On the Muslim Registry

A few scattered thoughts on the Muslim Registry that’s floating around: I don’t know what form the registry would take, but I doubt it’ll be a system where you can self-report into it. It might be like trying to add your own name to the FBI Wanted list or the No Fly list. Those things are made by intelligence-gathering and police work and not by self-reporting.

If that’s the case (and the details remain to be seen) the registry can be built by metadata collection, surveillance and all of the other NSA tools the Trump administration now has at its disposal.

From what I know about those surveillance tools, here’s a couple of ideas about what to do in order to throw a civil-disobedience wrench in the works:

– Attend Friday prayer services with a cell phone in your pocket. If your car has GPS, be sure to park right outside. A regular pattern of attending Jumah services would be an indicator that a person is a Muslim. (Conversely, if your car/cell is only ever in front of a church on Sunday morning, intelligence will determine you are a Christian)

– Metadata collection is a big part of NSA surveillance. So make friends with people who are Muslim and talk to them a lot. Generate lots of metadata. If the NSA sees that I only talk to other Christians (I’m a priest), they can safely leave me off the Registry.

– Learn Arabic and use it in online communication. Not easy to do, but that will draw attention and increase your odds of being added to a Registry.

– Eat at Muslim-owned or Halal restaurants. Check in on social media and pay with cards or other electronic payments, not cash. That also creates digital records. Besides nothing builds relationships like eating together (hello, Eucharist) and it helps build cultural understanding.

So: make friends with Muslims, go to their prayer services and learn and speak the language. Just do it with technology and you’ll increase your chances of being added to a Registry. In other words, do the hard work of relationship- and community-building (solidarity) that we should be doing anyway.

My friend Andrea recommends the languages of Urdu, Bangla, Bahasa Indonesia, and Persian. Remember that most of the Muslim world is actually in South Asia.

My friend Preston recommends this article on Vox about what is presently known about the Muslim registry database.

Author: Jason

Rev. Jason Wells is the executive director of the New Hampshire Council of Churches. Prior to this position he served Episcopal congregations in New Hampshire for 13 years after his ordination in 2004. Jason is also a board member of the ACLU-NH. He is a former president of the Greater Concord Interfaith Council and has served on the Episcopal Church's committee on ecumenical and interfaith relationships. Jason received a Master of Divinity degree from Princeton Theological Seminary and also holds bachelors degrees in computer science and mathematics from Southern Methodist University.