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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

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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

CAA – NRC Row: Why There Is More To It Than An Attack On Secular Ethos

indian economy caa
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‘Indian Muslims have nothing to fear. No one knows what CAA/NRC is all about. They are simply protesting because they are misled’, thus proclaimed a former classmate of mine who himself left India for brighter prospects during PM Narendra Modi’s regime but continues to believe in his promise of ‘acche din’ (good days).

Today the whole of India is divided over the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) which is to be followed by the National Register of Citizens (NRC). Thousands of students from India’s premier institutions like Jamia Milia Islamia, Jawahar Lal Nehru University, Aligarh Muslim University, Delhi University, IITs and IIMs are thronging the streets to protest against the bigoted law.

The ripple effect has even reached top educational institutions across the world including Harvard, Oxford, Yale and MIT. From lawyers to celebrities to academicians, people across the world, belonging to different religions are raising their dissent against the law which is deemed to be against the secular fabric of the Indian Constitution.

What is this law all about?

The Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 (CAA) provides an accelerated path to Indian citizenship for Hindu, Sikh, Buddhists, Jain, Parsi, and Christian religious minorities from three countries – Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.

The National Register of Citizens (NRC) is an official record of all those who are legal Indian citizens. So far, such a database has only been created for the northeastern state of Assam which has been struggling with the issue of illegal immigration for a long time. In Assam 1.9 million people were effectively rendered stateless after NRC and were put into detention centers. Out of these 1.9 million, around 0.6 million are Muslim.

On November 20, Home Minister Amit Shah declared during a parliamentary session that the register would be extended to the entire country.

Why the uproar?

At first glance the CAA seems to be a harmless law, which the government claims was made to help those who are facing religious persecution. However, the question arises why only those suffering religious persecution? Millions of people are suffering persecution in the name of race, region or language in India’s neighboring countries.

Even if we talk about just religious persecution, why does the law only accommodate those from three neighboring countries? Rohingyas are suffering brutal persecution in Myanmar. Christians are suffering in Sri Lanka. Tibetans have been persecuted because of their beliefs.

Many people opine that the CAA is not problematic in itself. It becomes problematic when it’s seen in conjunction with NRC. When NRC is implemented, millions of people will be declared illegal due to lack of documents in a country where the masses live in villages and documentation is a complicated bureaucratic process with a high error rate. According Professor Shruti Rajagopalan, the State Of Aadhaar Report 2017-18 by IDinsight, covering 2,947 households, found that 8.8% of Aadhaar holders reported errors in their name, age, address or other information in their Aadhaar letter (Aadhaar is the identity number issued to Indian residents). In the NRC, a spelling mistake can deprive one of citizenship and 8.8% affects over 120 million people.

They will be rendered stateless and sent to detention centers with inhumane conditions. Out of these ‘illegals’, everyone but Muslims can seek accelerated citizenship under CAA.

The fact is that even if we view CAA alone, the very act of offering citizenship on the basis of religion goes against the fundamentals of secularism and equality as mentioned in the Indian constitution.

UN Human Rights chief, Michelle Bachelet has termed the CAA as “fundamentally discriminatory”.

In this context, it’s also relevant to understand the revolt that is happening in the north eastern state of Assam. While the rest of India is against CAA and NRC for exclusion of Muslims, the people of Assam are protesting against the inclusion of 1.3 million undocumented Non-Muslims, as identified in the NCR. According to them, if these foreigners are granted citizenship under CAA, they pose a threat to the language and culture of Assam.

Police brutality against protesters

Student fraternity across the world was shocked when students of Jamia Milia Islamia who were peacefully protesting against the CAA were brutally attacked by police forces. Police accused students of destroying public property and fired tear gas shells, beat them up mercilessly and even open fired at them. They barged into the library, mosque and even the women’s hostels without authorization.

Video footage shot by students and reviewed by Reuters show students, including women, hiding beneath desks in the library, cowering in restrooms, jumping over broken furniture in an attempt to flee. It was later verified that none of the students had anything to do with some of the buses that were set ablaze outside the campus.

Reports of even more horrific police brutality surfaced from Aligarh Muslim University. A student’s hand had to be amputated after a tear gas shell hit him and exploded. Hundreds of students were severely injured.

Section 144 of the Criminal Code which prohibits any gathering of 5 or more people has been imposed across the entire state of UP. Internet has been shut down in several parts.

Videos showing police destroying properties of innocent Muslims in UP have surfaced which the ‘Godi media’, a term coined for PM Modi’s lapdog media, refuses to acknowledge. Innocent youth are being dragged out of their homes and their properties are being seized on the accusation of destruction of public property. Death toll has crossed 22. Thousands are in custody.

It’s not surprising that Narendra Modi is being compared to Adolf Hitler.

India’s secular ethos

Religion based politics is nothing new in India, the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi issue and Gujarat riots being two of the most glaring examples.

However, in day to day life ‘Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Isai, Aapas mein sab bhai bhai’ (Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians are all brothers) has not just been a slogan but a way of life.

Muslims in India have held prominent positions in every sphere of life, be it arts, literature, sports or leadership and have been admired by Hindus and Muslims alike.

The current BJP government aims to change all of that with its RSS-inspired fascist ideology of Hindutva – Hindu nationalism andHindu rashtra’ (nation).

India’s faltering economy and dejected youth

One of the heartening aspects of the CAA/NRC uprising is that it is not being seen as just a Muslim struggle. It is rightly being seen as a struggle to uphold the secular ethos of the Constitution of India. However, there is more to this struggle which is being led by the youth of the country.

Underlying the CAA-NRC struggles is the country’s deep disappointment with PM Modi’s lofty promises of ‘acche din’ (good days) which gave the country a new hope . Among other things he promised to make India an economic superpower. Today the nation’s economy is in doldrums which has led to frustration and dejection in the youth.

IMF’s last forecast for India was 6.1% growth in 2019. This has slumped to 4.9%. Unemployment is at a 45-year high and industrial growth rate is negative.

One of the major reasons for the economic slowdown has been the government’s radical decision of demonetization in 2016 which sent the entire country in a turmoil and failed to achieve any of its stated objectives. Small businesses took a further hit with the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST).

At a time when the government’s primary concern should have been the faltering economy, the government diverted the country’s attention to the Babri Masjid -Ram Janmabhoomi issue. As soon as that ended it announced the CAA and NRC, continuing its propaganda of Hindu nationalism as opposed to real issues faced by the nation.

At this critical junction the economy can be expected to take a further hit by the cost of the implementation of the CAA and NRC exercise.By conservative estimates, nationwide NRC will cost Indians a whopping 500 billion rupees in admin expenses alone. Add to it the massive cost of building and maintaining detention centers across the country and the nation looks set for an economic and logistical nightmare.

Today the educated youth of the country is voicing its frustration at the price the country has been paying due to the government’s fascist ideologies. They no longer want the world to know India for its age old mandir-masjid disputes, mob lynchings, communal riots, human rights violations, poverty or illiteracy.

The current uprising is not just against one particular law.The people, especially the youth of India are protesting for their rights to work together as one nation to take the country towards being an exemplary democracy and an economic superpower.

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#Current Affairs

A Closer Look At The Congressional Hearing on Human Rights in South Asia

Kashmir hearing in Congress
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Expectations on Capitol Hill were pretty low going into the House Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific and Nonproliferation’s historic hearing on “Human Rights in South Asia”. Previously, hearings on India have not been critical and the Kashmiri Muslim point of view has not been discussed.

Chairman of the sub-committee Brad Sherman (D-CA) wasted no time setting the stage for where he wanted to go with this hearing, stating, ”the entire world is focused today on what is happening in Kashmir.” He also pointed to the state of the 2 million-minority population in Assam. Missing from his opening statements were remarks on the state of the rest of the minorities in India, esp. Christians, Sikhs, Dalits, and Muslims. Ranking member Ted Yoho (R-FL) was soft on the gross realities of the occupation, highlighting one case of a Kashmiri constituent, and referred to the abrogation of Article 370 as an internal matter of India. He also brought up the Indian talking point of economic progress in the region but this concept was thoroughly dismissed by later testimony and Q&A.

The State department veteran Alice Wells, Acting Secretary on South and Central Asian Affairs seemed woefully ill-prepared for the critical nature of the hearing. Both Wells and Assistant Secretary for Human Rights Destro could not or did not present solid facts and figures about detention and tried to explain away the oppression as “inconveniences”. They were unable to comment or provide clarity on the situation on the ground in Kashmir, with Destro saying, “we are in the same information blackout as you are.” Some of Sec. Wells’s comments were of direct Indian government persuasion.

Several of Justice For All’s talking points were raised during the hearing.

There was commentary on the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam. Congresswoman Ilhan Omar asked about the anti-Muslim program. She questioned the panel on the public statements by Indian officials that only Muslims have to prove their birth records. Rejecting the notion that a democratic ally cannot be policed, she said that the United States does that in many situations and “this should not be an exception.”The human rights abuse doesn’t cease to exist even if it is the law. Is it consistent with international human rights?” asked Chairman Sherman, along the same lines.

Destro observed that the appeals process “may disadvantage poor and illiterate populations who lack documentation”. “We are closely following this situation and urge the Government of India to take these issues into consideration,” he added.

”The human rights abuse doesn’t cease to exist even if it is the law. Is it consistent with international human rights?” asked Chairman ShermanClick To Tweet

Wells testified that “violence and discrimination against minorities in India, including cow vigilante attacks against members of the Dalit and Muslim communities, and the existence of anti-conversion laws in nine states” are not in keeping with India’s legal protections for minorities.

Congresswoman Alice Spanberger, (D-VA) a former CIA intelligence officer, asked whether India has shared examples of terror attacks and incidents that have been thwarted due to the communications blockade. When Wells stated that she could not comment, Spanberger asked for a classified hearing so that US officials could give their assessment on the validity of the national security argument of the Indian government. Chair Sherman associated himself with her questioning and vowed to take her suggestion seriously.

Chairman Brad Sherman, as well as several other Congresspeople both on and off the House Foreign Relations Committee, asked several pertinent and critical questions.

Questioning the Indian Government narrative Chairman Sherman asked if the United is “supposed to trust these government of India officials when the government of India doesn’t allow our diplomats to visit?” Representative Sheila Jackson asked if reputable Indian diplomats or journalists had ever been denied entry into any state in the United States?

Indian American Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) referred to a report about the detention of dozens of children in Kashmir and said detention without charges is unacceptable. She expressed her concerns about religious freedom in India and said that she proposes to bring a bipartisan resolution in Congress.

Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas and David Cicilline of Rhode Island both had a heavy human rights approach to the questioning. Congresswoman Lee asked Assistant Secretary Destro if he would describe the situation as a “humanitarian crisis,” Mr Destro said, “Yes, it is.” She then went on to call the United States government to stop a potential genocide.

Washington has not changed its stance on the designation of the Line of Control. Chairman Sherman brought up the issue of disputed territory to the State Department.“We consider the Line of Control (LoC) a de facto line separating two parts of Kashmir,” answered Wells. “We recognize de facto administrations on both sides of LoC.”

The subcommittee focused on personal testimonies as well as human rights organization Amnesty’s testimony during the second half of the hearing.

Though no Kashmiri Muslims testified, the panel presented electrifying testimonies from Dr. Nitasha Kaul, a Kashmiri and Dr. Angana Chatterji, an anthropologist at the University of California, Berkeley. Bearing witness to the rising fascism and Hindu nationalism’s grip on India, both witnesses brought up beef lynchings, with Chatterji raising the concern of the genocidal inclinations of the Modi government. 

“Hindu majoritarianism – the cultural nationalism and political assertion of the Hindu majority – sanctifies India as intrinsically Hindu and marks the non-Hindu as its adversary. Race and nation are made synonymous, and Hindus –the formerly colonized, now governing, elite – are depicted as the national race,” said Dr. Chatterji.

Kashmiri witness Dr. Nitisha Kaul stated in her testimony that “human rights defenders, who were already under severe pressure, since August 5 are unable to function in Kashmir. For instance, every year on 30 August, the UN Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearance, Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons led by Ms Parveena Ahangar, organises a vigil protest involving hundreds of elderly women and men whose sons had become victims of for instance, in the most recent parliamentary elections, the voters’ turnout was very low and in many booths, not a single vote was cast.”

Kaul emphasized the extension of the oppression, by highlighting that this year the peaceful gathering of elderly parents mourning and waiting for their disappeared sons was not allowed. She shared Ahanga’s quote: “This year we have been strangled, and there was no coming there was no coming together because, through its siege, India has denied us even the right to mourn.”

Ilhan Omar challenged Indian journalist Aarti Tikoo Singh’s take that the siege was in place to save Muslim women from “terrorists.” This is a trope that is often used to wage war and is especially used in the so-called “war on terror.” “It is a very colonial move on the part of the nation-states around it as if they are “liberating Kashmiri women,” said Dr. Kaul.

Chatterji bore witness to the woes of Kashmiri women who bear the brunt of the Indian occupational forces’ sexual brutality. “The woman’s body becomes the battlefield,” she said replying to a question by Congresswoman Houlahan from Pennsylvania. Dr. Kaul stated that the 1944 new Kashmir manifesto contained an entire section on gender rights. She spoke on the equity and equality in Kashmir: “They go to protests. Women become heads of households because of dead husbands.”

She also reminded the committee that BJP’s Amit Shah, also part of the government in 2002 and responsible for the program on Muslim community stated that Western human rights cannot be blindly applied here in India.

Representative Wild from Pennsylvania asked why the Indian government would not allow transparency. When human rights organizations and journalists can work in active war zones, she rejected the anti-terrorism narrative pushed by Ravi Batra, a last-minute BJP addition to the panel. “When there isn’t transparency something is being hidden and this is what really concerns me terribly,” said Wild.

A Sindhi-American witness spoke on minority rights in Pakistan, especially the forced conversion of Hindus. This is a concern that needs to be tackled by Muslims as there is no compulsion in Islam and is antithetical to the religion.

During the hearing, Amnesty International reported thousands in detention under the Public Safety Act while the State Department numbered it at hundreds. Dr. Asif Mahmoud, a key organizer, presented the health situation in Kashmir.

The overall situation of the Rohingya was covered and links were made to the start of the genocide in Burma and the parallels in India. The members of the House referred to it as genocide with the State Department still calling it ethnic cleansing.

Although the hearing focused on the current state of Jammu and Kashmir and not much was brought up about self-determination or the plebiscite, Kashmiri-Americans and their supporters left the hearing room satisfied that their voices were heard for the first time in the halls of the US Congress.

What was most concerning point of the entire hearing was that Kashmir was not brought up categorically as disputed territory and the issue was referred to as an integral matter of India. This needs deep, consistent and long-term work by advocates of Kashmir. With the continuous rise of RSS, Indian minority issues need a much sharper focus, and a regular pounding of the pavements of Congress to educate the Foreign Relations committees.

Some action items for American Muslims post-hearing.

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#Culture

Prayers Beyond Borders Offers Hope to Separated Families

border wall in tijuana
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On the border of San Diego, California and Tijuana, Mexico, several families live their lives torn apart—they were born on the wrong side of a wall. Now, faith groups are joining together to give them hope through prayer. Since the Mexican-American War in 1848, the boundary that divided the two countries transformed from an imaginary line, to a monument, to a simple barb-wire fence where people on either side could meet, greet, hold hands, or exchange a warm smile, to a heavily monitored steel wall stretching across almost 15 miles between San Diego and Tijuana. 

In recent years, crime, drug trafficking, an influx of undocumented workers, and increasingly white nationalism created stricter immigration policies in the U.S., directly impacting those who live straddling both sides of the border. Included in these are families whose loved ones have been deported – parents, spouses, children, and other relatives – to Mexico, undocumented workers providing for their families, and relatives who have not made physical contact with each other in years, sometimes decades. They gather along the steel mesh barriers of the border wall at Friendship Park to touch each other’s fingertips and pray.

The documentary, “A Prayer Beyond Borders,” produced by CAIR California, MoveOn, and Beyond Borders Studios captured some of these emotive moments during a Sunday prayer service held by the Border Church in partnership with the Border Mosque. Christians and Muslims came together in solidarity at Friendship Park on September 30, 2019, and held a joint bilingual ceremony, led by Reverend John Fanestil, Pastor Guillermo Navarrete, Imam Taha Hassane, and Imam Wesley Lebrón.

Imam Lebrón, National Hispanic Outreach Coordinator for WhyIslam, witnessed the nightmare families separated at the border endure when he was invited to participate in this first meeting of the Border Church and Border Mosque. As a Puerto Rican, U.S. born citizen who never experienced the hardships of immigration, he was moved by what he witnessed. He said, 

“I entered Mexico and reached the border at Friendship Park and immediately noticed families speaking to each other through the tiny spaces of an enormous metal wall. They were not able to touch except for their fingers, which I later learned was the way they kissed each other.”

He described families discussing legal matters and children crying because they could not embrace a parent who traveled for days only to speak to them briefly behind the cold steel mesh partition. 

“Walls are meant to provide refuge and safety from the elements and they are not meant to prevent human beings from having a better life,” he explained, “As I stood behind that wall, I felt hopeless, angry, and had many other mixed emotions for our Mexican brethren who have been completely stripped of the opportunities many of us take for granted.” During the service he addressed the crowd gathered on the Mexican side of Friendship Park and recited the Adhan, the Muslim call to prayer. It was the first time the call was heard in Friendship Park, but not the last. 

The Border Church and Border Mosque will continue to provide a joint service on the last Sunday of every month and are calling for a binational day of prayer on Sunday, October 27th. They will be joined by Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and indigenous spiritual leaders to “Pray Beyond Borders.” The event will be filmed and possibly live-streamed to a global audience with the objective of raising awareness and requesting financial support to address issues related to family separation in the region. 

On October 7th CAIR California with MoveOn, Faith in Action, MPower Change, and a social media team and distribution partners released the film “A Prayer Beyond Borders,” With the digital launch of this film in English and Spanish they wish to reach millions of viewers in telling the story of the Border Church and the Border Mosque and bring more faith leaders and activists on board to protect families’ right to gather. Please join them at Pray Beyond Borders – A Binational Day of Prayer – Sunday, October 27th at Friendship Park. 

when the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears and delivers them out of all their troubles(Psalm 34:17 – NIV).

“And seek help through patience and prayer, and indeed, it is difficult except for the humbly submissive [to Allah ]” (Qur’an 2:45)

Photo by Max Böhme on Unsplash

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