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Aafia Siddiqui’s story… Farfetched? Not according to a declassified DoD Inspector General’s report

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Link to Full Coverage of Dr. Aafia’s Ordeal

“Why do they hate us?” This simple, yet loaded five word question has literally outperformed the thousands of answers that have been put forth. This is because comprehensive responses are rarely as powerful as a simple question. Aafia Siddiqui’s case suffers from the very same dynamic; it is complex, it is detailed and it raises disturbing issues that reach far and wide.

Consider the following claims against the U.S. and allied/contracted forces:

1)      Abduction of a mother and her three children with the children used for extortion

2)      Long term captivity in secret prisons

3)      Rape, torture, mental and physical abuse

4)      Use of elaborate disorientation and false flag techniques

This laundry list is definitely sensational enough for a kneejerk rejection from the average American patriot. However, what are we to think when these very same allegations are listed in a recently declassified Department of Defense’s Inspector General’s report entitled Review of DoD-Directed Investigations of Detainee Abuse[i]?

There are other serious questions surround this impending trial:

  1. Why is she considered such a high profile suspect when the charges against her are not related to terrorism[ii]?
  2. What caused the interest in Siddiqui in the first place?
  3. How long has she been in custody?
  4. Where have her children been all this time?
  5. Who was responsible for them?
  6. Did we outsource her and her children’s detention and interrogation to other nations?

Despite all these issues, there is one central theme in Siddiqui’s ordeal. It holds true regardless of ones status as a supporter or detractor.  As an American, the one inescapable question is: how we, the U.S., treated and continue to treat her.

How Dr. Aafia Siddiqui was and will be treated matters

Why? The reasons are plentiful, but let us examine one of our more important relationships: Pakistan, a strategically vital U.S. ally. Pakistan is a nation that seems to continuously suffer from regime changes, political assassinations and other stability issues; these are conditions conducive to the widespread popular support that Aafia Siddiqui is receiving.

Siddiqui has been transformed from a “U.S. person of interest,” into a galvanizing symbol of the Pakistani people. Her growing status as a focal point of that nation’s pride and desire for true sovereignty is evident. The streets are regularly flooded with pro-Aafia rallies and demonstrations that on occasion number in the tens of thousands. Popular singers, poets and artists continue to release tributes to Siddiqui as their chosen symbol for all of Pakistan’s missing persons and other popular, pro-Pakistani sentiments. Siddiqui’s story serves as a common rallying point for both Pakistan’s secular and religious as well as for their conservatives and their liberals. Aafia Siddiqui’s case has even overcome bitter rivalries between Pakistan’s competing political movements.

Siddiqui’s status is growing in influence, even transcending Pakistani politics and reaching the broader Muslim world as new and persistent allegations of abuse surface against the U.S. These allegations, especially when women and children are involved, undermine our standing in the world and provoke very serious and avoidable diplomatic problems.

This report legitimizes the hard to accept claims put forth by Aafia Siddiqui’s supporters.

It can no longer be claimed that abusive ‘interrogation techniques’ and assaults on detainees have not been either approved or perpetrated by our servicemen and contractors. This is the second reason that U.S. treatment of Aafia Siddiqui is the central issue of this case; it is directly related to our values as Americans.

To illustrate the point, let us examine the claims made by Aafia Siddiqui’s supporters with the DoD report’s findings:

CLAIM 1: The abduction of a mother and her three children/ children used for extortion

  • REPORT: The use of scenarios designed to convince the detainee that death or severely painful consequences are imminent for him and/or his family:… – pg 36

CLAIM 2: Long term captivity in secret prisons

  • REPORT: CIA detainees in Abu Ghraib, known locally as “Ghost Detainees,” were not accounted for in the detention system. With these detainees unidentified or unaccounted for, detention operations at large were impacted because personnel at the operations level were uncertain how to report or classify detainees. – pg 59
  • REPORT: …DoD temporarily held detainees for the CIA – including the detainee known as “Triple-X” – without properly registering them and providing notification to the International Committee of the Red Cross. This practice of holding “ghost detainees” for the CIA was guided by oral, ad hoc agreements… – pg 78

CLAIM 3: Rape, torture, mental and physical abuse

  • REPORT: At the extremes were the death of a detainee in OGA custody, an alleged rape committed by a US translator and observed by a female Soldier, and the alleged sexual assault of a female detainee. – pg 59

CLAIM 4: Use of elaborate disorientation and false flag techniques

  • REPORT: …military personnel improperly interfered with FBI interrogators in the performance of their FBI duties. – pg 86
  • REPORT: False Flag: Convincing the detainee that individuals from a country other than the United States are interrogating him. – pg 97
  • REPORT: …our interviews with DoD personnel assigned to various detention facilities throughout Afghanistan and Iraq demonstrated that they did not have a uniform understanding of what rules governed the involvement of OGAs in the interrogation of DoD detainees. That DoD interrogators improperly impersonated FBI agents and Department of State officers during the interrogation of detainees. – pg 86

How our nation treats its detainees will continue to become more and more significant during the progression of Aafia Siddiqui’s trial. It will be a reoccurring theme in all similar trials as well. Regardless of verdicts, our treatment of detainees if not addressed properly will continue to degrade our nation’s image and standing in the world. This fact cannot be tempered by our stance on the all important and most immediate question of when did the U.S. take custody of Aafia? There are enough claims of mistreatment for either scenario of when Siddiqui came under U.S. authority.

Supporters contend that Aafia was abducted and handed over to U.S. Authorities in April 2003. This claim is supported by an NBC News clip available here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6xwCHha5ITM . This claim is corroborated by Siddiqui’s family’s statements expressing their belief that she was dead from 2003 until her capture in Afghanistan.

While convenient, it should be noted that the NBC and other media reports of Aafia’s abduction in 2003 have been denied/contested[iii].

What is certain is that once captured in Afghanistan, Siddiqui has been shuffled between mental and maximum security facilities, both with documented histories of abuse especially toward Muslims[iv] [v] and women[vi] inmates.

Currently, despite the fact that she is held in solitary confinement, under video surveillance, Siddiqui under goes regular, forced, strip searches, when making any outside contact – effectively denying her reasonable access to her attorneys. It is also a matter of record that after Siddiqui was officially in U.S. custody, she was shot by U.S. personal in Ghazni, Afghanistan and that the medical care she needed was at best delayed and inadequate[vii].

For most American’s, there might just be too many allegations against the U.S. for us to sallow. This type of thinking will miss the lessons that are to be learned as information comes to light. Siddiqui’s case, how she was treated and what we will do about it going forward, will define, in part, our capability for leadership in the world. Most importantly, it will serve as a window for who we are or who we have become.

PLEASE NOTE: Aafia is due in court tomorrow, Nov. 3. Those who are able are encouraged to attend! Details here.


[i] http://fas.org/irp/agency/dod/abuse.pdf

[ii] http://www.usdoj.gov/opa/pr/2008/September/08-nsd-765.html

[iii] http://therepublicofrumi.com/archives/aafia01.htm

[iv] http://dir.salon.com/story/news/feature/2004/05/19/maddy/index.html

[v] http://cryptome.org/bop-abuse.htm

[vi] http://www.aclutx.org/article.php?aid=252

[vii] http://www.reuters.com/article/asiaCrisis/idUSN11499491

Paul "Iesa" Galloway is a native born Texan. He was recently called "the Yoda of interfaith affairs" by a colleague from his daytime gig. After hours Iesa serves as a consultant, messaging strategist and trainer on media, government and community relations. Iesa is a product of the "Military Brat" experience of the 1990's on US Army bases in Germany he has traveled extensively, for extended periods in Kenya, Hungary and Communist Poland on missionary trips, visited Communist East Germany with the Boy Scouts of America, as well as enjoyed time in France, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Holland and Austria. Since embracing Islam, Iesa was asked to be the founding Executive Director of CAIR-Houston, where he served the community from 2002 to 2006, he has completed the Hajj pilgrimage, participated in an interfaith pilgrimage to the Holy Land with the Society for Biblical Studies and completed a study abroad program on the history of Islamic Spain, Morocco and Andalusian Philosophy with the University of Houston. Iesa's education is rooted in History and Public Relations and he has a interfaith and multiracial background.

27 Comments

27 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Joachim Martillo

    November 2, 2009 at 6:31 AM

    I have been covering the Aafia Siddiqui story for a long time.

    The latest blog entry is [AAFIA] Zionist Islamophobic Police State. The reader may find it worthwhile to thread through back-links.

    Because Aafia had the temerity to be an openly and enthusiastically Muslim at Brandeis, a vicious Muslim-hating segment of Newton Jews mobbed and smeared her in a campaign rather like those to which Yousef Abou al-Laban, Daniel Maldonado and Tarek Mehanna have been subjected.

    Patterns of Boston Jewish Power may help explain the origins of the Aafia Siddiqui case.

  2. Avatar

    Farhan

    November 2, 2009 at 9:33 AM

    Sad. VERY sad. But, what does one do to help her?

  3. Avatar

    Holly Garza

    November 2, 2009 at 10:02 AM

    Assalaamu Alaikum Thanks for providing more details, links, and information. May Allah keep her safe and I hope and pray she is not being tortured, amen.

  4. Avatar

    Mohammed Khan

    November 2, 2009 at 3:14 PM

    May Allah make it easier for sister Aafia and bring to justice anyone who committed injustice in her case, on all sides and in all of its forms.

    Mohammed.

  5. Avatar

    kd

    November 2, 2009 at 5:14 PM

    Assalaamu alaikum,

    JazakAllah khair for the updates…

    I wanted to know if any efforts were made to protect Dr. Aafia from having to go through these humiliating strip searches before every meeting and court date? Is it possible to contact the prison or the judge in charge of her case, or anyone in any sort of higher authority that can place an end to them? Can we contact the mayor or senators or representatives of the state or city to request such a thing? I am certain efforts were made, but I just wanted to know if I can personally contact someone or not. If you can let me know, I would greatly appreciate it.

    Even though there are many Muslims and non-Muslims as well supporting Aafia by directly being involved with fighting for her release, I feel like countless Muslims are just standing by not doing much at all, save feeling badly for her in their hearts, if anything. I wanted to know if there was anything could be done to help her, outside of remembering her in my prayers. Perhaps trying to put an end to those strip searches somehow can be one thing?

    • Avatar

      Iesa Galloway

      November 2, 2009 at 8:28 PM

      Walaikum Asalaam,

      One of the most important things people can do is pack the courtroom.

      I found the following at http://www.freeaafia.org:

      Support Dr. Aafia Tuesday, Nov. 3rd!

      WHEN: Tuesday, Nov. 03 at 2:00pm (Time, and possibly date, may change as has now become routine with Judge Berman)

      WHERE: Federal Court, 500 Pearl Street, New York

      About the strip searches:

      I believe that letters to the Judge will help:

      I also found the following in one of freeaafia.org’s newsletters:

      Despite his previous comments expressing concerns over the forced strip searches on Dr. Aafia, (conducted every time she is brought to court, is visited by her lawyers and etc.) Judge Berman has so far refused to formally make a ruling. The public display of a reasonable and humane posture on the part of the judge is lacking action and demonstrates no real shift or answer to the problem.

      This link: http://www1.nysd.uscourts.gov/judge_info.php?id=53 has the contact information for the judge.

      One thing to note is that poorly worded, disrespectful comments and messages work against the desired result.

      Iesa

  6. Avatar

    Mohammed Khan

    November 2, 2009 at 6:24 PM

    Dear Iesa Galloway,

    Thank you for the interesting article. It seems quite clear the bad treatment Aafia received from so many people. May Allah make it easy for her to withstand all of that and bring the unjust to justice.

    What I’m also interested in is the other side of the story. It seems she has definitely been mistreated as other prisoners have, but what started this whole mess in the first place? It would be good to know the origins of the situation so Muslims can take necessary precautions and avoid putting themselves in risky environments to avoid bigger trouble. Did you find any information from this perspective?

    I’ve been trying to understand Aafia’s case as best as possible, though there are many unanswered questions (or answered questions that require further investigation) that I would like to add to your list. These questions were ignored in my previous post because apparently many here like to cheerlead and criticize instead of think and investigate the facts for themselves.

    Questions:

    (1) Why was sister Aafia’s name mentioned by Khalid Sheikh Muhammed, the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks? How does this fit into the story?
    (http://www.cnn.com/2003/LAW/04/03/terrorism.suspect/index.html)

    (2) Why does Leslie Powers have a different story regarding captivity? What authority does she have to contradict the Bagram story when she’s only a psychologist?

    (3) How does Sally Johnson’s understanding fit into all of this? She’s another psychologist or psychiatrist.

    More can be learned about the previous 2 questions at the following link though it’s far from clear:

    http://www.webcitation.org/query?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com%2Fhostednews%2Fap%2Farticle%2FALeqM5iTN4w3kCOjtCSOP0WvpNLHU9EP0wD997TP281&date=2009-07-30

    (4) Why is Ammar al-Buluchi’s (a.k.a. Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali) name associated with sister Aafia? I’ve read this in several articles. If she didn’t marry him, did she have any other connection to him? If so, then what?

    (5) Why is sister Aafia’s ex-husband against her and why does his story about Aafia’s picture contradict what the Afghani said? Why do we trust the Afghani but not the ex-husband?

    (6) What is the evidence that sister Aafia was raped, or is this something her family is saying without evidence? Were there any witnesses to this rape?

    (7) How can we be sure that Binyam Mohamed is right that he saw sister Aafia at Bagram while he was there? And can we deduce from this that she was in Bagram for the entirety of those ‘missing’ years? If he is right, that would mean the psychologists and US government are wrong. Who are these psychologists, really?

    (8) How can we be so sure sister Aafia didn’t pick up the gun and shoot? Some people say it can’t be done because she was too weak to pick up such a gun. But how do we know she was not healthier at that time? Is it physically possible for someone to pick up the gun in view of the facts that were given or not? Seems odd that a bunch of men couldn’t handle Aafia.

    (9) When sister Aafia was arrested by Afghan police, they said that bomb making documents, pictures of US buildings, etc. were found on her. Is this true? Press TV (the Iranian government-owned station where Yvonne Ridley works or worked) reported this. Why not believe these Afghans but believe the Afghan who differed from Mohammed Amjad Khan regarding the picture story?

    (10) Why is sister Aafia being tried in New York when she allegedly committed crimes in Afghanistan? Why not try her in Afghanistan?

    (11) Back to the big question: Why of all Muslims would sister Aafia be put in this situation? In other words, what triggered or started this whole process? Was it direct or indirect links with terrorists? Was she an intel agent who knew too much? Did she have access to sensitive that had to be contained? How does the US government benefit from this? How can we learn from however this nightmare started to avoid putting ourselves in such a situation? This is key but has not been discussed in MM, to my knowledge (though I may be wrong).

    (12) Assuming that sister Aafia was alive the whole time in Bagram during the ‘missing years’, why didn’t the US just kill her after they made her ‘disappear’? They were obviously capable of doing this. Keeping her alive would bring more problems for the US in the future, and they should’ve known that. Was there a vested interest to keep her alive? If yes, what?

    These are some of the questions in my mind. I’m sure more questions can be added to this list. Some answers to better understand this situation better would be great.

    JazakAllahu-khayr,
    Mohammed.

    • Avatar

      Iesa Galloway

      November 2, 2009 at 9:58 PM

      Asalaam Alaikum Mohammed,

      Most of the questions you raise are important and need to be addressed. I believe, because this is an ongoing case many answers will come to light in the future and are possibly held from the general public for use in the courtroom by both the prosecution and the defense.

      To attempt to answer many of your questions would be a exercise in speculation so I will refrain except for a few that I have my own conclusions on (may still be speculation… or an educated guess).

      My thoughts on your questions 1,4 & 11 are here .

      For 5 & 9 (last part) look here – but in short it is not just any Afghan but the Governor of Ghazni with VIDEO footage that shows the freeze frame of very picture (or a extremely similar image) the husband was referring to.

      As for the rest of the list, they are among the reasons why I wrote this article.


      As the author of this post I will attempt to keep the the discussion focused on the subject at hand. Comments that digress to personal dialogues and topics secondary to this article’s focus will be moderated.

      Longer comments will be moderated temporarily until reviewed.

      I commend you on your effort to better understand the case and its implications.

      JazakAllahu Khairan for your understanding and restraint.

      Iesa

      • Avatar

        Mohammed Khan

        November 3, 2009 at 1:04 AM

        Walaykum-salaam Iesa,

        JazakAllahu-khayr for your response and interest in sister Aafia’s case. We need more level-headed people like you here.

        There’s no doubt in my mind that there are some seriously shady things going on. Mohammed Amjad Khan (MA Khan) always seems poised to make Aafia’s situation even more difficult. Why he’s taking this stand against Aafia is anyone’s guess, though I suspect, among other reasons, that he may be trying to “get even” for personal reasons related to their failed marriage.

        Even if I’m correct about MA Khan, I think Aafia may have been associated in some way or another with shady figures to her eventual detriment. This was the ammunition MA Khan needed against Aafia not only to get even for personal reasons, but also perhaps to deflect/digress attention of US authorities from his own suspicious activities.

        MA Khan probably sees it as a win-win situation, not to mention the media publicity he gets that he obviously enjoys. To me, he’s a jealous and insecure man who likely made up the story about Aafia’s picture simply because he couldn’t tolerate people’s sympathy for her. He wanted more sympathy. He wanted the media attention. And so he manufactured fabrications — to his own detriment, I truly believe. It’s only a matter of time until his lies are exposed.

        So what did MA Khan take advantage of to damage Aafia? This is an important question. In some articles I read, the origin of the story was Aafia’s link to Khalid Sheikh Muhammad (KSM), the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks.(http://www.cnn.com/2003/LAW/04/03/terrorism.suspect/index.html).

        Apparently KSM had named Aafia as one of the operatives, and also divulged Aafia’s marital relationship with Ammar al-Baluchi after her divorce with MA Khan.

        Who’s Al-Baluchi? He’s the nephew of KSM and cousin of Yousef Ramzi who was involved in the 1993 WTC attack. Though Aafia and her family deny that such a marriage ever happened, BBC has reportedly confirmed the truth of this story from two sources. BBC says,

        “Although her family denies this, the BBC has been able to confirm it from security sources and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s family.”
        (Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/7544008.stm)

        The first source is questionable whereas the second source is more believable. I really think the KSM/al-Baluchi link was what triggered US authorities’ interest in Aafia. And then there was MA Khan who became a willing partner to US authorities for his own personal interests. He reportedly gave the FBI her personal diary and other information which further increased suspicion and interest of authorities against her.

        As I said, these stories don’t occur spontaneously in a vaccuum. There had to have been a ‘trigger’ to all of this and I believe this was it. Aafia’s links with KSM and al-Baluchi were sufficient to make her a target — even though there was no evidence that she was ever involved in any actual acts of terrorism. US authorities were in a conundrum. They couldn’t put her in jail because they had no concrete evidence of terrorism against her. But they also didn’t want to leave her to her own devices with full freedom. So, they made her … disappear.

        They made her disappear and didn’t kill her because they felt they could obtain valuable information from her to catch real terrorists. And that’s why they tortured and made life miserable for her in countless ways. This includes using her own children as bait towards those ends. And that explains why Aafia’s son freaked out when he saw his father. The son is clearly traumatized from his experience, both at home when his nefarious father was around, and even more so from what he experienced in Afghanistan. He saw Afghanistan in his father because his experience led him to make a connection between two scary things. The people I really, really feel for are the three children. It hurts my heart to imagine what they’re going through, assuming the other two are still alive.

        The US authorities took their chances of caging and tormenting Aafia because, to them, the benefits of doing so far exceeded the harm. They went ahead with it for the ‘greater good’ of ‘national security’. They probably thought: what harm is there to squeeze an extremist if it leads to the capture of many real terrorists? I’m sure they really believed that.

        Aafia was kept in Afghanistan in a military prison and not in a civilian prison because that’s where all the dirty stuff happens. That was needed to achieve the ends they set out to get.

        I can’t say I’m absolutely certain about everything I said. There are still many shady matters left. It’s only what the few facts and my intuition tell me. Nonetheless, it’s a sincere effort to understand Aafia’s case as best as possible. As always, Allah Knows Best.

        Allah please take Aafia and her children out of this ordeal. Allah please take MA Khan to task for his treachery. Allah please let full justice be served. Aaameen.

        JazakAllahu-khayr,
        Mohammed.

        • Avatar

          Joachim Martillo

          November 3, 2009 at 2:54 AM

          I have a similar impression of MA Khan.

          With regard to the War on Terrorism and anything vaguely Israel-Palestine related, the BBC is not really reliable: Followup: BBC and Gaza Charity Appeal.

          Aafia Siddiqui’s case can only be understood in terms of American Jewish Zionist fears about Pakistani Americans, who were moving up economically in the 90s and beginning to become politically assertive in the aftermath of the Soviet departure from Afghanistan and increasing Bosnia activism.

          Both Afghanistan and Bosnia activism (and later Chechnya) were licit Islamic causes that had drag on the Israel-Palestine conflict.

          American Zionists and in particular Newton Jews, who include major players within the Zionist plutocracy and intelligentsia, feared losing control over discourse.

          Transforming the Israel-Palestine or Israel-Arab conflict into a civilization conflict between Islam and America solved the problem of demonizing and marginalizing Pakistani Americans.

          Daniel Pipes had been working on the concept since the early 80s. By the late 1980s there was already something of an Islamic Threat cottage industry, which was fueled by Jewish Zionist fears about the growth of Islamic Charities, Islamic investments, and
          Islamic Think Tanks.

          When 9/11 took place, the Islamic Threat mongers spread into action, Aafia Siddiqui was used to connect all the various Newton Jew phobias together because her Islamic activism almost made it possible for the David Project and friends to connect the Islamic Society of Boston, the Muslim American Society, and Benevolence International Foundation (BIF). BIF was particularly important because of its many offices throughout the world including Palestine.

          To complete the scary story, Boston-area Jewish Zionist groups planted the stories

          1. of Aafia’s work in microbiology and

          2. of various connections with Khaled Shaykh Muhammad.

          Aafia was not really involved in anything, but the Zionist leadership opportunistically used her to perpetrate an almost invisible coup against the Constitution in order to cower American Muslims and to incinerate one Arab or Muslim country after another.

          I have a lot of supporting material on my website Ethnic Ashkenazim Against Zionist Israel but unfortunately a lot of the material still needs to be put into a coherent form.

          Edited by Author

          • Avatar

            Mohammed Khan

            November 3, 2009 at 10:30 AM

            Dear Joachim Martillo,

            Edited by Author

            Regarding Dr. Aafia’s case, you said that “Boston-area Jewish Zionist groups planted the stories”

            1. of Aafia’s work in microbiology and

            2. of various connections with Khaled Shaykh Muhammad.”

            What is your specific evidence? I’m especially interested in #2.

            Regarding BBC, I generally see it as more balanced than CNN, FOX News (!), and most other mainstream US news media. I was surprised to see an entire BBC documentary on Mordechai Vanunu’s ordeal with the Israeli government. I’m sure you know his story. US mainstream news would never show such a documentary for obvious reasons. But ,like any other news media, BBC certainly does have its biases.

            Mohammed.

          • Avatar

            Joachim Martillo

            November 3, 2009 at 12:27 PM

            Edited by Author

            As for connections with KSM, the earliest versions of the stories surfaced in the Boston Herald and Fox News Boston office. Because of the ISB defamation lawsuit against the David Project, the Herald, and Fox, I got to look at a lot of the emails sent from the DP and its friends (various Israel activists, the Israeli consulate, Steve Emerson, et al.) to the Herald and Fox. I was never able to make a copy of the discovery materials, but I remember the various nudges and insinuations and lies that were meant to connect Aafia and many other Boston area Muslims to KSM or al-Qaeda.

            Edited by Author

          • Avatar

            Joachim Martillo

            November 3, 2009 at 12:29 PM

            BTW, I have put up a cleaner version of my hypothesis about Aafia Siddiqui at Aafia Siddiqui and “Islamist Threat”.

          • Avatar

            Joachim Martillo

            November 3, 2009 at 12:34 PM

            As for the BBC after the controversy about “sexing up” the intelligence about Iraqi WMDs, the BBC lost a lot of its independence on the Israel-Palestine confict and the War on Terror.

            You should browse the hyperlinks in my first two comments to the Aafia Siddiqui topic.

  7. Avatar

    Mohammed Khan

    November 2, 2009 at 9:33 PM

    Thank you for putting my post up with the list of questions. It’s a sincere attempt to try to understand sister Aafia’s case as best as possible.

    JazakAllahu-khayr,
    Mohammed.

  8. Pingback: Aafia Siddiqui’s story… Farfetched? Not according to a declassified DoD Inspector General’s report | Dr Aafia Siddiqui - The Prisoner 650

  9. Avatar

    Nafees

    November 3, 2009 at 4:09 AM

    JazakAllah for this post Br. Iesa,

    Your post further confirms the duplicity and misinformation surrounding the case by the US government.

    Most Muslims are desperate about the situation of Dr. Aafia and despair at the impotence of our ummah to do anything about it – they remember that the Prophet (PBUH) fought a war against Banu Qainuqa, a war that began with just one sister being humiliated.

    It is not possible to establish all the facts of such cases, as often all we have is the word of one party against another, but nonetheless once a certain degree of wrong doing is established – and US government has admitted as much itself – then we must speak out against the injustice.

    That the fact that there have been lies, rapes, torture and murders against countless Muslims is not in dispute – again, such actions have been admitted as much by the US government – what is a surprise is that some still bury their heads in the sand about the potential culpability of the US government in such actions.

    No degree of information or fact would be enough to such people, they will never believe fully.

    “And when it is said to them: “Believe as the people have believed,” they say: “Shall we believe as the fools have believed?” Verily, they are the fools, but they know not” (2:13)

  10. Avatar

    Holly Garza

    November 3, 2009 at 8:39 AM

    Assalamu Alilkum Wa Rahmatulah Wa Barakatuh I just wanted to thank Br MK and Joachim M for the questions and the answers and the links. As someone who went through a turbulent messy court trial, I can attest that the sides (both) do keep certain information to be to twist it; and/or use at their whim.

    I also, as said; don’t know much about the deep history of overseas on all sides so JazakaAllah Khayer for sharing.

    Also, I don’t know the sister; but in her defense if she had “questionable” pictures that could be something not related to wanting to be a criminal as we humans make dumb mistake without thinking, and God knows best if she had them for what purpose. I know someone who was very outraged by 9-11 (of course, it was terrible) and very interested in the “stories”, this person was in a position where he had access to certain arrest documentation, as well as printers to be able to compile and compose books that were VERY, very questionable, books that if any Muslim had; the Muslim most certainly would face jail no questions asked (and this is double standard of the Country we live in, I love America but don’t err while Muslim, you’ll be judged or insinuated wrong, even writing here is monitored)

    Case in point, he faced 12 hours of questioning but thankfully was let go, somehow he managed to keep the book before he destroyed it. There ARE Terrorists out there, they do hate us; yes, even us the Muslims, the stuff that was seen in there……very clear language on what to do and how. I thank God I was Muslim and I knew the difference between a Muslim and that before I started learning this. My point is, another person looked at it, they could be in Jail for something they had NO knowledge of! Thankfully that person took it to be destroyed, before anyone saw it and got a wrong idea of all Muslims or used it for evil! <~That is a example of how someone could end up with something "wrong" and God knows best.

  11. Avatar

    Iesa Galloway

    November 3, 2009 at 12:51 PM

    Asalaam Alaikum to all readers and commentators,

    As I stated before I intend to keep the integrity of this post by keeping the comments focused on the subject written about in the article itself. (specifically why Aafia’s case is important and why how she was and is treated is the focal point of the case)

    I will be pruning the comments when time permits me to and removing what I feel is unrelated. If you feel that any edits I make are unjustified, you are encouraged to email Muslim Matters directly and your feedback will make its way to me Insha’Allah.

    While interesting, promoting theories and debating them are not directly related to the post and I ask that those interested in such dialogues find another means to discuss them at length.

    NOTE: Edits made do not reflect any endorsement or disagreement with content on the part of the author.

    May Allah reward you for your understanding and patience!

    JazakAllahu Khairan,

    Iesa

  12. Avatar

    Andrew Purcell

    November 4, 2009 at 6:16 PM

    My friend Iesa,

    Thank you for a well researched and articulate report on this subject. That official American documents echo the allegations made by Aafia’s supporters of her missing years is chilling.

    As you know, I have known Aafia, her brother, her sister, and their mother for decades. They are among the closest friends I have.

    My first inclination was to leave this report unread. I do not want to know the details about how my friend was abused, but a third party suggested that the graphic nature was glossed over by the clinical language.

    It was still painful to read.

    I notice that in a number of comments there are people who are off topic. Rather than discussing the existence of official documents that confirm the the behaviors that Aafia’s supporters have been alleging for years, they are implying that she brought her problems on herself by choosing to associate with shady people, asking to know the “other side” of the story, and discussing conspiracy theories.

    While these are among many topics that deserve to be discussed, indeed need to be discussed, the comment section of this article is not the appropriate place.

    I have no relationship with Muslim Matters beyond having met you on several occasions and having worked with a teenage Yasir Qadhi (a skinny clean shaven kid), but I think that these writers should submit their own articles on Aafia and her travails for publication.

    • Avatar

      Joachim Martillo

      November 4, 2009 at 9:26 PM

      Dear Andrew,

      I am glad to read something from someone that actually knew Aafia because my first acquaintance with Aafia comes from hysterical reports on Fox and in the Boston Herald.

      I am not sure whether you are acusing me or Mohammad Khan of generating conspiracy theories.

      I do not create conspiracy theories. I study them and try to understand the micro-political economics in which they arise.

      Mohammed Khan looks like the victim of an American cultural tendency to believe that people probably deserve it when they have problems with the US government.

      Most people that grow up outside the USA don’t have this particular prejudice.

      Because Mohammed Khan probably lives in the USA as I do, I expained my hypothesis about the selection of Aafia for persecution.

      In the USA it is not sufficient to describle Aafia’s travails. One must provide a counternarrative.

      The Aafia Siddiqui Case is particularly important because it shows how sophisticated the political use of carefully massaged conspiracy theories has become.

      There is a big distinction between conspiracy and conspiracy theories as any E. Europeanist can explain: Conspiracy theories come into existence when there is a dearth of information. The flaws in conspiracy theories hardly mean conspiracies don’t exist.

      The effort to overthrow the Shah had a conspiratorial component, and Arab mujahids really did fight the Soviets in the 1980s in a movement that had some conspiratorial aspects, but the conspiracy theories commonly believed by Americans about that history have little connection to the facts.

      With a sufficiently large megaphone as well as lots of media and academic power, it becomes possible to craft a conspiracy theory for specific political purposes.

      You can see this in Islamophobic books like the pseudo-academic nonsense of Hamas, Politics, Terrorism, and Charity in the Service of Jihad by Matthew Levitt or like the Pulitzer prize-winning crackpot Zionist journalism of The Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright..

      Because Aafia was used explicitly or impicitly as the keystone in the construction of the world Islamist threat conspiracy theory that still dominates US politics, to help Aafia we have to scorch the conspiracy theory discourse generated by Islamophobes like Daniel Pipes or Robert Spencer and supply a counter-narrative, which is more compelling because it is true.

    • Amad

      Amad

      November 4, 2009 at 11:30 PM

      Andrew, we have taken some action to keep the topic from being hijacked again.

  13. Avatar

    Muslim Stranger

    November 6, 2009 at 7:28 AM

    May Allah protect Dr. Aafia & ease her difficulties & re-unite her with her family & all children asap with complete health & faith.
    May Allah expose & punish all those who have done wrong to Dr. Aafia (Muslims & Non-Muslims both).
    May Allah reveal the Truth & innocence of Dr. Aafia through this case.
    May Allah have mercy on her.
    (Aameen)

  14. Avatar

    Shiraz Ahmed

    November 24, 2009 at 6:15 AM

    O ye who believe! seek help with patient perseverance and prayer; for God is with those who patiently persevere.

    And say not of those who are slain in the way of God: “They are dead.” Nay, they are living, though ye perceive (it) not.

    Be sure we shall test you with something of fear and hunger, some loss in goods or lives or the fruits (of your toil), but give glad tidings to those who patiently persevere,

    Who say, when afflicted with calamity: “To God We belong, and to Him is our return”:-

    They are those on whom (Descend) blessings from God, and Mercy, and they are the ones that receive guidance.(2:156-157)

  15. Avatar

    niaz hussain

    January 10, 2010 at 5:53 AM

    kia kar raha he pak govt ,,,,taht our muslim dr has prisoned im amrice,,,, kia pak govt khail dekh raha he asi govt ko sharam ana chaye jo masoom insanyat ko torture karva rahi he,,, meri dua he dr sahba hamesh muskarati rahe ,,, MY GOD HELP HIM INNOCENT DR,,,,,,,,pakistan ko excellent dr ka care karna chahye par pak govt tamasha dekh rahi h,,,, afsos afsos shame pakistan shame

  16. Avatar

    Lasantha Pethiyagoda

    May 26, 2011 at 10:07 PM

    I sympathise with those contributors to this site who have spared no pain to labour the delicate intricacies of the noble Dr Aafia Siddiqui’s incarceration and humiliation. In my opinion, the matter is fairly simple and explained in basic psychological criteria.

    Dr Aafia failed to conform to the expectations of her adopted countries’ power elite. She attained a status of national significance and gained dangerous influence in bilateral relations with countries which possessed “geopolitical, military and economic” interests to the power elite. In other words, she had the potential to impact on their bottom line (ie profit margins). Together with notions of denial of the massively guilt-ridden sins which would need to be hidden from public view at any cost, she had assumed a status of “public enemy” along the lines of Osama bin Laden but in a more credible and humanitarian manner.

    Because Dr Aafia could not be demonised easily, as OBL was, in the public eye, she threatens the farcical system that masquerades as the “justice system”, members of which fraternity close ranks and tow the government policy-makers line in the interests of “national security”. Any outcome will surely reflect these attitudes and maneuvers.

    Lasantha Pethiyagoda

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#Current Affairs

Faith Community Stands With Peace And Justice Leader Imam Omar Suleiman During Right Wing Attacks

Hena Zuberi

Published

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In a follow up to the right-wing media platforms attack on Imam Omar Suleiman – calling him anti-semitic, a common tactic used to discredit both Muslim activists, as well as criticism of Israel policies, Faith Forward Dallas issued a statement.

Faith Forward Dallas at Thanksgiving Square – Faith Leaders United for Peace and Justice is a Texas-based interfaith organization that has worked on many initiatives with Imam Omar Suleiman.

The statement reads:

“Imam Omar Suleiman a spiritual and moral voice for peace with justice!!!!!

Time after time in our city, in the United States and around the world, Imam Omar Suleiman has been a spiritual and moral voice for peace with justice. When others seek to divide, he calls for unity. Faith Forward Dallas at Thanks-Giving Square works to unite faith leaders for justice and compassion. Imam Suleiman has been a trusted leader among us. In the wake of his beautiful prayer to open the House of Representatives on May 9, he has received threats of violence and words of vilification when instead he should have our praise and prayers. We call upon people of good will everywhere to tone down the rhetoric, to replace hate with love, and to build bridges toward the common good.

Faith Forward Dallas at Thanks-Giving Square”

Commenters on the Faith Forward Dallas statement have left comments of support.

The group has invited locals and other leaders to endorse and share the statement. “Endorsed! I love and fully you Imam Omar Suleiman!” wrote Karen Weldes Fry, Spiritual Director at Center of Spiritual Learning in Dallas (CSLDallas), commenting on the statement.

Some commentators do not understand the manufactured controversy.  Heather Mustain writes, “What people are writing is so vile. They obviously didn’t even listen to his prayer!” Imam  Omar Suleiman delivered the opening prayer in the US House of Representatives on May, 9th, 2019  at the invitation of Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D) of Dallas, TX.

“I’m grateful for the faith leaders with whom I’ve built relationships with and served with for years that have shown full support throughout this process. Together we’ve stood with one another in solidarity in the face of bigotry, and in the support of others in any form of pain. We will not let these dark forces divide us,” said Imam Omar Suleiman in response to the outpouring of love from the people he has worked with on the ground, building on peace, love, and justice.

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#Current Affairs

Potential Retrial In Sight For Imam Jamil Al-Amin (H. Rap Brown)

The struggle and trials of the honorable Imam Jamil Al-Amin

Hamzah Raza

Published

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It was the night of March 16th, 2000. That day had been Eid, the holiest day of the year for West End’s Muslim community. Prayers were held by Imam Jamil Al-Amin, the soft-spoken, bookish Imam, who was famously known in the civil rights movement as H. Rap Brown prior to his conversion to Islam. That night, police officers pulled up to the Imam’s convenience store with a warrant for his arrest. The police saw a man and asked him to put his hands up: 5’8”, gray eyes, and 170 pounds, as eyewitnesses would later tell.

Asked to put his hands up, that man would instead pull out a handgun. A shootout between the man and two police officers would ensue. The man would then go to his trunk and pull out a lightweight, semi-automatic carbine Ruger Mini-14 with an extended clip housing 40 .223 caliber rounds of ammunition. Using military grade weapons, this man would murder one police officer and injure another. This man, Otis Jackson, would eventually confess to committing the crime.

Eventually, Imam Jamil Al-Amin would be charged for this crime. Neither Jackson’s confession of the crime nor his matching the description of the shooter would be included in Al-Amin’s trial. For the jury, this evidence was nonexistent.

Eyewitness testimony claims that the man who killed the police officer was not only 5’8” and 170 pounds with gray eyes but also that he suffered gunshot wounds. While Jackson fits this description, Imam Jamil Al-Amin is 6’5”, lanky, has brown eyes, and did not suffer a single wound. A 911 call also claimed that the shooter was bleeding out and walking around West End looking for a ride.

Otis Jackson was on parole at the time of the shooting for a previous crime he had permitted. He told his parole officer he had a shift working at a local diner at the time. When the officers told him to put his hands up, he felt the handgun in his pocket. Violating his parole and possessing an illegal weapon, Jackson knew that he would be sent back to jail. Aware of this, he decided to shoot at the police officers instead of putting his hands up.

That night, Jackson went home and received a call from Sentinel Company, which provided the monitoring for his ankle bracelet. The Sentinel representative asked where Jackson was, to which he replied that he was at work. The representative then told Jackson that this would be marked down as a violation, to which Jackson agreed and quickly ended the conversation.

He then had female friends who were nurses come and treat him for his wounds. He told them that he was robbed. Jackson called a friend named Mustapha Tanner, and ask him to get rid of Jackson’s vast arsenal of weapons: three Ruger Mini‐14 rifles, an M16 assault rifle, a .45 handgun, three 9mm handguns and a couple of shotguns. He also informed his parole officer that he was involved in a “situation” but left out any details. Police later searched Jackson’s house and found rounds of Mini‐14, .223, 9mm, and M16 ammunition. His bloody clothes and boots from the shootout were left untouched in a closet.

His parole was revoked and he was sent to jail in Nevada. There he would confess to the crime and even be visited by an FBI agent by the name of Agent Devon Mahony. Jackson’s confession was documented by Mahoney on June 29th, 2000. But nothing was done after that. Jackson’s confession was also not included in Jamil Al-Amin’s trial in March of 2002. In the midst of government surveillance on civil rights leaders and post 9/11 Islamophobia, Imam Jamil Al-Amin would be sentenced to life without parole for the crime of murdering a police officer.

Al-Amin has an appeal on May 3rd in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals that could potentially allow for a retrial. Through this retrial, it is possible that evidence that was previously left out of the court, such as Otis Jackson’s testimony, could allow for Al-Amin to establish his innocence.

Arrest and Trial

Following this shooting, Imam Jamil Al-Amin would be put on the FBI’s most wanted list, and 100 FBI agents would be deployed on a manhunt to find him. Al-Amin would be arrested in White Hall, Alabama four days later. As he was arrested, FBI agent, Ronald Campbell kicked him and spit on him. It is important to note here that Imam Jamil Al-Amin was a 55-year-old religious leader. One would wonder what sort of hatred led an FBI agent to engage in such behavior towards a middle-aged clergyman.

Eventually, an officer would also find guns in the woods adjacent to where Al-Amin was found. Despite decades of FBI surveillance, there was absolutely no evidence linking Al-Amin to the guns. There was not a single fingerprint or Al-Amin’s DNA on the guns or ammunition found. The guns were also not hidden or concealed in any way. So under the state’s argument, Al-Amin meticulously cleared the weapons of his DNA and fingerprints but did not do anything to hide the weapons.

Many have suggested that it was actually Agent Campbell, the FBI agent who physically assaulted and spit on Imam Jamil Al-Amin, who planted the guns. In 1995, Campbell had been accused of shooting Glenn Thomas, an African American man, in the back of the head in Philadelphia. In that case, too, a fingerprint-less gun was found next to the man’s dead body.

In addition, Agent Campbell first claimed that he was with other police officers when he crossed the fence into the woods and found the guns. But he later, in cross-examination, claimed that he was alone. Such contradictory information and the fact that the weapons could never be proved to belong to Al-Amin makes one wonder how this could function as any sort of evidence.

It is also important to note that Al-Amin went to trial in March of 2002, less than six months after 9/11. At a time when hatred against Muslims in the United States was at an all-time high, Al-Amin showed up to court wearing a kufi. He even said to the judge and jury: “I invite you to Islam. Be Muslim and receive two rewards [i.e. That of this life and the next].”

But even in this time when hatred of Muslims was at an all-time high, the idea of this soft-spoken Imam committing a crime was still strange to so many. The New York Times wrote that “Some could not believe that the man who spent the last 25 years as a nonviolent Muslim cleric in the West End of Atlanta would explode in a seemingly unprovoked blaze of violence.”

Imam Jamil Al-Amin’s Muslim faith was also attacked by the prosecution. They told the jury “Don’t stand up for him,” in reference to Al-Amin’s religiously-based decision to not stand for the court, for which the court granted him permission to do.  

The court ruled Al-Amin guilty and he was sentenced to life without parole. Following this, the prosecuting attorney for the state said, “After 24 years, we finally got him.” In order to understand the context of this remark, one must understand the Cointelpro program that Al-Amin was targeted by before his conversion to Islam when he was H. Rap Brown.

  1. Rap Brown and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee

In his late teens, H. Rap Brown joined the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committing (SNCC). SNCC (Pronounced “Snick”) used the tactics of nonviolent direct action in order to bring about civil rights for Black Americans. Prominent in the American South, SNCC members studied Gandhian tactics of nonviolence from James Lawson, who was then a graduate student in theology at Vanderbilt University. Future Congressman and then-SNCC Chairman, John Lewis would mentor H. Rap Brown.

In 1965, the young H. Rap Brown rose up in the organization and eventually became chairman of the Nonviolent Action Group, the Washington DC affiliate of SNCC. As head of this organization, Brown entered into an infamous White House meeting with President Lyndon B Johnson. President Johnson told Brown that SNCC’s all-night demonstration had prevented his two daughters from sleeping that night. Brown replied that he was sad for the one night his daughters were disturbed, but that “Black people in the South had been unable to sleep in peace and security for a hundred years.” He asked what the President planned to do about that, and anticipated that this issue was what this meeting was about.

Following John Lewis’ tenure as chair of SNCC, Stokely Carmichael then became chair in 1966. Inspired by the works of Malcolm X and Frantz Fanon, Carmichael understood nonviolence not as a principle, but as a tactic. He introduced the phrase “Black Power’ to the organization, and began to speak out on international issues, introducing SNCC’s opposition to the American war in Vietnam.

FBI Surveillance on H. Rap Brown

In 1967, H. Rap Brown, at the age of 23, was elected Carmichael’s successor as chairman of SNCC. Brown would take the nonviolent out of the name of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, renaming it the Student National Coordinating Committee. He lamented that “Violence is as American as cherry pie…We will use that violence to rid ourselves of oppression, if necessary. We will be free by any means necessary.” It was also under his leadership that SNCC entered into a working alliance with the Black Panther Party, giving Brown the honorary title of Minister of Justice of the Black Panther Party alongside being Chairman of SNCC.

That year, the FBI contacted Brown’s wife, Karima Al-Amin, in an attempt to get her to spy on her husband for the FBI and provide reports on him to them. At this point, SNCC was being targeted by the FBI’s COINTELPRO program, which aimed at surveilling, discrediting, and disrupting political organizations that fought for the rights of Black Americans. The FBI’s COINTELPRO program called for H. Rap Brown and other prominent black leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr and Stokely Carmichael to be “neutralized.”

It was through this program that J Edgar Hoover, head of the FBI, discovered that Martin Luther King Jr was having extramarital affairs. Attempting to use the tactic of public humiliation, Hoover wrote a letter to Martin Luther King Jr attempting to coerce him into suicide, lest he wants the world to know of his infidelity.

In December of 1969, two Black Panthers in Chicago fell victim to this neutralization after a 14-man police raiding force collaborated with the FBI. The police murdered 21-year-old, Fred Hampton and 22-year-old, Mark Clark, two members of the Black Panther Party in a pre-dawn raid in their Chicago homes.

In a meeting with President Lyndon B Johnson, FBI Director Hoover said, in reference to Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr, “We wouldn’t have any problem if we could get those two guys fighting; if we could get them to kill one another off.”

This FBI campaign of neutralization caught up to H. Rap Brown. After giving a speech in Cambridge, Maryland in July of 1970, he was grazed with bullets from police while walking a young woman home. That night, fires occurred in the city. Brown would be accused of arson and inciting riots in the city. Later evidence would show that Brown had no relation to such fires, and they actually came from the inaction of the Cambridge Fire Department, which had a hostile relationship with its Black community. But the head of the Cambridge Police Department pinned the charge on Brown, accusing him of “a well-planned Communist attempt to overthrow the government.”

Congress would then pass the “H. Rap Brown” law in his name that would make it illegal to cross state lines in order to incite a riot. Then Governor of Maryland and soon-to-be Vice President of the United States, Spiro Agnew stated that “I hope they pick him up soon, put him away, and throw away the key.”  

Like many leaders in the movement such as Angela Davis, Brown would be placed on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List and run away from the authorities spending time in Africa, before eventually being brought back to Maryland in 1970 for trial. It was there that he would be sentenced to 5 years at Attica Prison in New York City.

In his time in prison, H. Rap Brown accepted Islam and took the name, “Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin.”

Conversion to Islam and Reinvention as Jamil Al-Amin

Following his release from prison in 1976, Al-Amin traveled to India, Pakistan, and West Africa to study Islam. He then embarked travel to Makkah for the Hajj pilgrimage before moving to Atlanta to establish a Muslim community in the impoverished and crime-ridden West End neighborhood.

In West End, the former radical firebrand reemerged as a pious, soft-spoken, and bookish Muslim scholar concerned about the spiritual and social resurrection of the neighborhood. He preached Islam to drug dealers and prostitutes in the neighborhood and sought an intense anti-drug campaign.

In the West End Mosque, they called the adhan, the Muslim call to prayer, out loud five times a day, so that the whole neighborhood could hear it. Al-Amin was of the belief that change of society could only come after people had changed themselves through the act of prayer.

Imam Khalil Abdur-Rashid, the current Muslim Chaplain at Harvard University who grew up in Imam Jamil’s West End community, mentioned in his Ph.D. dissertation:

“He would retain his devotion to changing the prevailing system and worked to teach his community to cultivate an alternative way of living that is not indicative of token social justice programs. He taught the importance of the five pillars of Islam and revolutionary ‘technologies of the self’ that, when actualized at the communal level, transform the society into a better one. He still remained non-violent but still dedicated himself to teaching social revolution through a revolutionary approach to Islamic practice.

“The mission of a believer in Islam is totally different from coexisting or being a part of the system. The prevailing morals are wrong. Western philosophy…has reduced man to food, clothing, shelter, and the sex drive, which means he doesn’t have a spirit. In Islam, we’re not talking about getting the poor to vote. We’re not talking about empowering poor people with money. We’re talking about overturning that whole thing.”

He preached and wrote about the understanding of the centrality of prayer, charity, diet, pilgrimage, family, and struggle as the core elements of person and by extension social change. His book entitled, Revolution By The Book, published in 1994, is the first American Muslim liberation theology manifesto. Whereas much Christian liberation theology centralizes its attention on social concern for the poor and liberation of the oppressed, Imam Jamil’s Revolution By The Book begins with the individual turning inward to correct decadent ways and through reform of the self, one may then begin to look outward at institutions that are also in need of reform. He explains that,

“When you understand your obligations to God then you can understand your obligations to society. Revolution comes when human beings set out to correct decadent institutions. We must understand how this society has fallen away from righteousness and begin to develop, Islamically, the alternative institutions to those that are in a state of decline around us. But, we must first enjoin right and forbid wrong to ourselves. That is the first step in turning this thing around: turn yourself around!”

Many who had known him pre-conversion to Islam spoke of how much Al Amin had changed from the H. Rap Brown that once was.

A former SNCC colleague, Ekwueme Michael Thelwell, commented on Al Amin’s speech at the funeral of former SNCC Chairman, Stokely Carmichael. The talk included numerous other pillars of the civil rights movement such as John Lewis and Diane Nash. Thelwell stated:

The only real departure and my only surprise came when Imam Al-Amin spoke. What he delivered in tribute to his old friend was a thoughtful, Islam-inflected reflection on the nature of oppression and the moral duty, the religious imperative, of the faithful to resist. Liberally adorned with Koranic quotations, it was, as I recall, an erudite, elegantly constructed, finely reasoned explication of the categories and nature of oppression, and the moral dimensions and complexities of struggle as expressed in the prophetic poetry of the Arabian desert some 1,400 years earlier. In any terms–culturally speaking–it was scholarly. I found it startling in a curious way: It did not quite fit either stylistically or culturally with what had gone before, yet was completely appropriate.

As he spoke, I remember thinking: Ah, so this is what a serious Islamic sermon sounds like, huh? Rap really takes this calling seriously. The brother is indeed an Islamic scholar, an imam. (I took in the hang-jawed look of astonishment and dawning professional respect that crossed Minister [Louis] Farrakhan’s face as he listened to be confirmation of my impression..”

In an article titled “Growing Up West End,” Masood Abdul Haqq wrote about being a member of Imam Jamil Al Amin’s West End community.

When my family and I first moved to Atlanta in the fall of 1992, the West End Muslim scene unfolded like some sort of Black Muslim Utopia. A soulful adhan was the soundtrack to Black children of all ages in kufis and khimars playing with each other on either side of the street. The intersecting streets near the masjid gave way to a large covered basketball court, on which the game in progress had come to a halt due to the number of players who chose to answer the melodic call to prayer. Overlooking this scene from the bench in front of his convenience store, like a shepherd admiring his flock, was a denim overall and crocheted kufi-clad Imam Jamil.

Before I heard him utter a single word, it was obvious to me that I was in the presence of a transcendent leader.

The early 1990’s was an exciting time to be in Atlanta. However, one of the unfortunate undercurrents of our booming urban economy was the inevitable rise of the drug trade. Reagan had been out of office for a full term, but his crack epidemic and trickle down economics were still very prevalent in inner city neighborhoods across the country. The West End was no exception. At the intersection of Holderness Street and Lucille Avenue, just 100 yards from my childhood home and four city blocks from the West End Masjid, stood a notorious motorcycle club and corner store. Both businesses were knee deep in the interests of prominent local drug dealers and it wasn’t long before that corner earned the reputation as a “million dollar block.”

One might think living so close to such a dangerous corner would make for a tale of hard knocks, peer pressure, and intimidation. For the Muslim kids, that was the furthest thing from our reality. Instead, we ran around that neighborhood with impunity. When the dope boys saw us coming, they would step out of our way, offer to buy us snacks from the store, or just whisper to each other about us being “Big Slim’s folks.” Sometimes they called him Rap. Or the Imam. The bottom line was, they may have pulled the usual dope boy tricks of recruiting and terrorizing kids within the neighborhood, but us Muslim kids were off limits.

There was an honor associated with being a member of Imam Jamil’s community, a VIP hood pass that made us immune to the usual ills of this sort of environment. This street credibility from outside the Muslim community stemmed from Imam Jamil’s days as H. Rap Brown, a revolutionary fighting for Black rights. It evolved when he demonstrated the ability to bridge gaps between young and old, Muslim and non-Muslim. People respected that his entire life revolved around salat at the Masjid. This made him accessible and dependable. Five times a day, the adhan was called and Imam Jamil would either lead or appoint someone to lead the prayer. Afterwards, no one would leave unless he raised his hand for permission and got the nod from the Imam. After finishing his dhikr and du‘a, the Imam would ask, “Is there anything anyone would like to bring out?” Brothers would bring forth questions, concerns, and news from around the neighborhood, and the Imam would address it or tell the person to meet him after salat. The drug issue was at the forefront. Slowly but surely, prayer by prayer, the million dollar block was abandoned. Miraculously, after efforts to clean up the neighborhood around the million dollar block, now stands the West End Islamic Center, a beacon of hope for sustaining the community.

FBI Perception of Al Amin Post-Conversion to Islam

Despite such transformation of self that led to the transformation of the West End community, Al-Amin still remained the object of government spying that went back to the Cointelpro days. The FBI compiled a 44,000-word file on Al-Amin and his Muslim community, attempting to pin a crime upon him. Because his entire life was dedicated to praying five times a day at the mosque, developing his community, and stopping drugs and crime, the FBI could not find a single crime that Al Amin had committed.

After the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, Al Amin was interrogated by the FBI as to whether he played a role.

Al Amin’s brother, Ed Brown stated that:

Y’know…something happens. Say the first attempt to bomb the Trade Center, right? They feed their infallible profile into their computer. Muslim…radical…violent…anti-American, whatever, who knows. Anyway, boom, out spits the names, H. Rap Brown prominent among them. Next thing the Feds come storming into the community and haul Jamil in. This actually happened. Of course, it’s stupid. And every time they have to let him go. But how do you stop it? A goddamn nightmare, they never quit.”

Two years following that, Al-Amin would be arrested by a joint force of the FBI, local police, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives after a 22-year-old, William Miles, was shot in the leg. One must wonder why the FBI was concerned about a non-fatal shooting that hit a young man’s right leg. But even in this case, Imam Jamil Al-Amin was found not guilty and cleared of any wrongdoing.

It was found that between 1992 and 1997, authorities investigated Al-Amin “in connection with everything from domestic terrorism to gunrunning to 14 homicides in Atlanta’s West End.”

While driving in Marietta, Georgia in May of 1999, Al-Amin would be pulled over in his vehicle for driving with a drive-out tag, which allows a vehicle to drive without a license plate for 30 days. Eventually, Al-Amin would be searched, and an honorary police badge, given to him by the mayor of White Hall, Alabama, would be found in his wallet. Al-Amin was charged with impersonating a police officer, driving a stolen car, and driving with expired insurance. In 2002, a Georgia judge would rule that this warrantless search violated Imam Jamil Al-Amin’s fourth amendment rights. The mayor of White Hall also wrote to how he had gifted Al-Amin this badge. Due to a snowstorm, Al-Amin’s court date for this case was canceled— and never rescheduled.

It was this traffic stop that would lead to the arrest warrant. It was from that warrant that police officers would eventually be shot and killed by Otis Jackson, who would confess to the crime and match the description of the shooter. Despite this, it would be Imam Jamil Al-Amin who would go to jail.

Al-Amin’s Time in Prison

In addition to being there for a crime that he claims he did not commit, Al-Amin has faced many violations of his rights in jail. He has been unable to attend Friday prayers and has spent the bulk of his time in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day. Between June and August of 2003, the federal government was also caught reading his mail, in violation of Al-Amin’s fourth amendment rights.

Despite his solitary confinement, word got around that Imam Jamil was imprisoned. Prisoners in Georgia also asked for Al-Amin to be their unified Imam “because of his credibility as a leader prior to incarceration,” in an act that was not initiated by him. This led to an FBI investigation and report titled “The Attempt to Radicalize the Georgia Department of Corrections’ Inmate Population” which established Al-Amin as the leader of this radical Muslim kingpin operating in prisons. The report failed to link Al-Amin to any extremist Muslim organization and also failed to establish how Al-Amin could lead such an extremist cell while being in solitary confinement.

Without notifying his family or legal counsel, Al-Amin was forcibly transferred by federal authorities in July of 2007. He was chained inside a vehicle for 6 hours in the 92-degree heat, while being deprived of his blood pressure medicine. Because he was unable to stand, Al-Amin was hospitalized for a night, before being transferred to the ADX prison facility in Florence, Colorado. He was then transferred to the United States Penitentiary in Arizona, a high-security federal prison for male inmates. In August of 2007, the Georgia Department of Corrections said Al-Amin was sent to federal prison because “Al-Amin’s high profile presents unique issues beyond the state prison system’s normal inmate.” It was never explained what these “unique issues” are.

Appeal on May 3rd and Potential for Retrial

Allen Garrett is a lawyer who has been working pro-bono on Al-Amin’s case since 2007. He has “discovered retaliatory actions on the part of prison officials against Al-Amin.” Moreover, he has been granted the possibility for an appeal on May 3rd, in which the court will decide whether Al-Amin can be granted a retrial for the crime he was found guilty of in 2002.

With new evidence not included in the trial such as the confession of Otis Jackson, and Agent Campbell’s lying about being alone and previous planting of fingerprint-less guns, Al-Amin has the potential to clear himself of such charges and establish his innocence. America too has changed drastically since Al-Amin was put on trial in 2002. Organizations such as Black Lives Matter have brought to light the injustice of programs such as COINTELPRO which targeted Al-Amin and other civil rights activists. The Trump era has also highlighted the irrationality of the brazen Islamophobia that aided Al-Amin’s guilty verdict.

Al-Amin’s membership in the Black Panther Party was symbolic and resulted as a result of an alliance between the Black Panther Party and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which he was chair of. But despite his limited affiliation, in today’s context, the Black Panthers do not have the same stigma attached to them. The movie, Black Panther, ends in Oakland, California, in an allusion to where the Black Panther Party was founded. Beyonce wore Black Panther outfits at the Super Bowl. And even Democratic Presidential candidate, Kamala Harris, hardly a symbol of radicalism or even progressivism, has stated that she was inspired by the values of the party.

I spoke to Kairi Al-Amin, Imam Jamil Al-Amin’s son. He was 14-years-old when his dad was imprisoned. Since then, Kairi, now 31, has become an attorney, with the goal of freeing his dad of this crime that he did not commit. He spoke of the importance that there is in getting public opinion on the side of his father as this appeal approaches. Should the court rule in favor of this appeal, a retrial could allow for evidence previously left out to be introduced. He has created a website called https://whathappened2rap.com/, which has a fact sheet on the trial, with information on how people can be better involved.

With the public watching, it is possible that on May 3rd, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals will rule in favor of Imam Jamil Al-Amin’s retrial, and that he can finally be given the opportunity to present the full case and be exonerated of this crime.

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#Current Affairs

White Activism Is Crucial In The Wake of Right-Wing Terrorism

Laura El Alam

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The vicious terrorist attacks at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand on March 15 were a punch to the gut for peace-loving people all over the world.  Only the most heartless of individuals could feel nonchalant about 70 innocent children, women, and men being killed or maimed mercilessly as they prayed. However, even a brief glimpse at comments on social media confirms that among the outpouring of sadness and shock, there are, indeed, numerous sick individuals who glory in Brenton Tarrant’s deliberately evil actions. White supremacy, in all its horrific manifestations, is clearly alive and well.  

In an enlightening article in The Washington Post, R. Joseph Parrott explains,  “Recently, global white supremacy has been making a comeback, attracting adherents by stoking a new unease with changing demographics, using an expanded rhetoric of deluge and cultivating nostalgia for a time when various white governments ruled the world (and local cities). At the fringes, longing for lost white regimes forged a new global iconography of supremacy.”

“Modern white supremacy is an international threat that knows no borders, being exported and globalized like never before,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said. “The hatred that led to violence in Pittsburgh and Charlottesville is finding new adherents around the world. Indeed, it appears that this attack was not just focused on New Zealand; it was intended to have a global impact.” (link)

Many people want to sweep this terrifying reality under the rug, among them the U.S. President.  Asked by a reporter if he saw an increase globally in the threat of white nationalism, Trump replied, “I don’t really. I think it’s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems.”

However, experts in his own country disagree.  A March 17 article in NBC News claims that, “The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security warned in a 2017 intelligence bulletin that white supremacist groups had carried out more attacks in the U.S. than any other domestic extremist group over the past 16 years. And officials believe they are likely to carry out more.”

Although they may be unaware of — or in denial about –the growing influence of white supremacist ideology, the vast majority of white people do not support violent acts of terrorism.  However, many of them are surprisingly, hurtfully silent when acts of terrorism are committed by non-Muslims, with Muslims as the victims.

When a shooter yells “Allahu akbar” before killing innocent people, public furor is obvious and palpable.  “Terror attacks by Muslims receive 375% more press attention,” states a headline in The Guardian, citing a study by the University of Alabama. The perpetrator is often portrayed as a “maniac” and a representative of an inherently violent faith. In the wake of an attack committed by a Muslim, everyone from politicians to religious leaders to news anchors calls on Muslim individuals and organizations to disavow terrorism.  However, when white men kill Muslims en masse, there is significantly less outrage.  People try to make sense of the shooters’ vile actions, looking into their past for trauma, mental illness, or addiction that will somehow explain why they did what they did.  Various news outlets humanized Brenton Tarrant with bold headlines that labeled him an “angelic boy who grew into an evil far-right mass killer,” an “ordinary white man,” “obsessed with video games,” and even “badly picked on as a child because he was chubby.”  Those descriptions, which evoke sympathy rather than revulsion, are reserved for white mass murderers.

The media’s spin on terrorist acts shapes public reaction.  Six days after the Christchurch attacks, millions were not currently taking to the streets to protest right-wing extremism.  World leaders are not linking arms in a dramatic march against white supremacist terrorism.  And no one is demanding that white men, in general, disavow terrorism.

But that would be unreasonable, right? To expect all white men to condemn the vile actions of an individual they don’t even know?  Unreasonable though it may be, such expectations are placed on Muslims all the time.

As a white woman, I am here to argue that white people — and most of all white-led institutions — are exactly the ones who need to speak up now, loudly and clearly condemning right-wing terrorism, disavowing white supremacy, and showing support of Muslims generally.  We need to do this even if we firmly believe we’re not part of the problem. We need to do this even if our first reaction is to feel defensive (“But I’m not a bigot!”), or if discussing race is uncomfortable to us. We need to do it even if we are Muslims who fully comprehend that our beloved Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said,  “There is no superiority for an Arab over a non-Arab, nor for a non-Arab over an Arab. Neither is the white superior over the black, nor is the black superior over the white — except by piety.”

While we might not hold hatred in our hearts individually, we do hold the power, institutionally.  If we truly care about people of color, peace, and justice, we must put our fragile egos aside and avoid “not me-ism.”  The fact is, if we have white skin, we have grown up in a world that favors us in innumerable ways, both big and small. Those of us with privilege, position, and authority are the very ones who have the greatest responsibility to make major changes to society. Sadly, sometimes it takes a white person to make other white people listen and change.

White religious leaders, politicians, and other people with influence and power need to speak up and condemn the New Zealand attacks publically and unequivocally, even if we do not consider ourselves remotely affiliated with right-wing extremists or murderous bigots.  Living our comfortable lives, refusing to discuss or challenge institutionalized racism, xenophobia, and rampant Islamophobia, and accepting the status quo are all a tacit approval of the toxic reality that we live in.  

Institutional power is the backbone of racism.  Throughout history, governments and religious institutions have enforced racist legislation, segregation, xenophobic policies, and the notion that white people are inherently superior to people of color.  These institutions continue to be controlled by white people, and if white leaders and white individuals truly believe in justice for all, we must do much more than “be a nice person.” We must use our influence to change the system and to challenge injustice.  

White ministers need to decry racial violence and anti-immigrant sentiment from their pulpits, making it abundantly clear that their religion does not advocate racism, xenophobia, or Islamophobia. They must condemn Brenton Tarrant’s abhorrent actions in clear terms, in case any member of their flock sees him as some sort of hero.  Politicians and other leaders need to humanize and defend Muslims while expressing zero tolerance for extremists who threaten the lives or peace of their fellow citizens — all citizens, regardless of their religious beliefs, immigration status, or ethnicity.  New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is an excellent role model for world leaders; she has handled her nation’s tragedy with beautiful compassion, wisdom, and crystal clear condemnation of the attacker and his motives.  Similarly, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau demonstrated superb leadership and a humane, loving response to the victims in Christchurch (and Muslims in general) in his recent address to the House of Commons.  

Indeed, when they put their mind to it, people can make quite an impactful statement against extremist violence.  In January 2015 when Muslim gunmen killed 17 people in Paris, there was an immediate global reaction. The phrase “Je suis Charlie” trended on social media and in fact became one of the most popular hashtags in the history of Twitter.  Approximately 3.4 million people marched in anti-terrorism rallies throughout France, and 40 world leaders — most of whom were white — marched alongside a crowd of over 1 million in Paris.  

While several political and religious leaders have made public statements condemning the terrorist attacks in Christchurch, there is much less activism on the streets and even on social media following this particular atrocity.  Many Muslims who expected words of solidarity, unity, or comfort from non-Muslim family or friends were disappointed by the general lack of interest, even after a mosque was burned in California with a note left in homage to New Zealand.

In a public Facebook post, Shibli Zaman of Texas echoed many Muslims’ feelings when he wrote, “One of the most astonishing things to me that I did not expect — but, in hindsight, realize that I probably should have — is how few of my non-Muslim friends have reached out to me to express condolences and sorrow.” His post concluded, “But I have learned that practically none of my non-Muslim friends care.”

Ladan Rashidi of California posted, simply, “The Silence.  Your silence is deafening. And hurtful.” Although her words were brief and potentially enigmatic, her Muslim Facebook friends instantly understood what she was talking about and commiserated with her.   

Why do words and actions matter so much in the wake of a tragedy?  

Because they have the power to heal and to unite. Muslims feel shattered right now, and the lack of widespread compassion or global activism only heightens the feeling that we are unwanted and “other.”  If 50 innocent Muslims die from terrorism, and the incident does not spark universal outrage, but one Muslim pulls the trigger and the whole world erupts in indignation, then what is that saying about society’s perception of the value of Muslim lives?

To the compassionate non-Muslims who have delivered flowers, supportive messages, and condolences to the Muslim community in New Zealand and elsewhere, I thank you sincerely. You renew our hope in humanity.

To the white people who care enough to acknowledge their privilege and use it to the best of their ability to bring about justice and peace, I salute you.  Please persevere in your noble goals. Please continue to learn about institutionalized racism and attempt to make positive changes. Do not shy away from discussions about race and do not doubt or silence people of color when they explain their feelings.  Our discomfort, our defensiveness, and our professed “colorblindness” should not dominate the conversation every time we hear the word “racism.” We should listen more than speak and put our egos to the side. I am still learning to do this, and while it is not easy, it is crucial to true understanding and transformation.

To the rest of you who have remained silent, for whatever reason:  I ask you to look inside yourself and think about whether you are really satisfied with a system that values some human lives so highly over others.  If you are not a white supremacist, nor a bigot, nor a racist — if you truly oppose these ideologies — then you must do more than remain in your comfortable bubble.  Speak up. Spread love. Fix problems on whatever level you can, to the best of your ability. If you are in a leadership position, the weight on your shoulders is heavy; do not shirk your duty.  To be passive, selfish, apathetic, or lazy is to enable hatred to thrive, and then, whether you intended to or not, you are on the side of the extremists. Which side are you on? Decide and act.

“A person may cause evil to others not only by his actions but by his inaction, and in either case, he is justly accountable to them for their injury.”  — John Stuart Mill, On Liberty.  

For the past decade, writer Laura El Alam has been a regular contributor to SISTERS Magazine, Al Jumuah, and About Islam.  Her articles frequently tackle issues like Muslim American identity, women’s rights in Islam, support of converts/reverts, and racism.  A graduate of Grinnell College, she currently lives in Massachusetts with her husband and five children. Laura recently started a Facebook page, The Common Sense Convert, to support Muslim women, particularly those who are new to the deen.

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