By Anonymous

On April 12, 2012, Br. Tarek Mehanna was sentenced by a federal judge to 17.5 years in prison, and so ended another example of the injustice of our government against its own citizens. Having been able to sit in on the trial and sentencing, it became clear that Tarek was being punished merely for expressing unpopular speech and for his refusal to become a government informant.

I reiterate here what has been expressed by many others: for as long as I have known Tarek, I have known him to be kind, caring, and upstanding individual. In his sentencing hearing, he gave a powerful and moving speech which made evident that no matter the charges leveled against him, he would not compromise his beliefs. His speech was so moving that it elicited loud applause and takbirs from the hundreds of supporters in attendance (many of which were not from the Muslim community).

Tarek's statement to the court has been included below. May Allah give him and his family ease and patience during this time of trial. Ameen.

Detailed coverage of the proceedings of the trial can be found on the Free Tarek websites: freetarek.wordpress.com and www.freetarek.com

Read to Judge O'Toole during his sentencing on April 12th, 2012.

In the name of God, the most Gracious, the most Merciful,

Exactly four years ago this month I was finishing my work shift at a local hospital. As I was walking to my car I was approached by two federal agents. They said that I had a choice to make: I could do things the easy way, or I could do them the hard way. The “easy” way, as they explained, was that I would become an informant for the government, and if I did so I would never see the inside of a courtroom or a prison cell. As for the hard way, this is it. Here I am, having spent the majority of the four years since then in a solitary cell the size of a small closet, in which I am locked down for 23 hours each day. The FBI and these prosecutors worked very hard—and the government spent millions of tax dollars – to put me in that cell, keep me there, put me on trial, and finally to have me stand here before you today to be sentenced to even more time in a cell.

In the weeks leading up to this moment, many people have offered suggestions as to what I should say to you. Some said I should plead for mercy in hopes of a light sentence, while others suggested I would be hit hard either way. But what I want to do is just talk about myself for a few minutes.

When I refused to become an informant, the government responded by charging me with the “crime” of supporting the mujahideen fighting the occupation of Muslim countries around the world. Or as they like to call them, “terrorists.” I wasn't born in a Muslim country, though. I was born and raised right here in America and this angers many people: how is it that I can be an American and believe the things I believe, take the positions I take? Everything a man is exposed to in his environment becomes an ingredient that shapes his outlook, and I'm no different. So, in more ways than one, it's because of America that I am who I am.

When I was six, I began putting together a massive collection of comic books. Batman implanted a concept in my mind, introduced me to a paradigm as to how the world is set up: that there are oppressors, there are the oppressed, and there are those who step up to defend the oppressed. This resonated with me so much that throughout the rest of my childhood, I gravitated towards any book that reflected that paradigm – Uncle Tom's Cabin, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, and I even saw an ethical dimension to The Catcher in the Rye.

By the time I began high school and took a real history class, I was learning just how real that paradigm is in the world. I learned about the Native Americans and what befell them at the hands of European settlers. I learned about how the descendents of those European settlers were in turn oppressed under the tyranny of King George III. I read about Paul Revere, Tom Paine, and how Americans began an armed insurgency against British forces – an insurgency we now celebrate as the American revolutionary war. As a kid I even went on school field trips just blocks away from where we sit now. I learned about Harriet Tubman, Nat Turner, John Brown, and the fight against slavery in this country. I learned about Emma Goldman, Eugene Debs, and the struggles of the labor unions, working class, and poor. I learned about Anne Frank, the Nazis, and how they persecuted minorities and imprisoned dissidents. I learned about Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, and the civil rights struggle. I learned about Ho Chi Minh, and how the Vietnamese fought for decades to liberate themselves from one invader after another. I learned about Nelson Mandela and the fight against apartheid in South Africa. Everything I learned in those years confirmed what I was beginning to learn when I was six: that throughout history, there has been a constant struggle between the oppressed and their oppressors. With each struggle I learned about, I found myself consistently siding with the oppressed, and consistently respecting those who stepped up to defend them -regardless of nationality, regardless of religion. And I never threw my class notes away. As I stand here speaking, they are in a neat pile in my bedroom closet at home.

From all the historical figures I learned about, one stood out above the rest. I was impressed by many things about Malcolm X, but above all, I was fascinated by the idea of transformation, his transformation. I don't know if you've seen the movie “X” by Spike Lee, it's over three and a half hours long, and the Malcolm at the beginning is different from the Malcolm at the end. He starts off as an illiterate criminal, but ends up a husband, a father, a protective and eloquent leader for his people, a disciplined Muslim performing the Hajj in Mecca, and finally, a martyr. Malcolm's life taught me that Islam is not something inherited; it's not a culture or ethnicity. It's a way of life, a state of mind anyone can choose no matter where they come from or how they were raised. This led me to look deeper into Islam, and I was hooked. I was just a teenager, but Islam answered the question that the greatest scientific minds were clueless about, the question that drives the rich & famous to depression and suicide from being unable to answer: what is the purpose of life? Why do we exist in this Universe? But it also answered the question of how we're supposed to exist. And since there's no hierarchy or priesthood, I could directly and immediately begin digging into the texts of the Qur'an and the teachings of Prophet Muhammad, to begin the journey of understanding what this was all about, the implications of Islam for me as a human being, as an individual, for the people around me, for the world; and the more I learned, the more I valued Islam like a piece of gold. This was when I was a teen, but even today, despite the pressures of the last few years, I stand here before you, and everyone else in this courtroom, as a very proud Muslim.

With that, my attention turned to what was happening to other Muslims in different parts of the world. And everywhere I looked, I saw the powers that be trying to destroy what I loved. I learned what the Soviets had done to the Muslims of Afghanistan. I learned what the Serbs had done to the Muslims of Bosnia. I learned what the Russians were doing to the Muslims of Chechnya. I learned what Israel had done in Lebanon – and what it continues to do in Palestine – with the full backing of the United States. And I learned what America itself was doing to Muslims. I learned about the Gulf War, and the depleted uranium bombs that killed thousands and caused cancer rates to skyrocket across Iraq. I learned about the American-led sanctions that prevented food, medicine, and medical equipment from entering Iraq, and how – according to the United Nations – over half a million children perished as a result. I remember a clip from a '60 Minutes' interview of Madeline Albright where she expressed her view that these dead children were “worth it.” I watched on September 11th as a group of people felt driven to hijack airplanes and fly them into buildings from their outrage at the deaths of these children. I watched as America then attacked and invaded Iraq directly. I saw the effects of 'Shock & Awe' in the opening day of the invasion – the children in hospital wards with shrapnel from American missiles sticking out of their foreheads (of course, none of this was shown on CNN). I learned about the town of Haditha, where 24 Muslims – including a 76-year old man in a wheelchair, women, and even toddlers – were shot up and blown up in their bedclothes as the slept by US Marines. I learned about Abeer al-Janabi, a fourteen-year old Iraqi girl gang-raped by five American soldiers, who then shot her and her family in the head, then set fire to their corpses. I just want to point out, as you can see, Muslim women don't even show their hair to unrelated men. So try to imagine this young girl from a conservative village with her dress torn off, being sexually assaulted by not one, not two, not three, not four, but five soldiers. Even today, as I sit in my jail cell, I read about the drone strikes which continue to kill Muslims daily in places like Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen. Just last month, we all heard about the seventeen Afghan Muslims – mostly mothers and their kids – shot to death by an American soldier, who also set fire to their corpses. These are just the stories that make it to the headlines, but one of the first concepts I learned in Islam is that of loyalty, of brotherhood – that each Muslim woman is my sister, each man is my brother, and together, we are one large body who must protect each other. In other words, I couldn't see these things beings done to my brothers & sisters – including by America – and remain neutral. My sympathy for the oppressed continued, but was now more personal, as was my respect for those defending them.

I mentioned Paul Revere – when he went on his midnight ride, it was for the purpose of warning the people that the British were marching to Lexington to arrest Sam Adams and John Hancock, then on to Concord to confiscate the weapons stored there by the Minuteman. By the time they got to Concord, they found the Minuteman waiting for them, weapons in hand. They fired at the British, fought them, and beat them. From that battle came the American Revolution. There's an Arabic word to describe what those Minutemen did that day. That word is: JIHAD, and this is what my trial was about. All those videos and translations and childish bickering over 'Oh, he translated this paragraph' and 'Oh, he edited that sentence,' and all those exhibits revolved around a single issue: Muslims who were defending themselves against American soldiers doing to them exactly what the British did to America. It was made crystal clear at trial that I never, ever plotted to “kill Americans” at shopping malls or whatever the story was. The government's own witnesses contradicted this claim, and we put expert after expert up on that stand, who spent hours dissecting my every written word, who explained my beliefs. Further, when I was free, the government sent an undercover agent to prod me into one of their little “terror plots,” but I refused to participate. Mysteriously, however, the jury never heard this.

So, this trial was not about my position on Muslims killing American civilians. It was about my position on Americans killing Muslim civilians, which is that Muslims should defend their lands from foreign invaders – Soviets, Americans, or Martians. This is what I believe. It's what I've always believed, and what I will always believe. This is not terrorism, and it's not extremism. it's the simple logic of self-defense. It's what the arrows on that seal above your head represent: defense of the homeland. So, I disagree with my lawyers when they say that you don't have to agree with my beliefs – no. Anyone with commonsense and humanity has no choice but to agree with me. If someone breaks into your home to rob you and harm your family, logic dictates that you do whatever it takes to expel that invader from your home. But when that home is a Muslim land, and that invader is the US military, for some reason the standards suddenly change. Common sense is renamed “terrorism” and the people defending themselves against those who come to kill them from across the ocean become “the terrorists” who are “killing Americans.” The mentality that America was victimized with when British soldiers walked these streets 2 ½ centuries ago is the same mentality Muslims are victimized by as American soldiers walk their streets today. It's the mentality of colonialism. When Sgt. Bales shot those Afghans to death last month, all of the focus in the media was on him—his life, his stress, his PTSD, the mortgage on his home—as if he was the victim. Very little sympathy was expressed for the people he actually killed, as if they're not real, they're not humans. Unfortunately, this mentality trickles down to everyone in society, whether or not they realize it. Even with my lawyers, it took nearly two years of discussing, explaining, and clarifying before they were finally able to think outside the box and at least ostensibly accept the logic in what I was saying. Two years! If it took that long for people so intelligent, whose job it is to defend me, to de-program themselves, then to throw me in front of a randomly selected jury under the premise that they're my “impartial peers,” I mean, come on. I wasn't tried before a jury of my peers because with the mentality gripping America today, I have no peers. Counting on this fact, the government prosecuted me – not because they needed to, but simply because they could.

I learned one more thing in history class: America has historically supported the most unjust policies against its minorities – practices that were even protected by the law – only to look back later and ask: 'what were we thinking?' Slavery, Jim Crow, the internment of the Japanese during World War II – each was widely accepted by American society, each was defended by the Supreme Court. But as time passed and America changed, both people and courts looked back and asked 'What were we thinking?' Nelson Mandela was considered a terrorist by the South African government, and given a life sentence. But time passed, the world changed, they realized how oppressive their policies were, that it was not he who was the terrorist, and they released him from prison. He even became president. So, everything is subjective – even this whole business of “terrorism” and who is a “terrorist.” It all depends on the time and place and who the superpower happens to be at the moment.

In your eyes, I'm a terrorist, I'm the only one standing here in an orange jumpsuit and it's perfectly reasonable that I be standing here in an orange jumpsuit. But one day, America will change and people will recognize this day for what it is. They will look at how hundreds of thousands of Muslims were killed and maimed by the US military in foreign countries, yet somehow I'm the one going to prison for “conspiring to kill and maim” in those countries – because I support the Mujahidin defending those people. They will look back on how the government spent millions of dollars to imprison me as a “terrorist,” yet if we were to somehow bring Abeer al-Janabi back to life in the moment she was being gang-raped by your soldiers, to put her on that witness stand and ask her who the “terrorists” are, she sure wouldn't be pointing at me.

The government says that I was obsessed with violence, obsessed with “killing Americans.” But, as a Muslim living in these times, I can think of a lie no more ironic.

-Tarek Mehanna

4/12/12

24 Responses

  1. Iqbal Razzak

    Moving statement. May Allah have mercy on the brother and help all those oppressed throughout the world!

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  2. Abdu al Azizu abna Salihu

    Lost for words, that was a golden speech. By the Deity’s will, he will come out of that sentence healthier and stronger.

    May the Deity shower, His mercy and benevolence upon the family while his absence last as, it is just for a while.

    They plot and He plots but His is always the better.

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  3. Zamzam114

    SubhanAllah! I am proud of you brother Tarek Mehanna.  I am sure Allah SWT will compensate you.

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  4. Unbelievable

    inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi rajioon
    inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi rajioon
    inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi rajioon
    inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi rajioon
    inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi rajioon
    inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi rajioon
    inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi rajioon
    inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi rajioon
    inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi rajioon
    inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi rajioon
    inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi rajioon
    inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi rajioon
    inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi rajioon
    inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi rajioon
    inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi rajioon

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  5. amatullah

    La ilaaha ilallaah!
    May Allah subhanahu wa ta’alaa keep our brother Tarek and other brothers and sisters who are suffering at the hands of the oppressors strong on His Deen.Look at Syria and the “peace talks”. Seems like animals are better when it comes to supporting and helping out their own species.All these oppressors, really just matter of a little while and they’ll be bought to Justice by Allah jalla jalaaluhu, inshAllaah.fa inna ma’al ‘usri yusra, inna ma’al ‘usri yusra!Verily after hardship comes ease, after hardship comes ease! Surah Duha

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  6. Kamran

    Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi rajiun…May Allah make it easy for our brother. What a powerful statement. 

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  7. Jubaid Choudhury

    AMAZING AND MOVING SPEECH! May Allah(swt) grant him and his family patience in these difficult times. 

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  8. Sadaf

    بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَـنِ الرَّحِيمِ 

    Allah can do anything to help His slaves. Tarek is being tested – insha’Allah, I hope that the severity of his test is an indication of Allah’s pleasure with him. May he pass this test with flying colors. Ameen! His speech amazed me in that it is truly incredible how such powerful and well-thought-out words could have been penned by someone who has been in solitary confinement for years. Subhan Allah!

    His sanity and eloquence after being locked up alone for so long is indeed a sign of Allah. 

    We should keep praying for relief and ease for him, knowing and believing with full conviction that Tarek can be freed when and if Allah wants, no matter how long his official “sentence” and no matter what verdict dished out by the human judge and jury in his case. 

    Lastly, we all should remember how many of our pious predecessors were imprisoned by oppressive regimes of their eras for no crime except standing up for truth and justice.

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  9. Tariq Nisar Ahmed

    One lesson that every person must take away from the investigation, prosecution, and conviction of Tarek Mehanna is that NO ONE should talk to an FBI agent without having their own attorney with them, and only if their attorney agrees that talking to the FBI is necessary. That applies to any agent of any similar law enforcement agency.
    Laa hawla wa laa quwwata illa billah. The record shows that for whatever reason Tarek lied to agents, and at some point he admitted that mistake. But any lie that a jury finds out about will destroy an accused’s credibility.

    If Tarek had not met with the agents alone, he might never have been asked a question that shaytaan could convince him to lie about. Why? Because a lawyer finds out in advance what the interview will be about. And if the agents do not want to say, then no interview takes place, period. And if the agents agree to the scope of the interview, then there will be no blind-sides, no question so drastically unexpected and shocking that it might provoke a lie. And if the lawyer sees his client is distressed by a question, he can intervene.

    But no lawyer means no help.

    And why do any of us need help?

    Because especially since 9/11 agents are treating every Muslim as a suspect. That’s why they go knocking on our doors when no crime has taken place, because for them being Muslim is enough for suspicion.

    That’s why covert ops are run against houses of worship, schools, and ordinary citizens and residents — undercover agents infiltrating masajid, college MSAs, and trying to turn ordinary Muslims into the next Tarek Mehanna or Barry Bujols.

    The treatment of Muslims by the FBI and law enforcement is not decent, and it should shame every American. But until it stops, every Muslim should know how to contact his or local office of CAIR, the ACLU, or the Muslim Civil Liberties Union (right now in Texas only, http://www.MuslimCLU.org 281-213-2010).

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  10. Aziza

    That was absolutely beautiful and every word was all too true. Sometimes you just want to scream things like this at people, just to make them finally get it.
    May Allah give him and his family strength through this difficult time. Indeed He is with the patient ones.

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  11. Ahmed Sorour

    As Dr. Mehanna’s friend, who was privileged enough to witness the trial, and visit him in detention during this ordeal, I’d like to thank MuslimMatters for the sentiment which was expressed in this brief article. Indeed, the Islaam of those after the opening of Mecca is not like the Islaam of those before, and in both there is good.

    The entire point of this trial was to make an example of Dr. Mehanna, and dissuade others from expressing their critical beliefs. In the spirit of free speech, which many recognize as the crux of the trial, it would be a kind gesture to allow some degree of liberty & criticism in the comments section, if only for this article. I think we can all agree, that this is something Dr. Mehanna (Abu Sabaya) would have appreciated, and Allah {AWJ} knows best.

    May Allah {AWJ} grant him patience, and an exalted release. May Allah {AWJ} unite our hearts upon that which he loves and is pleased with.

    Regards,

    Ahmed Ibrahim Sorour

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    • siraaj

      Salaam alaykum Ahmed,

      Jzk for your response, and I’m one of those who enjoys reading a strong discussion where critical opinions are shared.  As I mentioned in the edit of a previous comment in this post, we do want to limit this to the case itself, and the verdict, and its implications.  If you’ll look above, we’ve also left remarks which are critical of Tarek Mehanna’s alleged activities related to the case.

      On the other hand, ad hominem attacks, namecalling, intention-guessing, and unrelated tangents are being removed from this discussion, and if ever in the future you find this happening in a discussion, or even an article from an author, we would welcome you pointing it out via info@muslimmatters.org so that we can look at it and respond.

      May Allah reward you for your well-written and politely-worded comment, and also for not being a fairweather friend, and ameen to your du’aas.

      Siraaj

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  12. Tawlib

    Asssalamualaikum wr wb
    Can we have a full apology for brother tarek from MM?
    Are we asking too much?

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  13. Trsedwards

    What this man, and any other citizen, immigrant, and potential future immigrant to america needs to consider is that the united states of america Officially and literally became a police state under the Reagan-Bush regime (and that we are still in that reign currently) When a string if law packages became effective from Mandatory Minimum Sentences, to the Anti-Conspiracy act. You can now be charged for crimes that never happened (yet) and for even talking about acts that you have no possibility of actually performing. your words can be legally misconstrued in court and it will stick. your intentions Can be put into jail on circumstantial evidence and here-say. The writer of this very well worded and heart felt piece states:

     “If someone breaks into your home to rob you and harm your family, logic dictates that you do whatever it takes to expel that invader from your home.”

    that is not always the case in the united states of today, in todays america you Can, and probably Will, be charged with murder if you shoot a home invader to death. He also states his fascination with BatMan; one of the all time best american icons ever created. What he does not realize is that even while we feed the world Super Heroes of every variety, we also say every day and in every way, Do Not act like this, it is unacceptable, it is what the police are for, it is what the military is for. That is the american message to the world, there IS authority and it is US, We will protect you even if we have to kill every last person on the planet to do it.

    This is not the America we learned about in history books. People need to realize that before they come here, or if they are here, before they open their mouths, type, write, or paint on the walls. Your words, any and all of them, will be held unscrupulously, and with extreme prejudice, accountable, and if it is desired that you should shut up, you will be made to shut up. This is Not the land of the free that the textbooks of bumpersticker platitudes reads us to be, This is america; land of “hurry up and wait” “Sit down and Shut up”, and “Big Brother is Watching you” 

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  14. Khansaa_mx

    Is this the brother yasir qadhi wrote against warning a few years ago?

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  15. L

    qulil haqqa walaw kaana murran. Hopefully what happens on Br. Tarek triggers more ‘Tarek’s to be born ensha Allah

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  16. Invictus Corruptus

    As an American citizen it sickens me to see what my country and its citizens have become. It sickens me to see how our soldiers are used to slaughter millions of innocent lives overseas and around the globe. It sickens me as to how much many of my fellow Americans have been brainwashed over the years to worship the military and Mammon.

    A response I hear a lot in my country is why Muslim citizens in their communities here in America and abroad don’t stand up to or denounce Islamic terrorists? I must ask the very same question to my fellow Americans. Why don’t we stand up to our broken and corrupt political and economic/financial systems. Why don’t we as a nation stand up to hate, racism and intolerance in our own country?

    When a Christian leader preaches hate towards others we remain silent. When a political leader or political pundit blatantly lies he or she is held unaccountable. Our society is in a downward death spiral and the future of America looks bleak. Perhaps this is a good thing for the rest of the world, I don’t know?

    America and the rest of the world governments have been slowly taken over by multinational corporations and global elitists. Corporations, a man made, artificial entity now has as many or more freedoms, rights and protections then a real human being. If this isn’t evil I don’t know what is?

    I personally am appalled by the actions of my government and our military. Our leaders claim we are spreading democracy around the globe in reality we are spreading capitalism, death, pain, misery and sorrow, all for the multinational corporations and the global elites to amass more profits for themselves and their cronies.

    I truly apologize to the Muslim world for what America and the Western world has done to you over the decades. One only needs to know the history of Iran in the 1950’s to know what America is all about. Stay strong Tarek!

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