It was on February 5, 2000, that I was rudely jolted into recognising the complexity and intensity of the politico-legal challenges faced by Muslim Americans. It was a bright and beautiful day in the city of Burlingame in Northern California. As reported later in the Washington Report of Middle East Affairs: "The [American Muslim Alliance] AMA hospitality suite at the Republican Party Conference in Burlingame attracted a number of candidates, including Senator Orrin Hatch and California Republican Party Chairman John McGraw."

Being fully cognisant of the fact that a "hospitality suite" offers the rare opportunity to talk, one-on-one, to elected officials and candidates, I engaged Senator Hatch from Utah, the moment he walked into our hospitality suite, in a lively discussion about the Secret Evidence Act of 1996, focusing on my dear friend Dr Mazen al-Najjar's case, who had been by then imprisoned for nearly three years without a trail.

How is that possible in a country like the US? You may be wondering.

Well, the answer is embedded in a clause in “The Anti-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act” of 1996, later on labelled as the "Secret Evidence" clause by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

According to the ACLU, "Secret evidence in the form of classified information often consists of nothing more than rumour and innuendo. It is often unverified and unverifiable. It has not, and cannot be, tested for reliability in cross-examination during a trial."

I saw Senator Hatch becoming fully alert and paying close attention to my name tag. Yet, I could not believe my ears when I heard him say: "Dr Saeed, Where did it happen? In Pakistan?"

I was utterly shocked to find out - after quizzing him to the best of my ability - that he really did not know about the “Secret Evidence Act”, even though it had been in effect for four years. The main reason of my palpable shock and dismay was that Senator Hatch was the Chairman of the US Senate Committee on the Judiciary at that time (and continued in that position till 2005).

Today, both Pakistan, the country of my origin, and the US, my adopted homeland, are in deep turmoil. Yet, there is one major, substantial, significant and consequential difference between the two. To paraphrase Prof Ali Mazrui, one of the most profound thinkers of this age, while Pakistan is a "pre-democratic" country that is slowly transforming itself into a fledgling democracy, the US is fast becoming a "post-democratic" country; a country that is beginning to shed the essential features of democracy, namely, habeas corpus, due process and equal justice.

The discriminatory treatment of Muslims, Christian Arabs, Sikhs and others did not begin on September 11, but only became intensified.

“The Secret Evidence” clause had already compromised civil rights for numerous Muslims and, at least one pro-Khalistan Sikh activist, named Harpal Singh.

As detailed above, my good friend Dr Mazen was kept imprisoned in the US for three and a half years without a trial. This attack on fundamental human rights was sustained by the 1999 Supreme Court decision in “ADC vs. Reno”, which stipulated that anyone who is not a citizen has no protection against selective persecution. Thus, the constitutional protection afforded to "person" was made available only to the US citizen. But since 9/11, the US has gone from secret evidence to no evidence at all and to open religious bigotry. As a consequence, dozens of Muslim American political prisoners are languishing in US prisons.

The basic crisis of civil rights today is not airport profiling, but the denial of due process and of equality before the law. The central most issue is the profiling of Muslim-Americans' thoughts, consciences, and beliefs.

To date, the heaviest blow to democracy has been dealt by a Democratic President: In December 2011, President Barack Obama had signed into law the National Defence Authorisation Act (NDAA), which allows the US military to arrest any US citizen without explanation and hold them indefinitely without trial.

It also gives the US President the power to order execution of any American citizen without trial. He has exercised that power to order the execution of three Muslim Americans. The US military has executed the order without a moment's hesitation.

The pro-imperialist intellectuals: One of the main reasons that very few people know about the suffering political prisoners in the US is the ever-expanding army of the pro-imperialist third world intellectuals. Let me conclude with one example. In January 2011, in an academic exchange with this author, Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy, whom I have known since 1973, made certain claims about Dr Aafia Siddiqui, seeking to justify her harsh treatment by the US army and courts.

Instead of arguing with him on my own, on January 27, I sent the following email to Linda Moreno, one of Dr Siddiqui 's Defence Attorneys:

Dear Ms Moreno,

Dr Hoodbhoy, a well-known Pakistani academic, claims that ‘Aafia Siddiqui, who proudly acknowledged her al-Qaeda dukhtur-e-millat [daughter of the nation] in Pakistan. Since you were one of her lawyers when she was tried and sentenced to 86 years of imprisonment by the Manhattan Federal Court, could you please help us set the record straight. Did Dr Aafia ever proudly (or even under duress) ‘acknowledge her al-Qaeda membership? Does the official transcript of the court proceedings contain any such confession in these or similar words.

I thank you in anticipation of this collegial favour.

In a few hours, I received the following email from Ms Moreno:

Dear Dr Saeed,

During her trial, Dr Siddiqui never professed membership in or support for al-Qaeda. Not once. I am not aware of Dr Siddiqui ever making any such claim whatsoever. I hope this answers your question. I hope your health is good and your family well. Take care, Linda.

Despite such clear refutation of their ludicrous (and libelous) claims, Dr Hoodbhoy has yet to offer a public apology for having given credence to CIA-supplied lies about Dr Siddiqui, and Asma Jahangir, Esq., continues to claim, totally incorrectly, that Dr Siddiqui holds dual, US and Pakistani, citizenship. Well, at least she has been forced by the ever-increasing incredulity of her media interlocutors not to repeat the more heinous lie that Dr Siddiqui is not even a Pakistani citizen.

    The writer is the CEO of the ‘AMA-Foundation’, a Washington DC-based think tank.