Datafying Islamophobia in Catalonia

Entire Muslim communities are targeted and surveilled by an expanding “preventive” sociotechnical system

By Aitor Jiménez (University of Melbourne/ ARC Centre of Excellence for Automated Decision-Making and Society) and Ainhoa Nadia Douhaibi (Universitat Oberta de Catalunya)

After more than 30 years of living in Catalonia, Mohamed Said Badaoui — who is married to a Spanish citizen and the father of three children, all born in the country — decided to apply for citizenship. Not only did the authorities deny his request, they ordered Badaoui’s expulsion from the country under the article 54 of the Spanish Immigration law. They alleged that he was “radicalized,” and that his case was a matter of national security. Badaoui had no criminal record, nor previous contact with law enforcement agencies; instead, the police report backing up the expulsion procedure was filled with data referring to his activist and religious life. A quick look at the police record shows what reliable data indicating radicalization means for police agencies: a handful of poorly interpreted Facebook posts, contact with anti-Islamophobic activists, strong ties with local Muslim association, and the respect and recognition of the Muslim community. What in any other case would have been indicators of the natural exercise of civil and political freedoms — things like attending meetings and engaging with community members — instead triggered a life-threatening deportation order. How did this come to happen?

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