When Singing in Arabic Draws the Attention of the New York Joint Terrorism Task Force
Nader Haram is the vocalist in a New York punk band that is considered the first American punk band to sing in Arabic. He says that on August of last year when he left with his band for a tour across the country, he received a call from his uncle saying that agents from New York’s Joint Terrorism Task Force had come to retrieve Nader’s internet history. He had previously worked at his uncle’s computer repair shop in midtown Manhattan. Soon after that call Nader received a call from his dad saying agents had visited their home.
“The fact that this happened the day, at the time we were leaving for a tour, seemed to me to mean that they were conscious of what was happening with us at that moment and chose that time to intervene,” said the band’s drummer James Stuart. “Just the fact that it was in Arabic was enough to arouse their suspicion that Nader was doing something wrong, which he’s not. They didn’t even bother to translate the music to know that it was anti-extremist and secular and all this stuff. They just showed up at his house instead.”
About a week later, two NYPD officers knocked on Nader’s parents’ door, and then came to question Nader at his home once they learned he no longer lived there. According to Nader, they asked him questions about his life and band, showed him some materials about his band they had printed, and left. He has not been contacted since.
Nader recounts a previous encounter with authorities on September 11, 2001 when he was still a kid: “I remember I was the first one pulled out of class and the principal was there. I sat down and the D.A.R.E. officer comes up to me. ‘Where is your dad? Where is your mom right now? What do they do? Have they been abroad lately?’. Here I was, getting questioned by an officer… and also telling me that my dad was a terrorist. Meanwhile, my dad is in a first emergency response at Ground Zero and helping people out.”
He continues “I remember my mom pulled up and I got in the car. We’re driving away from the school and I remember looking back. ‘What’s happened? What’s going on?’ And she’s like, ‘Oh, there was an attack on the city. Your father is down there.’”