Muslim men detained after 9/11 in NY, NJ want amends, justice, reforms

Umair Anser came home from middle school on Oct. 3, 2001, and found his house in Bayonne torn apart after some 20 federal agents had swept in to question his parents.

His father, Anser Mehmood, was one of 1,200 Muslim men detained in the anxious weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks. The Pakistani immigrant believed he would return home after the agents cleared him of any link to terrorism.

Instead, he was held at a maximum-security federal detention center in Brooklyn for seven months — four of them in solitary confinement — before his transfer to the Passaic County Jail in Paterson and eventual deportation. When his family was able to visit, they were shocked.

“He was in chains,” Anser, now 33, said of his father. “He was treated like a terrorist, and he was confused because he didn’t know what was going on.” 

Anser Mehmood is pictured during a visit to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida 1998. Mehmood, a Bayonne homeowner, was among Muslim men detained after 9/11.

The sweeping arrests did not lead to any terrorism convictions but did succeed in striking fear within Arab, South Asian and Muslim communities in the United States. In some cases, families did not know where their loved ones were for weeks. Some detainees were subjected to solitary confinement and reported abuse in jail. Their detentions upended lives and careers and left families without income.