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Rights group warns US Muslims against using apps targeted by military

The Council on American-Islamic Relations is urging US Muslims to avoid using targeted apps [Getty]

Date of publication: 17 November, 2020

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The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) called for a public inquiry into the allegations made by online magazine Motherboard on the warrantless surveillance of Muslim Americans.
The largest rights group for American-Muslims condemned reports that the US military was buying-up personal data from several smartphone applications popular within the Muslim community, urging people to avoid using the targeted apps.

In a statement on Tuesday, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) called for a public inquiry into the allegations made by online magazine Motherboard - a media platform within Vice Media - on the warrantless surveillance of Muslim Americans.

"We call upon Congress to conduct a thorough public inquiry into the government's use of personal data to target the Muslim community here and abroad, including whether this data was used to illegally spy upon target Muslim Americans," CAIR's executive director Nihad Awad said.

"We also encourage Muslim Americans to stop using these applications unless and until the companies thoroughly explain and fully end use of their data by government agencies."

The group's deputy director Edward Ahmed Mitchell also addressed the issue. 

"For years, many Muslim Americans have experienced spying, profiling and other forms of government discrimination here at home, while far too many Muslim civilians overseas have been killed in drone strikes and other disastrous military operations," he said.

"The notion that our government might be using popular religious applications to engage in such conduct simply adds insult to injury. All of it must end. Now."

According to Motherboard, US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), a branch of the military, responsible for "counterterrorism, counterinsurgency, and special reconnaissance" gained access to movement data of Muslims using the apps to assist on overseas special forces operations.

A USSOCOM spokesperson, confirmed the purchase of Muslim app location data and added that: "Our access to the software is used to support Special Operations Forces mission requirements overseas.

"We strictly adhere to established procedures and policies for protecting the privacy, civil liberties, constitutional and legal rights of American citizens."

Usually, US government would need a warrant to obtain such data, if it was not available for purchase.

We encourage Muslim Americans to stop using these applications unless and until the companies thoroughly explain and fully end use of their data by government agencies
Nihad Awad, CAIR's executive director

Muslim Pro 

Among the apps targetted are the popular Muslim prayer app Muslim Pro and Muslim dating app Muslim Mingle.

Muslim Pro, dubbed the "most popular Muslim app in the world", has been downloaded at least 95 million times in 200 countries, according to its site.

It sends daily reminders for prayer times and allows users to find the direction to Mecca for prayers.

According to Motherboard, Muslim Pro had sold its user data to location data collecting platform X-Mode, which then sold it to third-party contractors who subsequently gave it to the US military.

The head of community at Muslim Pro Zahariah Jupary dismissed Motherboard's report as "incorrect and untrue", in comments to MEE.

Jupary said that nonetheless the app was severing all ties with X-Mode.

"We are immediately terminating our relationships with our data partners - including with X-Mode, which started four weeks ago," Jupary told MEE.

"We will continue to take all necessary measures to ensure that our users practise their faith with peace of mind, which remains Muslim Pro's sole mission since its creation."

Following the Motherboard story, thousands of users took to social media platforms to condemn Muslim Pro, with some deleting the app in protest and promoting alternatives.


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