The world started to make sense to Zac Reed when he accepted a new religion into his life. As he describes his story in the new book of oral histories titled Patriot Acts, assembled by Alia Malek, Reed’s conversion to Islam erased everything he had done for his country. He’d served in the military, volunteered for Desert Storm as part of the National Guard, and worked as a firefighter. But his life of service didn’t protect him from being detained and interrogated as part of the religious profiling that took place in the United States after 9/11. The U.S. government ignored his protests and stripped him of his constitutional rights. His detention on the U.S.-Canada border without any charge was an intolerable injustice.
“How can I pledge allegiance to the flag?” he asks. “Why do I want to be in a country that clearly doesn’t want me, clearly doesn’t appreciate the service that I’ve put in toward it, what’s the point of me being here?”
Patriot Acts begins with the story of a Japanese man who was a victim of the internment camps set up in the United States after the attack on Pearl Harbor. He talks about the discrimination and racial profiling that he faced during this time. Unfortunately, little has changed since then, though now it is Muslims, not Japanese, who suffer the discrimination.
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Alia Malek’s book highlights 18 stories of sometimes unbelievable injustice. These true narratives are very important and significant in revealing how our security system operates and how the government deals with cases that supposedly involve some type of terrorism. Malek wanted to expose us to the other side of the story, the stories of the victims of 9/11 that no one knows about.
Take the case of Nick George. An American student passionate about learning Arabic, he traveled to the Middle East to study the language and the culture. One day, after 9/11, airport authorities detained him as he was traveling from Philadelphia to California. The authorities thought Nick “kind of looked suspicious.” His only “crime” was that he was carrying flash cards in his pocket with Arabic on one side and English on the other side. What do Americans have to do so as not to look or act suspicious?
By giving voice to those whose civil liberties have been abridged after 9/11, Patriot Acts gives a much fuller picture of the consequences of U.S. counter-terrorism policies at home.