After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, then Attorney General John Ashcroft ordered the FBI to detain anyone who may have been in contact with the men who were involved in hijacking three planes and crashing them in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania and killing more than 2,700 people.

Agents arrested close to 5,000 Arab and Muslim men, about 800 of whom were charged with violations of U.S. immigration laws. Most of the men were eventually released or deported. However, five years after his arrest, Ali Partovi still sits in an Arizona detention center.

The story of these men is told in “Persons of Interest,” a 2004 documentary by Alison Maclean and Tobias Perse that features interviews with the detainees and their families. Portions of the film will be shown tonight at Ragtag Cinemacafe, as part of a presentation by Gulten Ilhan, a professor of philosophy at St. Louis Community College at Meramec and an expert on Islam and interfaith relationships.

“Targeting Muslim Rights: Private Provocation and Public Action” will focus on the civil rights of Muslims in America since Sept. 11, and how the media, religious leaders, politicians and others portray people of Islamic faith in the U.S.

“This is about public education,” said Ilhan, who is the vice president of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in St. Louis. “Because I look at myself as the new Jew, the new Black, or the new Japanese. There is still a lot of racial profiling and many people are suffering because of their religious beliefs.”


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