'What Happened Here Is Not Right': Religion, Civil Liberties and Cultures of Surveillance Since 9/11

This event last occurred Dec. 9, 2021

Adama was a 16-year-old immigrant from Guinea in 2005 when police officers and federal agents rushed into her family’s apartment in Harlem and arrested her. She was sent to a maximum-security juvenile detention center in Pennsylvania, where she was strip-searched. Adama was released six weeks later, on the condition that she agree to continual monitoring which involved forcing her to wear an ankle bracelet for three years, as she completed high school. All of this occurred because the U.S. government suspected her of being a suicide bomber, even though no evidence was ever presented supporting this claim and no terrorism charges were ever brought against her. Adama told us, quite simply, “What’s happening here is not right.”

Adama’s story reflects those of thousands of others, who were targeted and surveilled, detained and sometimes deported because they were Muslim or perceived to be Muslim. Yet, government officials who helped implement such policies believed they were doing what was necessary to protect their country. In this event, we will interrogate this disconnect, and look at how the experiences of Muslim Americans during our country’s “war on terror” are a reminder of the fragility of our democracy. 

  • How were Muslims and other minority communities targeted after 9/11? How were their lives transformed by their experiences, and how do they perceive their relationship to the U.S. now?  
  • How do government officials remember the post-9/11 years, and how do they view these counterterrorism policies 20 years later? Have their lives been transformed by these experiences, and how do they perceive their relationship to the counterterrorism policies now? 
  • Is it possible to see beyond religion, ethnicity or race to other variables that might be better predictors of extremist violence? What might such policies look like if we listened to the voices of those who have been targeted?
  • Is there still a place for civil liberties in a country that continues to perceive threats domestically? 

Please join our panel of experts in addressing these and other questions.


Rozina Ali is a contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine, a fellow at Type Media and part of an ASU research team investigating the lived experience of post-9/11 mass detention and surveillance. Her reporting and essays on the Middle East, the war on terror and Islamophobia in the United States have appeared in The New Yorker, Foreign Affairs, The Nation, the Guardian, New York Times, Al Jazeera America, Foreign Policy and others. She was on the editorial staff of The New Yorker from 2015-2019, served as a senior editor at the Cairo Review of Global Affairs and a deputy editor for The Economist. 

Anand Gopal is a sociologist, journalist and assistant research professor with the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict and Center on the Future of War at ASU. His reporting on democratic movements, political violence and the human costs of war in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic, the Wall Street Journal and elsewhere. His book, “No Good Men Among the Living: America, the Taliban, and the War Through Afghan Eyes,” won the Ridenhour Book Prize, and was a finalist for the Pulitzer and National Book Award.

Daniel Rothenberg is an anthropologist and co-director of the Center on the Future of War and professor of practice in the School of Politics and Global Studies at ASU. An expert on international human rights and political violence, he has overseen rule of law and human rights projects in Afghanistan, Iraq, Central Africa and Latin America, including programs to train human rights NGOs, aid indigenous peoples, support gender justice and collect first-person narratives from victims of atrocities. His books include Memory of Silence: The Guatemalan Truth Commission Report” and “Drone Wars: Transforming Conflict, Law, and Policy”.


Janet Reitman, ASU Future Security Fellow, is a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine, covering extremism, youth, and national security. Her current book project, tentatively titled "The Unraveling of Everything," focuses on the demoralization of post-9/11 America, particularly the country's increasingly violent and extremist drift from the 1990s to the current day. Reitman has twice been a finalist for the National Magazine Award, and her first book, "Inside Scientology: The Story of America's Most Secretive Religion" (2011), was a national bestseller and New York Times Notable Book.

This event is co-sponsored by the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict, the Institute for Humanities Research and the Center on the Future of War. The event is based on pilot research being conducted as part of a seed grant from the Institute for Humanities Research for the project, “What Happened Here is Not Right”: A Critical Oral History of Post-9/11 Detention and Surveillance.”

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For more information contact:

Ashley Wilkins
Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict
480-965-7187 https://csrc.asu.edu