Short Story: Trump’s List

In 2016 the election came down to Hillary Clinton versus Donald Trump. Two months before the 2016 presidential election, there were two coordinated and major terrorist attacks in Washington DC, leaving 120 dead. The attack was boastfully claimed by the dying ISIS regime. The gravity and fear of the attack ushered in Trump’s victory, who, true to his word, displayed his militarism. He increased his bellicose rhetoric and intensified domestic security programs, made easy through weakened civil rights, a rubber stamping congress, and terrified public. Among the first of a series of laws was a domestic watch-list. Ostensibly the list was only for “people of interest”, but in practice it was targeted primarily at Muslims and to a lesser degree activists for Black Lives Matter and leftist activist groups.

Three months into his term, there was another terrorist attack, leaving 30 dead and over 100 injured. Again, ISIS claims responsibility.

And Trump plays hardball back.

Trump declares that Islam is not a religion, but a political ideology, akin to communism or anarchy. As such, it is not afforded protection under the 1st amendment. Trump orders the closure of thousands of masjids and orders that all self-affirming Muslims must officially be registered. Key Muslim figures are ” administratively detained”, ID cards are issued, free travel is restricted and stories circulate the Muslim community of forced registrations of Muslim males for “security purposes”. News sources uncritically declare official government sources as factual but few protest.

In this situation I find myself. And I refuse to register…

I am at work. I am respected, hold a senior position at my company, am well known and very openly Muslim. But a certain uneasiness has set in among my co-workers. They know me, but in their fear, subconscious indoctrination from political demagoguery and the media’s amplification, they hold me in cognitive dissonance. Is he one is us? Or is he a bad guy?

Its mid-day. I step back in after praying Zuhr for an urgent meeting. Suddenly there is a knock on my ajar office door.

“Mr. Abdullah, you have a visitor.” Its the office secretary. She pauses for a moment. “I know you are busy but I really think you should come to this. He said he’s with DHS.”

A shiver runs down my spine. “Did he say what his business was?”

“No, just that he absolutely needed to speak to you.”

A second later two suited men accompanied by four police officers come to my office. I did not invite them. “Mr. Abdullah, I’m Agent Jefferson with the Joint Terrorism Registry Task Force. We’ve been trying to get in touch with you for some time time. And we are going to speak. Right now. Tell me, are you a member of a mosque named Masjeed el-Kowran?”

He refers to a local masjid that I used to attend, before it was monitored for weeks, shutdown, and several community members I personally knew were detailed for “terrorism-related investigations”.

“Sir”, I consider my words, “I am not interested in speaking with you. I need you to leave my place of business immediately.”

He ignores my response. “Mr. Abdullah, I will just be a moment. Did you attend this political center Masjeed el-Kowran anytime since December 2016?”

“Sir, I told you. I am not interested in speaking with you. I did not give you permission to enter-”

“Mr. Abdullah, we know that you are a member of that organization. Are you aware of the National Person of Interest Registry, the NPIR? Because we attempted multiple confirmed attempts to speak you on this matter and you have intentionally failed to comply. Mr. Abdullah, do you realize that by law your affiliations require you to cooperate?”

The presence of firearms and the sternness of his voice draws in a small office crowd.

“Sir, I am-“, I slightly distance myself, “-was a member of the masjid. It is just a place of worship. It is not a political organization and I find this highly questionable that you could ask me such a thing. For the third time, I am not interested in speaking with you and ask that you immediately leave my place of business.”

There is a slight pause. The officers glance at each other. “He admits his affiliation.” Their eyes return to me. “Mr. Abdullah, you are required, let me repeat that, required to register with the NPIR. Do you understand? You must comply with this immediately. We can take care of this right now.” The agent places a six page form on my desk. “It will only take a moment. Its only a registration list, nothing more. It just takes 30 minutes to complete and your fingerprints. You are not under arrest. We just need to know who you are, how…”, he searches for the right word, “…how committed your views are. A few questions to get a feel for you.”

I page through the form, one section asks for my commonly used internet passwords. Another asks for my views on Al-Qaeda and ISIS. The last page is a sniff fingerprint card. I notice at least two typos.

“No,” I whisper to myself. “No, I am not obligated to complete this. You have no right to ask me this information.” There is timidity in my voice, as the six stern-faced officers are now circled by slightly larger audience.

“You don’t have anything to hide, do you? Or are you hiding something? We are not interested in harming you, just interested in your safety and the safety of Americans.” Implicit in this response is the denial of my American citizenship.

I hesitate, not sure what to say. What more can I say?

“Mr. Abdullah, right now, I see you as being uncooperative. We can do this the easy way or the hard way. And we are very much authorized to do this the hard way. Do you understand? You can either sit down, stop with the responses and complete this form and we can be on our merry way, or continue to be uncooperative, in which case we will have to force compliance. We have already enforced six peaceful registrations today, quick and easy. Lets make that seven. But this is your last chance, the bottom line is, you will be completing this form by today. The next words out of your mouth better be ‘Yes, Sir’ or you are being uncooperative with the law.”

My thoughts race to the stories I have heard of other forced registrations. Two officers step forward, unholster their tasers, not pointing, but ready. The two officers behind them place their hands on their shoulders.

I freeze. I look back at the paperwork. Should I complete it? What do I do? I look back up at the officers. My voice cowers, “I am not sure…that…”

“Hit him.” the agent says.

In a flash the two police fire their tasers at me. One catches just under my abdomen, second pair misses with only a single barb piercing my chest. For a moment the only audible sound are the rapid crackling electrical pulses. My entire body tenses up, I lose all motor functions, release a high-pitched scream, and collapse face-first into my desk keyboard, and then onto fall for the floor. The crackling continues. I release a moan, but I am unable to scream. Then the crackling ceases.

“Okay, I need everyone to step back. Step back!” The officers order the crowd back.

“I told you,” the Agent continues, “Didn’t I tell you? You chose to do this the hard way. Now will you complete the form.”

Though I am down, I can respond and even get up if I wanted to. But I refuse. And they know it. For another moment I lay motionless on the floor, uneaven breathing.

“Hit him again.”

The crackling continues. I scream again. Then it stops. There is a brief pause. Then again it continues for 20 seconds. By the third time he continues for 30 seconds. I am broken, the fight in me is gone. My pride wants to resist, but finds an uncooperative body.

“Okay…Okay, I’ll do what you say, ” I wisp out.

“Sit him up,” the agent orders. The two rear officers manhandle me onto the desk chair, they break my shirt button and my shirt comes partially untucked. My lower lip is swelling up, while my nose is dripping blood, my glasses have fallen off and the barbs are still in my chest. I am breathing rapidly, unable to catch my breath. I’m terrified, what next?

In the following moments, the agent begins to recite to me a series of pointed questions. They ask about my place of birth, my level of religiosity, particular self-identifications, my frequent contacts both foreign and domestic, my internet activities, which religious leaders I affiliate with, my views on with terrorist organizations I have never heard of, my donations, participation in various Islamic organizations and so on. The other officers yank out the barbs from my chest, letting a crimson red stain to peak through my dress shirt. I submit to the questioning. I itch my nose, only to smear the blood across my face. In the end, the second agent produces a fingerprint ink pad, jerks each individual finger onto the pad and spreads them across the paper. I lower my gaze and let it happen.

In the end, takes a picture of me, the hands me a pen to sign my name and initial in three places. For a brief moment I consider signing with my left hand, a final act of defiance. But what is the point? My hands are trembling, but I am able to script my name, blood smearing and black ink across the page.

“This is why you should remain cooperative, Mr. Abdullah. You have to understand what is happening to our country. You have to do your part in keeping this country safe. Thank you.”

He agent shuffles the papers in order, places them into a file. He then hands me a single-page form of standard questions and new behavioral and travel laws. He tells me a series of other demands. I hear every word, but do not comprehend the meaning. I only catch that I will receive my registration card in four weeks, which I am obligated to carry.

“Thank you for your cooperation.” and he leads the other five men out.

For moments I sit there with my arms dangling off the side of the chair, blood dripping onto my shirt, fingers caked in black ink. Co-workers walk by and stare, but try to pretend as if no scene was just presented. I am humiliated, embarrassed. I take a moment to catch my balance, retrieve my glasses, and walk out of the building, never to return.