of the 'wrong' race or ethnicity."At the
Nov. 18 meeting over 75 faculty, staff and students packed a meeting room in
Machmer Hall. They agreed to draft a statement opposing "investigations" on
campus and take other actions to expose "investigations."Alhabeeb has not
been the only one under attack. At the meeting Sri Lankan-born Yaju Dharmarajah,
an organizer with Service Employees Local 509 on campus, said his wife Pilar
Schiavo was visited at their home in Hadley, Mass., by Hadley police and an FBI
agent from UMass in September while Dharmarajah was out of town. "They wanted to
know if we were terrorists," said Dharmarajah. He said they asked Schiavo about
his activities, his membership in various groups and his political
views.By speaking out Dharmarajah showed great courage. Under the Patriot
Act he could be detained indefinitely as a foreign national. "It is very
scary to be put in that situation, especially when your husband is not a citizen
yet," Schiavo told the Daily Hampshire Gazette. In the racist and
terrorist climate fostered by the Bush administration since Sept. 11, 2002,
hundreds, if not thousands, of faculty, staff and students have been
"interviewed" by the FBI and other U.S. agencies. This is according to
information posted by the American Association of University Professors on its
website. The fight-back campaign being waged at UMass Amherst against
racist, terrorist state repression is one of many at higher-education
institutions nationwide. This movement is growing.

- END -
Reprinted from the Dec. 5, 2002, issue of Workers World newspaper
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