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“Injudicious and Malicious” Judge Mukasey : An Attorney General Nightmare For Muslims?

Cross-posted (slightly modified version) on Dailykos.com and Streetprophets.com

When I first heard of Mukasey's name being waved around for attorney general, I did the obvious: I googled him… and lo and behold, came across his op-ed piece in the WS Journal, which I found quite disconcerting, wherein he states:

Instead, when it is examined closely, this case [Jose Padilla's case] shows why current institutions and statutes are not well suited to even the limited task of supplementing what became, after Sept. 11, 2001, principally a military effort to combat Islamic terrorism.

Furthermore, Mukasey bemoans how providing a trial to people in American courts helps the terrorists!

In fact, terrorism prosecutions in this country have unintentionally provided terrorists with a rich source of intelligence.

Isn't this statement remarkably similar to Bush's position on “enemy combatants” and the Guantanamo nightmare? I would venture to say that Mukasey would rather have these prisoners thrown into jail forever without recourse to lawyer or trial because the latter both will provide “terrorists with a rich source of intelligence”. In other words, keep everything secret, esp. all the evidence garnered from those people who have reason to be biased (such as the “secret” evidence from Israeli security agency on Holy Land Foundation that supported Palestinian people)

Reading this article in the NY Times makes me even more queasy. Because the current stage of affairs in America correspond to McCarthyism for Muslims (ask any Muslim and he will agree) in both perception and reality, we Muslims are deeply concerned about civil rights for obvious reasons.

It was Oct. 2, 2001, and the prisoner, Osama Awadallah, then a college student in San Diego with no criminal record, was one of dozens of Arab men detained around the country in the days after the Sept. 11 attacks as potential witnesses in the terrorism investigation.

I shudder to think whether the way that Mukasey dealt with the hapless student Awadallah is any indicator of how he would deal with the Muslims in America and the perceived “Islamic threat” on the homefront. The problem is that the Muslims still are a politically weak entity and that all you need to do is to throw a video of bin Laden in the courtroom to convict any Muslim on the street with the remotest signs of extremism, sometimes reaching to the level of thought-policing.

Note that Brother Osama Awadallah (I wonder how much his first name had to do with the injustice he faced), the student victim, had no record, and was not held for direct “terrorism links” but rather as a “witness”. Br. Awadallah was locked up indefinitely until finally October 2006, nearly FIVE years after Mukasey put him in the hole, and basically refused to give him a fair hearing. Br. Awadallah was eventually acquitted of all charges. But, who will give our brother 5 years of his prime youth back? Mr. Mukasey?

Mukasey furthermore ignored the bruises on Awadallah's body that his lawyer showed to him, instead saying that “he looks fine to me”. When did Mukasey become a doctor? Shouldn't he have halted proceedings and asked for a professional examination of Br. Awadullah?

Randy Hamud, the San Diego lawyer who represented Mr. Awadallah in the courtroom on that first hearing in October 2001, said he was startled by how “injudicious and malicious” Judge Mukasey had been toward his client.

Continue reading the NY Times article, paying attention to the exchange between Judge Mukasey and Awadallah's attorney, Randy Hamud. Consider the despite and dismissive attitude that Mukasey displays in dealing with an attorney whose client is not only physically abused during his detention (allegedly), but is to be held up indefinitely in jail. I ask all fair-minded people… if you were in Awadallah's shoes, would you not deserve and demand your right for fairness and careful introspection by the judge in your case?

The transcript shows that Mr. Hamud, who had no background in criminal law, told the judge that he needed the help of an experienced New York criminal defense lawyer like Mr. Jabara.

Besides the complete disregard for Hamud's client, Mukasey prevented the due process of law by denying Awadallah to seek the attorney (Mr. Jabara) of his choice, on the pretext of some strange “conflict of interest”. Why did this young brother, Awadallah, have his rights taken away from seeking the best representation possible?

Jesse Berman, a New York lawyer who joined Mr. Awadallah's defense team after the Oct. 2 hearing and provided The Times with the transcript, said that there was no excuse for Judge Mukasey's performance at the hearing, even in the chaotic weeks after 9/11, when there was fear of another terrorist attack.

In conclusion, what I found interesting is that the Democrats are joining this bandwagon as if Bush has given them a gift. Mukasey is no different from any others in Bush's cabinet. He does have the support of the Israel Lobby, which whether one likes it or not, has widespread support on both sides of the aisle and certainly has influence in this process. But I am not willing to give the Lobby all the credit.

I find it disheartening that had this case of clear disregard for the civil rights of a human being (referring to the Awadallah case) had been applied in any other case, be it against African-Americans, against Jews or any other race, religion or color, the Democrats and its liberal ideology would never let this Judge pass muster. But it seems that all is fair in love and war against Muslim liberties.

This story is not just important for Muslims, though it is especially important for Muslims. As Americans, we will start to lose the fabric of this nation… Dare I say that this nation will start to crumble when we give up the rights of one person for the benefit or the consent of the majority. What makes our nation great is that even if there is one person who has an opinion that contradicts every other American's, his right to that opinion is preserved. And his right to an attorney will be preserved. And his right to be an American, equal to all Americans, will be preserved.

Today if Americans give up on Muslims, tomorrow we will give up on what makes America, America.

About Amad

Amad Shaikh is one of the founders of MuslimMatters, Inc. His identity is shaped by his religion (Islam), place of birth (Pakistan), and nationality (American). By education, he is a ChemE, topped off with an MBA from the Wharton. He was one of the founders of the TDC, and in what seems like a distant memory, he served as the President of U. Houston's MSA. His interests include politics, cricket, and media interactions. Career-wise, Amad is in management in the oil & gas industry (but one who still appreciates the "green revolution").


  1. Its amazing how far Muslims are behind in the political process of America. If Mukasey was anything else: anti-Israel, anti-homosexuality, anti-peanuts… there would be an outcry from the lobbies of those he was anti. But I haven’t heard much from the Muslims on a man who seems obviously prejudiced and biased against Muslims… the point of being spiteful.

    Is no one else concerned?

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  2. yes but what can we do…. is a common Muslim reaction..

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  3. For one, you could make notes out of this post or make up your own notes and email them to your representative, esp. your Senator. That isn’t too hard, is it?

    Secondly, you can spread the word on this issue in whatever channel possible.

    I posted this on dailykos.com and streetprophets.com. Doesn’t preclude more people from doing the same.

    Where there’s a will, there’s a way :)

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  4. I think more than just isolated letters of protest there needs to be greater support of those who undertake this work in an organized and productive (inshaAllah) manner. Im talking about groups such as CAIR, whose membership and funds unfortunately are declining in recent years. And of course as you say raising awareness is essential, as the political ignorance amongst the Muslims is much more disheartening than the political inaction.

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  5. salam akhi Omer, I agree more needs to be done. But let’s start with what you and I, as individuals can do. Spread the word and email our Reps. That’s what I did, send the essence of this post to my State’s senators.

    You can find your senator’s name by following this link:

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  6. i think though the general reaction (even from progressives) has been he’s better than Gonzales . . in the sense that better a “independent judge” than a bush crony (gonzales).

    i’m not saying its right. but that might be why there’s silence on the issue.

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  7. hi, andar here, i just read your post. i like very much. agree to you, sir.

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