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Who is Aafia Siddiqui: Terrorist or Government Pawn?


Crossposted from

The Tragic Case of the “The Gray Lady of Bagram”

By:  Houston Criminal Attorney John Floyd and Paralegal Billy Sinclair

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The U.S. Government contends Aafia Siddiqui’s alleged links to terrorism began in June 2001—some three months before the 9/11 terror attacks on New York City’s Twin Towers. According to government sources, Siddiqui made a trip from Quetta, Pakistan to Monrovia, Liberia, where she was met by a car and driven to the Hotel Boulevard, a known al Qaeda safe house. A week later Siddiqui allegedly left Monrovia in the same inauspicious manner in which she arrived—the only difference being is that she carried with her a large parcel of Africa’s illegal diamonds, a hard-to-trace but key funding source for al Qaeda’s terror operations.

Nearly three years later on May 26, 2004 former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller held a new conference during which they announced the government had received reports that al Qaeda planned terror attacks in the U.S. that summer or fall. Director Mueller specifically named Aafia Siddiqui as “an al-Qaeda operative and facilitator” and one of the seven al-Qaeda suspects being sought in connection with the impending terror plots. Attorney General Ashcroft added the seven suspects posed “a clear and present danger” to America and should be “considered armed and dangerous.”

As soon as Siddiqui’s photo was displayed during the Ashcroft/Mueller news conference an informant was convinced Siddiqui was the same woman who went to Monrovia in June 2001 and left with the package of illegal diamonds. The informant called the Special Court for Sierra Leone, which was investigating Africa’s illegal diamond trade, and reported Siddiqui’s alleged ties to the diamond trade on behalf of al Qaeda.

Siddiqui’s family vigorously disputes the notion that Aafia was ever in Monrovia. They say she was living in the Back Bay Manor in Roxbury, Massachusetts taking care of her own three children and her sister’s child (while the sister finished a fellowship in neurology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital), as well as being a wife to her husband who was an anesthesiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Elaine Whitefield Sharp, Aafia Siddiqui’s attorney, told Boston Magazine in 2004 that she could prove her client was in Boston in June 2001. Proving Siddiqui was never in Monrovia is crucial, says Sharp, because it undermines the Government’s accusations that she is a terrorist.

There are no substantial trail signs from Siddiqui’s past to support the charges that she not only became a violent jihadist but a major player in al Qaeda’s inner circle who helped formulate sophisticated terror plans to attack the United States. She was born in Karachi, Pakistan in 1972, one of three children from a prominent family. Her father, Mohammad Siddiqui, obtained his medical education and degree as a doctor in England and her mother Ismet was a homemaker.

All three Siddiqui family children are educated professionals. Aafia’s brother is an architect who lives in Houston with his pediatrician wife and their children. Aafia’s sister trained at Harvard to become a neurologist and worked at Sinai Hospital in Baltimore before returning to Pakistan several years ago. Aafia herself moved to Houston in 1990 to be closer to her brother, and after attending the University of Houston for just one year, her grades were so outstanding she was accepted at MIT.

While at MIT, Siddiqui joined an association of Muslim students and wrote pamphlets trying to teach others about Islam. “She was religious, but that wasn’t unusual [at MIT],” one former MIT student recalled for Boston Magazine.  Another student agreed: “She was just nice and soft-spoken. She was not terribly assertive.” As a biology major at MIT, Siddiqui won a $5,000 grant she used to study the effects of Islam on women in Pakistan.

Aafia’s family reportedly became concerned after their daughter graduated from MIT that she had not married. So they arranged a marriage for her to Mohammed Amjad Khan who was medical student from a wealthy family in Pakistan and who, like Aafia, was studying in Boston to get his medical degree. Khan seemed to the Siddiqui family to be a mainstream Muslim trying to make a successful life in America. He apparently even encouraged Aafia to pursue her education—something she did. She enrolled at Brandeis University as a graduate student in “cognitive neuroscience,” reported Boston Magazine, after graduating from MIT.

Tragically, these extraordinary educational achievements would have devastating consequences on Siddiqui’s public image after the 2004 Ashcroft/Mueller news conference. Members of the media, always game for a sensational angle, true or not, began to attach the following titles to her name: neurologist, geneticist, and microbiologist. The media parlayed these manufactured titles into evidence of Siddiqui’s skills to produce potentially horrific terror plots against the United States.

“They [the media] started with the whole idea that Aafia was involved in biochemical warfare,” Sharp told Boston Magazine. “She wasn’t taking brains cells and testing how they reacted to gases. But there’s all this news in the media about the changing face of Al Qaeda and the neurology scare, and now we’ve got this MIT graduate with a Brandeis PhD who’s cooking up all these viruses.”

When asked by Boston Magazine if Siddiqui’ training at Brandeis could be used for terrorism activities, Paul DiZio, a professor of cognitive neuroscience who sat on Siddiqui’s dissertation committee, had to laugh. “I can’t see how it can be applied to anything,” he said. “It’s not very applied work. It didn’t have a medical aspect to it. And, as a computer expert, she was competent. But you know, call her a mastermind or something does not seem – I never saw any evidence [of that].”

Actually at this point in her life Aafia Siddiqui was grappling more with a deteriorating marriage than anything else. Her husband was about to complete his residency at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. She had virtually given up all thought of having a career outside the marriage, and she was facing tremendous pressure from Khan, who according to Siddiqui’s family, wanted to return with the children to Pakistan where he could raise them as conservative Muslims. Aafia wanted to live in the West and keep the children under her mainstream Islamic tutelage.

The Iman of The Mosque for the Praising of Allah in Roxbury did not see any evidence of Aafia being a “fundamentalist” Muslim. “What I know of her,” Abdullah Farung told Boston Magazine, “is that she was living here in America, and her organization (which distributed Korans and books to prisons and school campuses) was for sharing Islamic information with the American people..” Farung added that Aafia often told him: “’As long as it’s not evil, I can do it. I show my hands, show my face, I drive my own car. I have my credit cards.’” Farung said Aafia told him that because she wanted him to know that “she was an American girl. Put that down: Aafia Siddiqui was an American girl. And a good sister.”

The Iman of the Islamic Center of New England, Talal Eid, shared the same view of Aafia. He was particularly impressed with her efforts to raise money to help Bosnian orphans. “You know,” he told Boston Magazine, “we were all active, but to see a woman who was active in this way was really something nice.”

There were actually more public signs that Khan (who bitterly denounced his former wife earlier this year as a violent jihadist) was associated with radical Islam than Aafia. In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, the FBI began a nationwide search of any connections between Muslims in America and Saudi nationals, especially connections associated with financial transactions. The agency instructed the nation’s banking institutions to review their records for any suspicious transactions.

These efforts prompted the FBI to focus its attention on Khan and Aafia. The Fleet National Bank in Boston, where the couple had accounts, began tracing money received by its Saudi national account holders from the Saudi Embassy. One of those customers, Hatem Al Dhahri, listed his address as the same address of the condo in which the Siddiqui’s lived. Another Saudi national bank customer, Abdullah Al Reshood, received a $20,000 wire transfer from the Saudi government in the weeks prior to 9/11, drawing the attention of the FBI. A Saudi government official would later explain to the Boston Globe that the money had been sent to Al Reshood to pay for medical treatment for his wife. These financial inquiries also discovered that Al Dhahri and Al Reshood had taken over the lease of the Siddiqui condo because, as the Siddiqui family explained, the couple was planning to move. However, these connections and financial transactions, coupled with Aafia’s regular debit-card payments to Benevolence International (a charity organization banned by the U.N. after 9/11), did attract attention from the FBI on Aafia.

But it was actions by Khan that drew the most attention from the FBI after the agency discovered through the financial investigations that he had been purchasing what the agency called “high-tech military equipment.” The equipment included night-vision goggles, body armor, and military manuals Khan planned to send to Pakistan. The FBI called the couple in for questioning, but after incidental questioning, the agency released Aafia. The FBI continued its questioning of Khan. In addition to the military equipment purchases, the FBI was also interested in what they described as “major purchases” from U.S. airlines and hotels in Pennsylvania and North Carolina, as well as an $8,000 international wire transfer to the Habib Bank in Pakistan in December 2001, from accounts associated with Khan and Aafia.

Shortly after this FBI attention, Khan and Aafia returned to Pakistan saying it was too difficult for Muslims to live in the U.S. after 9/11. They did not stay long before returning to America where they remained several more months before once again returning to Pakistan. The moving was hard on Aafia. She was pregnant with a third child and the tension between her and Khan had escalated to the point they were force to separate. Aafia moved in with her parents while Khan lived elsewhere in Karachi.

Sharp told Boston Magazine that Khan went to Aafia’s parents’ house with a letter stating his intentions to seek a formal divorce. A bitter argument ensued between Aafia’s parents and Khan, and it became so intense that it triggered a fatal heart attack with Aafia’s father. Aafia gave birth to a son several weeks after her father’s death.

In December 2002, Aafia returned to the United States alone. She took a job in Baltimore to be close to her sister who was then working at the Sinai Hospital. Sharp told Boston Magazine that Aafia obtained job interviews at Johns Hopkins and SUNY. The FBI, however, had other ideas about why she returned to America. The agency believed she returned to open a post office box for Majid Khan—an al Qaeda operative reportedly under the control of Khalid Sheik Mohammed who, the FBI believed, was plotting to blow up fuel tanks and gas stations in the Baltimore-Washington area. Siddiqui’s family strenuously disputes this FBI claim, saying they did not believe Aafia opened a post office box but if she did, it was to receive replies from her job search efforts and not for any terror-related reasons.

Whatever the purpose of Aafia’s return to America in December 2002, her case took a bizarre, and still unexplained, turn after March 1, 2003 when Pakistani authorities arrested Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. He was turned over to U.S. authorities, and in the days and weeks after being given to the Americans, Mohammed was subjected to a litany of horrific CIA torture methods, including dozens of water boarding episodes. This mastermind, who was one of the FBI’s original 22 Most Wanted Terrorists after 9/11, gave up the name, rank, and serial number of every Muslim suspect in the world, including Aafia Siddiqui. It was apparently through the Mohammed torture sessions that the FBI gained information from the CIA that Siddiqui had rented the post office box in Baltimore for Majid Khan. The FBI (or CIA) leaked this information to the media because CNN reported about the claim on April 3, 2003—just four weeks after Mohammed’s capture. Apparently, every name the CIA torturers put before him, Mohammed readily agreed was involved in some sort of “terror plot.” Whatever the CIA wanted, Khalid gave to them.

And the government continued to dribble these “terror plot” leaks to the media during the ensuing months of Khalid’s capture. For example, the Boston Herald reported shortly after Khalid’s arrest that Siddiqui had been linked to Adrian El Shulrijumah “whose name surfaced among the belongings of [Mohammed].” The fact that Aafia was the first woman with ties to al Qaeda being sought by the FBI captured the media’s insatiable need for sensationalism. UPI on March 29, 2003 carried an international report that said the FBI was convinced Siddiqui was a “fixer” who moved al Qaeda money around to support the group’s terror operations.

Then the Siddiqui saga took still another bizarre turn. The Press Trust of India in April 2003 reported Aafia had been arrested at a relative’s residence in Karachi just after returning from an overseas trip. The India-based news organization reported Siddiqui was in the custody of the FBI and was being questioned by the agency. U.S. intelligence sources confirmed to this foreign news organization that Siddiqui was “essentially” in the hands of the FBI.

Aafia’s mother, however, was not aware of any arrest of her daughter at a relative’s residence. The last time she saw Aafia was about a month after Mohammed’s arrest when her daughter and three children got into a taxi and headed for a local train station. After that, the mother says Aafia and her children seemingly vanished from the face of the earth. A few days after her daughter’s disappearance, Aafia’s mother was visited by a man on a motorcycle who told her Aafia was being held and that if she ever wanted to see her daughter and grandchildren again, she had better keep quiet.

This story tracks with one relating to Aafia’s uncle who began talking publicly about his niece’s arrest. These public comments about an “arrest” captured both the attention and concern of the FBI. The agency immediately issued an official statement that it had no knowledge about either Siddiqui’s arrest or detention. This statement was contradicted by an initial Pakistani Urdu press report which said Siddiqui and her children had been seen being taken into custody by Pakistani authorities. A spokesman for Pakistan’s interior ministry and two unnamed U.S. officials confirmed the arrest, but, strangely, these same officials several days later backtracked from their initial Siddiqui arrest confirmation, telling the media it was unlikely Siddiqui was in custody.

At this juncture Aafia’s mother was hysterical. She flew to New York City to see if she could find out what happened to her daughter and grandchildren. She was met at the JKF Airport by men she thought represented the U.S. government and who were there to help her find her daughter.

“She’s detained for four hours by the FBI, NYPD, Homeland Security,” attorney Sharp told Boston Magazine. “She thinks they’re all there to help her. That’s how naïve she was. And she’s crying and saying, ‘Tell me where my daughter is,’ and they don’t know where her daughter is and they let her go.”

Aafia’s sister went to the airport, picked up her mother, and took her back to Baltimore with her. “And the next thing they know,” attorney Sharp continued, ‘there’s a knock at the door, and it’s the FBI and they’re very aggressively saying a subpoena for Ismet Siddiqui [Aafia’s mother] to come here to Boston to testify before a grand jury.”

In the days after the subpoena was served on Ismet Siddiqui, she and her daughter and son all met with FBI agents and the U.S. Attorney’s office in Boston. “We gave them everything,” Sharp says. “And they’re saying, ‘We still think she has another life that you don’t know about.’”

This position taken by the FBI defied its own Seeking Information Alert which had been released immediately after the May 2004 Ashcroft/Mueller news conference. While the FBI director had specifically called Aafia “an al-Qaeda operative and facilitator” who was wanted in connection “with possible terrorist threats against the United States” during the news conference, the actual Alert was not so specific: “Although the FBI has no information indicating this individual (Siddiqui) is connected to specific terrorist activities, the FBI would still like to locate and question this individual.”

The weeks passed into months and months into years as the Aafia Siddiqui disappearance mystery assumed international proportions. In July 2004 al Qaeda operative Ahmed Khalfan Ghallini, facing a U.S. indictment in connection with the U.S. embassy bombings in Africa, was captured by Pakistani forces in a joint operation with the U.S. Several press reports following his arrest linked Aafia Siddiqui to al Qaeda illegal diamond trade in Liberia. The Boston Globe at the time reported that the week Aafia allegedly spent in Monrovia in June 2001 was at the personal invitation of then Liberian President (and now convicted war criminal) Charles Taylor. Once again the media was tying Aafia to terrorism activity without any real factual basis.

By 2007 most of the people who knew Aafia feared she and her children were dead, even though Human Rights Watch reported in February of that year that Siddiqui may have been held in one of the CIA’s “black site” prisons where both captured and illegally kidnapped terror suspects were held for torture interrogations. In March 2007 former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf suspended Pakistan’s Supreme Court Chief Justice lftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry who was then leading an investigation into the secret detentions and disappearances of over 500 Pakistanis, including Siddiqui

Then in 2008 reports began to circulate about “The Gray lady of Begram,” the infamous military prison in Afghanistan long suspected of being a torture facility worse than Guantanamo Bay. The first legitimate reports about this “gray lady” came from a British journalist named Yvonne Ridley who told Daily Times of Pakistan on July 7, 2008 about a Pakistani woman who had been held for years in solitary confinement in the Begram Theater Internment facility. Ridley went on to write about this “Prisoner 650” who had endured torture and repeated rapes over a four-year period. It was Ridley who coined the term “gray lady” of Begram because the prisoner appeared to be a “ghost” who agonizing cries and screams forever haunted those who heard them. “This would never happen to a Western woman,” Ridley eloquently wrote.

Ridley’s account about the “gray lady” of Bagram gained credence when other former Bagram prisoners began to speak about “prisoner 650.” The Daily Times and Adnkronos News Service in Pakistan even reported that “prisoner 650” had gone insane and cried all the time.

The mystery of Aafia Siddiqui suddenly exploded into the public arena again on July 17, 2008 when she, and her oldest son, were reportedly arrested by Afghanistan National Police in Ghazni near the residence of the provincial governor. According to a federal indictment issued in the Southern District of New York, Siddiqui had in her possession handwritten notes that referred to a “mass casualty attack” and listed various locations including the Empire State Building, Plum Island, the Statue of Liberty and the Brooklyn Bridge. The indictment further alleged that the handwritten notes contained information about a “dirty bomb,” chemical and biological weapons, and other explosives along with a mortality rate for each weapon.

The government further charged that on July 18, 2008, a team of military and law enforcement personnel, along with interpreters assisting them, went to the Afghanistan National Police compound in Ghazni to interview Siddiqui. The team was escorted to a room where the interview was to be conducted. A curtain separated the interview room from another room. Siddiqui was reportedly in the adjacent room unbeknownst to the U.S. team. The military personnel rested their guns against a wall at which time Siddiqui allegedly grabbed one of the weapons and shot one of the military personnel with it. She was also wounded before being restrained. In addition to terror-related charges, she was indicted for the attempted murder of a U.S. national.

On August 4, 2008, Aafia Siddiqui was returned to New York to face the criminal charges against her. When she appeared before a federal Magistrate Judge that day, Siddiqui refused to accept the charges brought against her by the U.S. government. Her attorney at the time, Elizabeth Fink, told the Magistrate Judge that no one could believe anything the FBI said about the case and argued there was evidence to show Siddiqui had actually been arrested in Karachi in March 2003 along with her three children.

As a matter of fact, The Daily Times reported on August 8, 2008 that official documents existed which proved Aafia and her three children had been arrested in Pakistan in March 2003—not in Afghanistan in 2008 as alleged by U.S. authorities. The newspaper stated that “sources close to the matter claimed the Interior Ministry asked the provincial home departments for detailed reports on missing persons a couple of weeks ago, and that the list prepared by the Sindh Home Department included Dr. Siddiqui and her three children, Maryam, Admed and Suleman. The report confirmed MI detained Dr. Siddiqui and her three children in Gulsham-e-Igbal on March 30, 2003, later handing her over to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).”

Regardless of the government involved, no official report prepared by any foreign authority has ever coincided with American accounts in the case. For example, the highly respected news wire service Reuters reported that Afghan officials offered a different version about Siddiqui alleged capture in Ghazni. The Afghan National Police were reportedly suspicious when they saw Siddiqui and her teenage son in the vicinity of the Governor’s mansion and took the pair into custody. Reuters reported a dispute erupted between Afghan and American officials the following day over Siddiqui’ custody. Reuters went on to say American military personnel disarmed the Afghan police and proceeded to shoot Siddiqui who was neither armed nor resisting. The Reuters report explained the shooting this way:

“U.S. soldiers then proceeded to disarm the Afghan police at which point Siddiqui approached the Americans complaining of mistreatment by the police. U.S. troops, the officer said, ‘thinking that she had explosives and would attack them as a suicide bomber, shot her and took her.”

On August 11, 2008, Siddiqui appeared before a federal judge in a wheel chair. Attorney Fink pleaded with the magistrate to order medical care for her client. Reuters reported Fink told the judge: “She has been here, judge, for one week and she has not seen a doctor, even they [U.S. authorities] know she has been shot.” Christoper LaVigne, one of the prosecutors in the case, defended the lack of medical care on the grounds that Siddiqui is a “high-security risk.” Judge Robert Pitman was not impressed with that justification, ordering government prosecutors to make sure Siddiqui was seen b a doctor within 24 hours.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan immediately charged that during her captivity Siddiqui had a kidney removed; her teeth removed; her nose broken and improperly set; and that her gun shot wound had not been properly treated. Another Reuters report followed up these charges that Siddiqui believed she had lost part of her intestines as a result of the gun shot; that she was still suffering from internal bleeding. “Lawyers for Siddiqui said last week she appeared confused and did not know where she had been,” Reuters added, “except to claim that she was held captive by unknown authorities in a small room.”

After years of isolation and torture, enhanced interrogation techniques, Dr. Aafia Siddiqui consistently refused to communicate with her attorneys, to participate in the preliminary trial proceedings against her, or to accept any medical or mental health assistance/treatment from prison officials. The court ordered the federal Bureau of Prisons to conduct a psychological evaluation of Aafia which found that she is suffering from a “depressive type psychosis.” Based on this preliminary diagnosis, the government requested that the court find reasonable cause to believe Siddiqui is suffering from a mental disease or defect which could prevent her from understanding the court proceedings against her. In an extraordinary move, the government itself asked the court to conduct a competency hearing.

Citing the lack of adequate professional psychiatric treatment available at New York’s Metropolitan Detention Center, Siddiqui’s attorneys further requested, over strenuous objections by the prosecution, that their client be transferred to a state mental health facility where she could receive badly needed mental health treatment.

The district court brushed aside both these requests, and on July 29, 2009, found Siddiqui was competent to stand trial. In a written order, the court stated (1) that Siddiqui had “sufficient present ability to consult with her lawyers with a reasonable degree of rational understanding and she also has a rational as well as a factual understanding of the proceedings against her;” and (2) “this is an instance where a defendant may have some mental health issues but may nevertheless be competent to stand trial.”

It is obvious that the trial judge, the Honorable Richard M. Berman, was determined to have a trial of the merits. However, because of the convoluted history of Aafia Siddiqui case, a reasonable assumption could be made that the government did not want this case to come to trial; that it would have preferred a ruling from the court that Siddiqui was incompetent to stand trial—a ruling that would have resulted in her being carted off to a federal psychiatric facility where she would have once again disappeared into a an official “black hole” in the federal prison bureaucracy. Famed Louisiana criminal defense attorney Jack Martzell once observed to a client that the federal prison system has the unfettered power to make any prisoner disappear, even from his own attorney.

But then the Pakistani government developed an acute interest in the Siddiqui case. On July 21, 2009, the Pakistani Ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani, spoke with Siddiqui by telephone and informed her that the Pakistani government was making efforts on her behalf. The Pakistani government sought out and secured the legal services of a high-profile defense team with expertise in the kind of charges the U.S. government has brought against Siddiqui to take over her defense. The team included Charles Swift who gained international recognition for his representation of Osama bin Laden’s driver, Salim Hamdan.

Even before the new defense team came on board, Siddiqui’s other attorneys had already mounted an aggressive defense in her case. One of the most impressive defenses made by the team was a challenge to the government’s authority to prosecute Siddiqui for the attempted murder of the U.S. soldier in Afghanistan. In support of a motion to dismiss this particular charge, the attorneys argued:

“We should note from the outset that defense counsel’s challenge to the extraterritorial application of sections 111, 924(c) and 1114 of Title 18 in the context of an alleged assault on a soldier while in a war zone is ‘novel’ (the government’s word) only because the government is for the first time invoking these sections in such a context. In this instance, to be fair, we credit the government with novelty rather than ourselves.

“As for the government’s attempt to ‘eviscerate’ our argument by noting that the team that came to interview Dr. Siddiqui was comprised of some persons who were not in the ‘uniformed services’—agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, for example—we must remind the government that … United States Army Officer Two is identified as the main target of the assault. While the government may wish that the presence of non-uniform federal employees turned the so-called Interview Team into the investigatory and/or law enforcement team protected by those statutes, we respectfully submit that the substantial presence of the United States military persons comprising the Interview Team broadcasts loudly and clearly that this was a military operation occurring in a war zone. Thus, contrary to the government’s argument, the fact that the visit to Dr. Siddiqui by United States military personnel was a military operation places this case clearly beyond the holdings [of established case law].

“In divining whether Congress intended section 1114 of Title 18 to be used in the context of assaults on military troops in war zones abroad, both parties have focused on the words ‘(including any member of the uniformed services)’ that were added to section 1114 in the 1996 amendment. For the government, these words somehow make ‘plain’ that the provision assumes extraterritorial application because it contemplates the indictment of those who assault United States servicemen deployed to war zones abroad because that is where they ‘primarily face danger.’

“But the government’s interpretation is not in accord with the history of section 1114. Until the amendment of 1996, section 1114 was principally a list of federal officers and employees beginning with United States federal judges, moving to United States attorneys and their assistants to United States marshals and then to officers and employees of non-uniform agencies like the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Postal Service, Secret Service and the Drug Enforcement Agency. A cursory glance at this version of section 1114 makes it abundantly clear that the officers and employees contemplated by the statute are those associated with investigation and law enforcement and not military operations.

“In the 1996 amendment, the language of which is the same as the current language Congress clearly wished to abandon the use of a list that enumerated officers and employees of the United States covered by the statute. In its place, Congress offered a statute that used general language that would be construed in line with the list that preceded. Presumably because some of the enumerated officers and employees in the pre-1996 statute were those who wore uniforms—Coast Guard members and officers of the Park Service, for example—the present language of ‘(including any member of the uniformed services)’ was added to ensure they were covered by the statute.

“The 1996 Amendment must be viewed as merely editorial in intent (i.e., replacing enumeration with general terms) because there was absolutely no pronouncement of a radical change in the sweep of this statute to include extraterritorial applications such as assaults on United States military personnel engaged in war abroad in the discussion of the purpose and legislative history of the act of which the 1996 Amendment was a small part. Nor is there any discussion of the larger significance of the 1996 Amendment where it is proposed in the actual bill. Thus, the plain language of section 1114, both pre- and post-1996 Amendment, indicates that its application was limited to investigatory and law enforcement officers and employees, and most definitely not to those engaged in military operations abroad.

“ … If the government’s argument is to be viewed as the correct one, then any foreigner whose nation is at war with the United States who attacks any member of the United States military is amenable to criminal proceedings in the United States pursuant to section 1114. Not only does such a scenario not make sense, it contravenes international law in the form of the Geneva Conventions, which views enemy combatants as protected persons.

“Article 4 of the Third Geneva Conventions generally protects prisoners of war for their combatant activities, and particularly Article 89 and 92 of the Third Geneva Convention. Article 92 makes a prisoner of war who attempts to escape and is recaptured before having made good such an escape liable only to disciplinary punishment prescribed under Articles 89 and 90. Articles 89 and 90 limit disciplinary punishment to 30 days confinement and Article 97 further prescribes that prisoners may not be transferred to a penitentiary establishment to undergo disciplinary procedure therein. Accordingly, a prisoner of war that attempts to escape by grabbing a weapon and firing at his captors would certainly risk being killed or injured himself, and liable for 30 days disciplinary punishment should he be re-captured, but he would not be facing attempted murder charges. Even if Dr. Siddiqui were judged not to be a prisoner of war, she would nevertheless be protected under the Fourth Geneva Convention protecting persons in occupied territories.

“If not a combatant, Dr. Siddiqui would almost certainly be judged as a saboteur under the facts presumed by the government, or a person under definite suspicion of activity hostile to the security of the Occupying Power. Article 5 of the Fourth Geneva Convention indicates that such persons not be deprived of the rights of fair and regular trial prescribed by the present Convention. Article 66 of the Convention permits the occupying power to hand the accused over to a properly constituted, non-political military court on the condition that said courts sit in the occupied countries. Accordingly, the Geneva Convention specifically forbids what has been done in Dr. Siddiqui case, that is, to transfer her to a civilian tribunal not sitting in the occupied territory.

“In order to avoid a collision between the Geneva Convention and section 1114 of Title 18 of the United States Code, the latter cannot be viewed as criminalizing attacks of United States military personnel engaged in military operations in a theater of war by perceived enemy combatants.” [Internal citations in motion omitted]

Why did the government elect to prosecute Aafia Siddiqui for attempted murder under section 1114 of Title 18 when it had already secured an indictment of her as a “terrorist” under section 2332(b) of Title 18 which would have resulted in a mandatory life sentence if convicted?

We can only suspect the government was not confident of its ability to prove a terrorism case against Siddiqui under section 2332(b); therefore, it used the attempted murder charge under section 1114 as a fall back position. Whatever the reason for the government’s attempt to prosecute under section 1114, for which we do not believe it had the authority, it is clear that the U.S. government wanted Aafia Siddiqui to permanently disappear, either in a federal psychiatric facility or in one of its “super max” federal prisons.

On February 3, 2010, an eight-woman and four-man federal jury found Aafia Siddiqui guilty after hearing nearly two-weeks of evidence. The trial began with unfortunate and intemperate outbursts by the mentally beaten down “Lady Al Qaeda” (as she was dubbed with prejudice by government officials) and ended with the same kind of outburst: “This is a verdict coming from Israel, not America,” Siddiqui said while being led from a Manhattan courtroom. “That’s where the anger belongs. I can testify to this. And I have proof.”

Siddiqui’s defense team promised an appeal of the guilty verdict, saying she was too mentally incompetent to stand trial. The MIT-trained neuroscientist will be sentenced on May 6, 2010 when she will face the reality of what will most likely equate to a life sentence in federal prison.

Opposing parties had different takes on the final outcome of this bizarre case. “Juries do make mistakes,” said Elaine Sharp, one of Siddiqui’s attorneys. “Juries do go wrong. In my opinion, this verdict is based on fear, not fact.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, on the other hand, believed the jury did its job: “Today, a jury brought Aafia Siddiqui to justice in a court of law for trying to murder American military and law enforcement officers, as well as their Afghan colleagues.”

Even accepting the jury’s verdict that Siddiqui is guilty, there is substantial evidence that she has been treated abominably by the U.S. government, particularly if she was secretly held in solitary confinement at the Begram torture facility between 2003 and 2008. She now faces a life sentence in a “super-max” federal prison—a prospect that certainly is not going to help our relations with Pakistan, particularly as we try to encourage that country to upgrade its “war efforts” against the al Qaeda and Taliban insurgents attacking U.S. forces in Afghanistan. The Pakistani government does not believe Siddiqui is “Lady Al Qaeda” and spent $2 million on a defense team to prove it.

The Aafia Siddiqui case now stands as a horrible reminder of the unlawful legacy of former President George W. Bush’s declared “war on terror.” Foreign citizens were kidnapped and tortured during the Bush administration—many of whom have now been declared “innocent” by our own government.

Given the mystery of the years of her unexplained absence and the government’s obvious attempts at secrecy and deception, we may never know the truth of Aafia Siddiqui’s case.  What we do know is the government’s failure to openly and honestly discuss the facts of her case, as well as the events leading to her arrest and detention, has permanently tainted the legitimacy of her conviction for millions of observers from around the world.

And whatever else any one may think about the Siddiqui case, it clearly demonstrates that the American federal court system is capable of handling “terrorism” cases. Siddiqui was foreign born and captured on foreign soil, but tried in an American civilian courtroom. This fact seriously undercuts claims by those who say that all “terrorism” cases, especially those involving foreign born suspects captured outside the United States, should be tried before military tribunals.

Related Posts from John T Floyd:

Wikipedia, Aafia Siddiqui
Court documents, United States of America v. Aafia Siddiqui, United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, Case No. 08 cr. 826 (RMB)
Aafia Siddiqui’s attorneys: Dawn M. Cardi, Dawn M. Cardi & Associates, New York, New York; Elaine Whitfield Sharp, Marblehead, Massachusetts; Linda Moreno, Tampa, Florida; and Charles Swift, Swift & McDonald, Seattle, Washington.

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  1. Sadaf Aleem

    January 7, 2011 at 5:54 AM


  2. F

    January 7, 2011 at 9:42 AM

    May Allah(swt) grant her ease and curse her captors.

  3. Hazara

    January 7, 2011 at 10:09 AM

    I wonder when will MuslimMatters write articles about the plight of Aasiya Bibi and the late Salman Taseer.

    • Ameera Khan

      January 7, 2011 at 12:43 PM

      Soon, Insha’Allah!

      • Ibn Mikdad

        January 7, 2011 at 2:21 PM

        Oh no…

    • Tee

      January 7, 2011 at 2:49 PM

      There is no need to discuss Salman Taseer on muslimmatters

      Lets not make muslimmatters another political gossip spot.

      • Hazara

        January 7, 2011 at 3:49 PM

        Why not? Almost every scholar in Pakistan praises the attack (and I’m sure some here think he deserved it), so this is relevant on a site titled MUSLIMMatters, don’t you think?

        • HadithCheck

          January 8, 2011 at 12:15 AM

          I wonder when will Hazara write articles about the plight of Aasiya Bibi and the late Salman Taseer.

          Last time I checked, MM accepts guest submissions, so if you feel something is important enough to be discussed, I am sure they’ll post it if you write an article and submit it.

        • NassirH

          January 8, 2011 at 10:31 PM


          Are you a Shia from Afghanistan by any chance (your name)? Anyways, it’s worth mentioning that traditional Islamic law prohibits vigilantism; so the murderer of the Pakistani goverener was certainly contravening at least one aspect of Islamic law, regardless of one’s opinion of blasphemy laws.

          Al-Qurtubi said:

          There is no dispute among the scholars that qisaas (retaliatory punishments) such as execution cannot be carried out except by those in authority who are obliged to carry out the qisaas and carry out hadd punishments etc, because Allaah has addressed the command regarding qisaas to all the Muslims, and it is not possible for all the Muslims to get together to carry out the qisaas, which is why they appointed a leader who may represent them in carrying out the qisaas and hadd punishments.

          Tafseer al-Qurtubi, 2/245, 246.

          No one should carry out the hadd punishments without the permission of the ruler. If there is no ruler who rules according to sharee’ah then it is not permissible for the ordinary people to carry out the hadd [corporal] punishments. Whoever does that is sinning, because carrying out the hadd punishments requires examining the matter and requires shar’i knowledge in order to know the conditions of proof.

          The ordinary people have no knowledge of such things, and the carrying out of one of the hadd punishments by the ordinary people leads to many evils and the loss of security, whereby people will attack one another and kill one another or chop off one another’s hands on the grounds that they are carrying out hadd punishments.

          • Chemaatah

            January 9, 2011 at 4:19 AM

            While I’m certainly in no position to speak for Hazara, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say I bet that Hazara’s already well aware of these facts. It’s probably a lot more pertinent to address their statement re. the position of so many scholars in Pakistan, despite what you posted from al Qurtubi. Is what Hazara’s said true re. these scholars there? If so, why is that the case, especially in light of what we read in al Qurtubi? To me anyways, these are compelling questions, and I’m curious what the answer is to them.

    • Andrew Purcell

      January 8, 2011 at 9:18 AM

      Hazara, surely you are not suggesting that by supporting Aafia you have no sympathy for Aasia Bibi. The quest for justice is not an “either/or” proposition. 

      I think Muslim Matters’ support for Aafia is commendable, but I also understand that their resources are limited. Are you asking them to include a reference to Aasia every time they mention Aafia? Without too much trouble I can name dozens of people who are victims of official oppression who also deserve such public support, and there are countless more beyond them. Should Muslim Matters mention every one of them by name every time they mention Aafia? 

      Unfortunately injustice is a universal sin, and none of us have the time or ability to support every victim. It comes down to resources. You help the cases where you can do the most good and pray for the others. 

      If you want to provide Muslim Matters with the resources to pursue issues of human rights more thoroughly I am certain that they would love to hear from you. Even if it is only writing an article on Aasia Bibi.            

      • Chemaatah

        January 9, 2011 at 4:00 AM

        And surely Andrew you are not suggesting that the case of Aasia Bibi, and the subsequent murder of Taseer are not very timely topics in very recent news. Yes, there are currently all sorts of instances of official oppression of human beings, in any given place in the world. This particular case is of note right now though because regardless of anything, it’s still a pretty big deal when a prominent politician is murdered by his own bodyguard because of his activism in Bibi’s case. Call me crazy, but this assassination seems like a pretty big escalation, and there are a number of factors in this particular case that are particularly of interest to Muslims, and this occurred in a place that many readers and contributors to this website have strong ties to. The absence of any previous mention of these events here was noticed, that’s all. I don’t believe Hazara’s statement meant that they believe justice is an either/or proposition either. Nor are they asking for something as ridiculous or misguided as demanding anyone be mentioned whenever Ms Siddiqui is mentioned. Not sure why all these strawmen were trotted out here.

        • Amad

          January 9, 2011 at 7:12 AM

          Aafia is a case in America. Most of our articles are focused on Muslims in the West. When we do write about non-Western events, it has to come from one of the writers residing there or with particular interest there. We have been following Aafia’s case from the beginning… this isn’t a one-off article.

          There is no obligation for MM volunteers to write about all subjects possible. We can run our own business, thank you very much.

          • Chemaatah

            January 9, 2011 at 7:03 PM

            No one has said that the plight of Ms Siddiqui is not relevant to readers here or that MM is just now chiming in on the case, randomly out of nowhere. A simple question was asked re. Aasia Bibi, to which Ameera Khan kindly responded. It was not an out of place question at all. Most people are pretty clear on the fact that MM focuses on topics that are central to Muslims in North America and that articles on subjects outside of there are usually submitted by guest writers located there or with ties to the area who follow events there closely. There have been articles submitted by writers in Pakistan or with ties there about events there, so why not re. these events? It might be interesting and informative. That’s all. No one’s saying that MM or any other website is obligated to write about any and every whim of their readers. But “We can run our own business, thank you very much” ?!? So are readers here meant to come away with the understanding that those who run this site and contribute to its content have no interest whatsoever in feedback from readers and what they think might be interesting subjects for one of the great writers or guests on this website to share their take on.

  4. Muslim Stranger

    January 7, 2011 at 11:35 AM

    May Allah free her soon & expose the truth, no matter how hard some ppl try to keep it hidden.

  5. UmmSarah

    January 7, 2011 at 12:15 PM

    May Allah bring justices to this lady. Once in my life, i want to witness a true justices in this dunya

  6. ummMaryam

    January 7, 2011 at 12:20 PM

    salamu ‘alaikum,

    Jazakum Allah khair to all muslimmatters staff for all the various articles you post for the benefit of society.

    I think it would be more pleasing to Allah to not put close up pictures of sisters’ faces on the website. Yes, brothers should lower their gaze but it helps if a muslim site would not put such a zoom in shot of a lovely cute face mashaAllah.

    And Allah knows best.
    And remind, for reminding benefits the believers…Sura az-Zariyaat.

    • Mantiki

      January 7, 2011 at 6:01 PM

      ummMaryam. I agree that it is a cute photo but surely you are joking. Why not replace all Muslim ladies photos with a generic picture of a black burqua over a shapeless store mannequin?

      • Rafa

        January 7, 2011 at 9:52 PM

        I hope you don’t mind my asking, but what’s wrong with shapeless black burqas?

      • DrM

        January 7, 2011 at 10:48 PM

        As usual the troll has nothing of any value to contribute. Then again for an apologist for Anglo-American terrorism this is typical.

        • Mantiki

          January 8, 2011 at 6:36 PM

          Dr M – I had a far more important post supporting the discussion of the recent assassination in Pakistan by a fundamentalist.. That seems to have been censored.

          You continually misrepresent me as supporting Anglo-American terrorism. I have never done so! For the record, my opinion is that no country or groups of countries ought to invade or carry out hostile in other countries acts for political/economic purposes.

          There may be grounds for agreed intervention through a UN sanctioned force on humanitarian grounds such as in Rwanda or Zimbabwe. As this relates to the present, the middle-east is an awful mess largely due to Western interference!

          • Mantiki

            January 8, 2011 at 8:48 PM

            Umar – “Are you a guy who walks naked on the street? Aren’t you hiding something?” I would think that anyone calling for my picture to be removed lest it lead women astray would need their eyes examined rather than a supporting scriptural quote!

            It was not really my intention to revive the burqua debate. I actually thought that the original post was a troll since the “offending” photo is already modest. The subsequent storm of support simply reinforces my view that unless Muslims look rationally at some elements of their beliefs, they risk losing their relationship with God by focussing on elements of the Quran that are purely culturally based.

            It is this focus on culturalism that fuels zealotry and oversensitivity to criticism. This is what leads to death sentences for offences against religion which are separate from offences against our omnipotent Creator. This is what leads to assassination of sensible clear thinking peacemakers. This is what leads to mistaking wrongful American geopolitical actions for anti-Islamic actions.

            What about moving the discussion on to Salman Taseer as Hazara suggested?

          • Umar

            January 9, 2011 at 8:47 AM

            Mantiki, your minnset is slightly hypocritical. You criticise the burkah, yet clearly you are choosing not to expose parts of your body. Who draws the line? As Muslims we believe that Allah has given us the guidelines and laws.

            You said below that you do believe in God, but not Islam in particular. But if you do believe in God, an all powerful, all knowledgable being, does it not follow on that he knows best what is good for us?

          • DrM

            January 10, 2011 at 4:46 AM

            The troll doth protest a bit too much. You were fortunate the moderators closed comments on that other article where you were lying through teeth, with the euro centric anti-Islamic trash(glorified in your religious illiteracy) which your kind traffics in. Your last bit of nonsense in that article went on how great the Americans were for giving “refuge” to some Iraqis and Afghans. to How nice of them. All after bombing, invading, destroying the lives of millions in those countries. As for Rwanda, perhaps you can explain to us what exactly the British and French were doing selling weapons to both sides for. In fact this seems to be very common in Africa, a continent raped by Europeans, and which still suffers under their yolk. You are obviously a thoroughly dishonest person, and an apologist for western terrorism. Tell me, as an outsider, how do you feel about the human race?
            I’d tell you not to quit your day job but you probably don’t have one.

        • Mantiki

          January 10, 2011 at 5:27 AM

          DrM Its not my desire or intent to rise to your erroneous, confused and comical barbs which falsely portray me as an apologist for evil “Western” foreign policy actions and evil multi-national corporate activities.

          It is a great evil that the USA and its sycophant hangers on have caused destructiveness on a scale many times greater than the terrorists we (mostly) all condemn. Such actions go back a long way as most interested literate folk know, to British colonial times and to the Crusades before then. More recently, IMO the USA evicted a perfectly good democratically elected government in Iran back in the 1950’s and threw their support behind a range of corrupt regimes to sow the seeds of Islamic fundamentalism which seems to many as a last resort but powerful antidote to Western aggression and domestic corruption.

          It is a mistake though to imagine this misguided and evil policy as anti-Islamic. It was and is a selfish and pragmatic response out of fear – initially of Soviet and later of Chinese control of strategic oil reserves which are the property of Muslim nations.

          As I said earlier, though the USA and others are the root cause of the tragedies that middle eastern countries suffer from, their excuse for destructive meddling would disappear in an instant if the people of these lands could display an ability to form stable democratic governments (including Islamic government) without turning on each other. IMO they (USA and allies) ought not wait however – they should just leave period!

          No good will ever come of evil actions whether of American carpet bombing or “terrorist” responses. The USA will never root out all terrorists, while terrorist actions simply fuel support for revenge and continued occupation. As Gandhi said, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”

      • HadithCheck

        January 8, 2011 at 12:25 AM

        Mantiki, why replace the photos of Muslim women with a picture of a black burqa?? Is there a need for any photo to get the message across? Not to mention that many scholars say that this is not permissible!

        I agree with sister ummMaryam’s suggestion of removing the picture, may Allah bless her for the reminder and I hope the brothers and sisters at MM receive it with an open mind and heart.

        • Umar

          January 8, 2011 at 9:41 AM

          A burka is there to cover you up, so wouldn’t a picture of a woman in a burka be publicising a lady who wants to be covered up. It kind of kills the point.

          • Mantiki

            January 8, 2011 at 6:23 PM

            My genuine point is that covering or hiding women dehumanises them. No longer recognisable as humans, let alone women, they appear as black pyramids – no individuality and easily substituted. It also takes responsibility from men to be respectful to women. If women replace their image with something stifling, shapeless and unrecognisably female, then how will males ever learn to be responsible for their own feelings and actions? This religious rule treat us all as uncontrollable lechers!

            I genuinely believe that ummMaryam and others have taken probably sensible instructions of the Prophet that men ought not leer at women and make them feel uncomfortable and that women ought not tease and lead men on. And replaced these with an exaggerated caricature.

            Much like the foolish followers of the Messiah in “The Life of Brian”, who discarded one sandal when they noticed their reluctant messiah had lost one of his. LOL


          • umar

            January 8, 2011 at 6:36 PM

            “Hiding women dehumanizes them”

            Are you a guy who walks naked on the street? Aren’t you hiding something?

            Covering is a law sent from Allah. It is clear you have a problem with submission, which is why you make crazy claims.

          • umar

            January 8, 2011 at 6:45 PM

            Sorry, I was in a rush, trying to reach that 2 minute time limit as the original comment was a “testing” comment.

            Anyway, it was you who even mentioned changing it into a burkah picture Mantiki, and then it was you who goes onto insulting the burkah.

            Naturally I question your intentions.

        • HadithCheck

          January 8, 2011 at 8:49 PM

          I genuinely believe that ummMaryam and others have taken probably sensible instructions of the Prophet that men ought not leer at women and make them feel uncomfortable and that women ought not tease and lead men on. And replaced these with an exaggerated caricature.

          Mantiki, are you trying to imply that the wives of the Prophet peace be upon him never wore the niqab and did not cover their entire bodies including their faces? I was hoping that you knew better than that.

          • Sabour Al-Kandari

            January 8, 2011 at 10:02 PM

            Mantiki isn’t Muslim, an unorthodox Christian mysticist that seems like a decent elderly gentleman who isn’t trying to troll.

            However, he really, really doesn’t get how much we are actually offended (though still staying civil) to his very anti-scriptural preaching and that we Muslims can be very intelligent, reasonable, successful and happy neighbors in this world without what we perceive to be a religious lobotomy.

          • Sabour Al-Kandari

            January 8, 2011 at 10:21 PM

            You’ve voiced your opinion on a number of occasions Mantiki and engaged in discussion with a number of people about them, no problemo.

            But why do you have to get pushy and try to impose your beliefs on us in every post?

            Sir, please take a hint, this isn’t a debating website and your posts are strongly in contrast to and continually attack our cherished beliefs. You’re going to attract more flaming to yourself here, and I’d prefer to not see that happen, has a forum for this type of discussion.

          • Mantiki

            January 8, 2011 at 11:10 PM

            Sorry HC – but your point about the Prophet’s wives simply confirms (to me) that the ruling ought to be considered within cultural constraints.

            Thanks Sabour – you’ve probably summed me up pretty well except that I’m a bit less than elderly. My chief concern is with literalism – I was once engaged in a fierce debate with a Christian literalist who was convinced that the direction the altar faced was of prime importance rather than a symbolic gesture. I wish no one harm but for a belief to be cherished does not guarantee it is correct – and may indeed cause harm when promoted as an “ultimate truth”. I don’t refer to our common belief in God here but rather in our beliefs in the way He interacts with us. My argumentiveness is no less against your good selves but also is a way of challenging my own conceptions through the diverse range of responses I (sometimes) provoke. My internal “jihad” if you like.

            As you’ve pointed out, I’ve made my own points on this particular matter. I do enjoy a decent debate so perhaps I ought to check out the site you refer to.

          • HadithCheck

            January 9, 2011 at 2:47 AM

            I wish no one harm but for a belief to be cherished does not guarantee it is correct – and may indeed cause harm when promoted as an “ultimate truth”.

            Mantiki, are you telling me that you do not hold your beliefs to be correct nor true? What is your definition of a “belief” then if it is not what you hold to be the truth?

          • Mantiki

            January 9, 2011 at 5:56 AM

            HadithCheck – replying to your later post about whether my beliefs to be correct or true and what is my definition of a “belief” etc. I can only say that they are carefully weighed and influenced as far as possible by my assessment of logic, personal experience, broad reading (in sociology, comparative religion, spiritual anecdotes, cultural studies, history, medical and neuroscience) and participation in debate.

            It is impossible for me therefore to “know” that they are correct but my framework / worldview seems to be sturdy as far as I am able to assess. As to arguments based on authority, these would be easier to accept if there was only one reliable “authority”. Many religions are based on “authority”, that agree in part and conflict in part. Rather than dismiss them all as would an atheist, I tend to look at the commonalities and dismiss only the bits that are found only in one particular religion or another.

            In one sense, I can see there is comfort in acceptance of a “pre-packaged” religion that simply requires unthinking compliance but I cannot accept that in the 300,000 years or so of human existence and 15,000 or so years of human civilisation, that we ought to unquestioningly obey on what one Prophet said within the context of a specific period and culture 600 years ago.

            So in a nutshell, I don’t say, “do as I say because I am correct!”, but rather, “I don’t believe you or anyone has the right to tell people what to do in God’s name. Including that Allah wills that Muslim Matters should not publish photographs of females being referred to because they may be attractive and male readers might be tempted to think naughty thoughts.”

          • HadithCheck

            January 9, 2011 at 6:53 PM

            So in a nutshell, I don’t say, “do as I say because I am correct!”, but rather, “I don’t believe you or anyone has the right to tell people what to do in God’s name. Including that Allah wills that Muslim Matters should not publish photographs of females being referred to because they may be attractive and male readers might be tempted to think naughty thoughts.”

            Mantiki, the irony here is that you don’t realize that by telling us what not to do, you are saying “do as I say because I am correct!”

            By the same reason which you are using for telling us not to tell MM what to do, one can use your same argument to tell you not to tell us what not to do!

            It is ironic how you don’t see the contradiction in what you are saying.

            Lastly, if you are not certain of your own beliefs nor hold them to be absolutely true, but I do hold my beliefs to be absolutely true, so unless you have something more than your mere conjecture to present, your arguments won’t be of any value.

          • Mantiki

            January 9, 2011 at 10:10 PM


            “Mantiki, the irony here is that you don’t realize that by telling us what not to do, you are saying “do as I say because I am correct!””
            I am not telling you what to do. I am questioning your beliefs and the basis of the detailed and restrictive set of rules which you believe we should obey.

            “It is ironic how you don’t see the contradiction in what you are saying.”
            I do see the contradiction but it is less than you perceive as explained above. Debate is important to reveal the flaws in my own thinking. It is not unusual for me to revise my arguments when I see that I am sounding too strident, too opinionated and too arrogant.

            “Lastly, if you are not certain of your own beliefs nor hold them to be absolutely true, but I do hold my beliefs to be absolutely true, so unless you have something more than your mere conjecture to present, your arguments won’t be of any value.”
            This is a large area to cover. Firstly, there is a varying amount of certainty of my beliefs according to any particular issue. In this particular issue, my certainty is quite strong. Scientifically for example, data shows modern humans started wearing clothes about 70,000 years before migrating into colder climates and higher latitudes, which began about 100,000 years ago. Our common ancestors survived in Africa for hundreds of thousands of years without clothing and without body hair. So clothing was developed by humans for purely practical rather than moral purposes. If Allah has it in mind that clothing should be for the purposes of modesty, the very first humans would have either been very hairy, or else would have dressed modestly from the beginning.

            As to the absoluteness of your beliefs, total certainty does not guarrantee correctness. You owe it to yourself to always be ready to test your beliefs against facts o, logic or other evidence. This is part of the struggle and test of being a believer in God. (Warning – less certain opinion following) For whatever reason, God mostly chooses to remain hidden. Probably so that we don’t just sit around praying for miracles but instead have to work hard to accomplish things and to help each other through life. The downside is that despite your rock solid faith in Islam and Islamic scholarship, there are other faiths (most of them much older) which are quite different and whose adherents also believe are the one and only path to God. Therefore we should all cherish these doubts lest our mistakes lead us to worship the belief system rather than the one God Who is our true love.

          • HadithCheck

            January 10, 2011 at 4:37 PM

            As to the absoluteness of your beliefs, total certainty does not guarrantee correctness. You owe it to yourself to always be ready to test your beliefs against facts o, logic or other evidence.


            as for what you mentioned about scientific data and humans wearing clothes, these are mere theories rather than facts. Some one else might easily come up with a completely opposite theory that humans used to cover their bodies from the beginning, and he will also be able to provide some scientific data to support this theory. So in reality, we have to differentiate between scientific facts and between theories. Most people think that anything scientific automatically becomes a fact. Even as some one coming from a scientific background and having one of my degrees in the sciences, I know that some of the things that are presented as “scientific facts” are in reality mere theories. How many times are there certain things that are even taken for granted as facts and to be scientifically proven by evidence and data, only to have new knowledge and data that show otherwise, and thus proving what used to be considered true as being incorrect! The theories which you mentioned about humans wearing clothes might be proven to be incorrect a few years or decades down the road when we have new or more information in this field.

            Yes, science is a tool that we should use because there is much benefit in it, but we should not take every scientific theory to be absolute truth or else we will definitely be basing some of our beliefs on incomplete information.

            You have to keep in mind that as humans, our knowledge is limited, but it is also increasing with time as we advance technologically and scientifically. In the past, theories were made based on what information we had at the time, and these theories were considered to be scientifically true. Now, after we have more information and data we concluded that some of these theories which we held to be true in the past are now proven to be wrong because we have more information available to us, and so we have formed new theories which we hold to be true now. In the future when we have more information, the theories which we hold to be true today will be proven to have been wrong or inaccurate and we remodel our theories and reformulate them.

            What I am trying to say is that we should be careful as to what scientific theories we take as a matter of fact, and then try to base some of our beliefs off of them, because of these theories were not true or accurate, that means our beliefs that we base on them are not going to be accurate either.

            I agree with what you said that being certain about your beliefs does not guarantee that they are true, and that is why I also agree with what you said of testing your beliefs against logic and other concrete evidence, which is something that I do, and I will tell you that the more I put my beliefs to the test and the more knowledge I gain, the stronger my beliefs are. There are none of the Islamic beliefs which I hold to be true that are not logical to me or that are conflicting to any actual evidence.

            Mantiki, if you would like to continue this discussion, email me at because I think it would be a better medium to discuss these subjects than to do so over here because it is not relevant to the subject of the post.

            If you are truly sincere, then I ask Allah to show you the truth and to guide you to following it.

          • Mantiki

            January 10, 2011 at 4:56 PM

            Thank you for your kind invitation HadithCheck. I prefer not to engage in personal email discussion because over a period of time there is risk attached to providing my email address to many people.

            I take your point about scientific theory – though in this case it is more likely to be factual evidence (which of course could still be misinterpreted or innaccurate). I have to say that usually when religion conflicts with science (on matters of science), it is science that comes out ahead.

            Its probably a good opportunity to end this discussion though since the modesty issue is, as you say, not relevant to the more important substance of this article.

            cheers from me and Allah’s blessings to you.

          • HadithCheck

            January 10, 2011 at 5:21 PM

            I have to say that usually when religion conflicts with science (on matters of science), it is science that comes out ahead.

            I’ll just have to mention one thing Mantiki regarding this, and perhaps from what you know about religion, some of it conflicts with actual scientific facts, and I would agree with you on that, there are some things which I have come across in the teachings of other religions which are clearly illogical or not factual. However, in my opinion, there are no conflicts between science and my religion and the beliefs which I hold to be true. I urge you to read through the Quran if you haven’t done so already, and try and find a scientific error or contradiction in the Quran that is proven to be wrong by logic or facts. The truth is that you won’t be able to find anything that contradicts or conflicts with science.

  7. Kelly

    January 7, 2011 at 12:41 PM

    There’s lots of speculation and hearsay in this article presented as if it were factual information. The informaiton from Siddiqui family members (espeically sister Fowzia) has been onconsistent and conflicting. Her family is far from “naive” about Aafia and her children. The uncle and ex-husband seem to be the most truthful. There is not one shred of evidence that Aafia Siddqiui was the “Gray Lady of Baghram” or that she was ever there. Yet this unsubstantiated claim is repeated once again in this article. You’d think a lawyer would know how to separate fact from fiction/speculation. Aafia’s life is a very strange and sad tale, we will likely never know “the whole truth” on this matter.

    Where exactly were the “government’s obvious attempts at secrecy and deception”? The recent WikiLeaks information about Aafia confimed that the U.S. government didn’t know where Aafia was during the five year period that she was “missing.”

    • Rifaie

      January 8, 2011 at 12:20 AM

      You bring up an interesting point about wikileaks. However, the cables dont include anything really damaging , anything of real value insofar as revealing top secrets of the U.S. If they did then maybe we should know of the exact location of the U.S nuclear arsenal, or maybe the security details of VIPs in the govt. , etc. The point is – wikileaks didnt reveal anything truly valuable and secret.
      We know of U.S secret prisons now – are they also detailed in the cables? Not everyone in govt. knows what it is upto, and probably shouldnt either.

    • Andrew Purcell

      January 8, 2011 at 11:55 AM

      Kelly, just what information from the “Siddiqui family members, especially sister Fowzia” do you find inconsistent and conflicting? I would refute your statement if you had actually said anything other than “Her family is far from “naive” about Aafia and her children.” if you intend to peach someone’s testimony you need to at least offer some examples.   

      There is evidence that Aafia was in Bagram. There are witnesses who have placed her there between 2003 and 2008. Just because you chose to ignore this doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.   

      As for “seperating fact from fiction” let’s talk about the “most truthful” ex-husband and uncle. No divorce is easy or pleasant, and this one was more difficult than most. Would you want to be defined by an angry former spouse? Make no mistake, this is an angry ex-husband. 

      Uncle is a character. An excellent storyteller by all accounts. Unfortunately he gets much of his information from dreams, and he is often unable to distinguish between fantasy and reality. I know this because a couple of years after Aafia was kidnapped one of his dreams took on a life if its own for half a day and wound up indirectly involving me. It took multiple panicky phone calls and e-mails between Texas and Pakistan to untangle that fantasy.

      In 2008 he published an account of Aafia visiting him several months before she surfaced in Afghanistan. He noted that she had a nose job. I am not an expert on al-Qaeda’s medical benefits package, but I am pretty sure that cosmetic plastic surgery isn’t covered. In 2010 I spent three weeks in a New York City courtroom watching Aafia’s trial. Throughout the trial she kept her face covered with her scarf, but at one point she turned to address the spectators and she removed the scarf from her face so she could be heard better. I was maybe fifteen feet away from her. I was looking at the face of a woman I had know since she was a teenager. It was the same face, including the nose.     

      According to Wikileaks, officials at Bagram responded to an inquiry by Ann Patterson, then the American ambassador to Pakistan, with a document denying that they ever had custody of Aafia Siddiqui. Does this confirm the United States’ claim that Aafia was not secretly being held in the prison facility at Bagram? Not in any universe where truth has meaning. People who run secret prisons have agendas that often do not include telling the truth. What is the point of running a secret prison if you let people know who is in it? Not that Ambassador Patterson really wanted to inquire too deeply. A positive response to her question would certainly have complicated the American government’s already prickly relationship with Pakistan.


  8. Aba Abal QaQa

    January 7, 2011 at 12:58 PM

    for salman taseer go to

  9. Brother

    January 7, 2011 at 8:41 PM

    When the government starts giving individuals comic-book like labels, you know they’re cooking up a story. Same goes to media.

  10. shiney

    January 7, 2011 at 8:43 PM

    sad indeed…May Allah (SWT) reward her for her patience and give us all strong Iman and patience as well and May Allah (SWT) protect us all from this kind of torture. Ameen

  11. Enough!

    January 7, 2011 at 9:43 PM

    The whole Asia Bibi episode is very sad. Seriously, it is! SubhanAllah, Do we know of any other so-called Islamic country who has similar law?

  12. n

    January 8, 2011 at 10:46 AM

    i wanted to read this article to get a better understadig but subhanallah the whole case is a big hocus pocus. it doesn’t flow or make much sense.

  13. Confused

    January 8, 2011 at 1:09 PM

    It seems like everyone has a theory except for Aafia herself. Where did she say she was this whole time and what happened?

    God promises justice to be served. If not in this life, surely in the next.

    • Andrew Purcell

      January 8, 2011 at 9:15 PM

      Aafia has told her story once, at her trial. The short version is that she was kidnapped from the streets of Karachi with her three children, taken to a secret prison, and tortured. Muslim Matters has posted an excellent account of her testimony. Read it.  

      • kelly

        January 8, 2011 at 10:36 PM

        Andrew, the link doesn’t appear to be working.

        Something is very amiss here. Aafia has had numerous opportunities to say where she was from 2003 to 2008. That she has spoken publicly about it only *once*, at the trial, is quite odd. We’re not getting the whole truth, not from Aafia, and not from her family (interviews from British reporters show sister Fowzia to be extremely evasive). Where were the children? The ex-husband thinks that the family has had some of the children, and the ex-husband has been prevented from seeing his son even now. Yup, I’d be bitter too. That doesn’t make what he says any less trustworthy than what Fowzia says.

        Aafia wasn’t just “mentioned” by Khalid Sheik Mohammed during his interrogation, she was married to his nephew. Somehow, that fact didn’t make in into the lawyer’s article or your comments. Quelle coincidence, married to the nephew of the mastermind of the 9/11 attack! I guess you think that could happen to any woman, and it in no way reflects on Aafia’s radical proclivities.

        What I find more interesting here is what motivated this highly intelligent, privileged, capable young woman to essentially throw away her career and life and become involved in supporting jihad activities? Boston in the 1980’s and 1990’s had quite a few hard-core Islamists radicals who were active at BU, MIT and Harvard. Did she come under the influence of bad people during her college years there?

        • Andrew Purcell

          January 9, 2011 at 5:45 PM

          Kelly, just what opportunities to tell her story are you referring to? I do not recall any press conferences or appearances on “Oprah” or even any letters to the editor. She has been kept in isolation since arriving in New York City in 2008. 

          It took a visit from a delegation from Pakistan’s national legislature in the fall of 2008 before she was allowed even a short phone call to her mother.

          She did tell her story to that delegation but it was buried in an official report and not widely reported. 

          Aafia has been allowed to send and receive mail on an intermittent basis and it is heavily censored.

          Even communicating with lawyers has been interfered with.  

          Just what opportunities to tell her story did she pass up?

          Her sister Fowzia will allow journalists only limited access to Ahmad and Maryam. This is not evasiveness. This is protection. These are children, 14 and 12, who have been through years of hell.

          As for the ex-husband, he did have a short visit with his son. Ahmad ran from him screaming that this was one of the men who hurt him in Afghanistan. This was captured on video.

          About that marriage to the nephew of Khalid Sheikh Mohammad. It did not happen. The only source for this comes from unnamed sources within the same agencies accused of holding and torturing her.

          Aafia would not get married without consulting with her mother, and her mother would have told me about it if she had.

          About those radical Muslim causes she supported in Boston. Raising money for orphans and widows in war ravaged Bosnia? Sending copies of the Koran to prisons in the hopes it would encourage the inmates to mend their ways when they got out? Sending Islamic literature to schools to teach that Islam is more than a cartoon involving flying carpets, oil wells, and those seventy-two virgins?

          Just saying that hard core Islamists existed on campus and therefore Aafia was influenced by them isn’t saying anything. Over the years I have often spoken with Aafia about religion. Once you get past the different nouns and her accent, the Islam of God’s love and redemption that she spoke about sounded very much like the Catholicism my mother taught me.

          Much of what has been written against Aafia is very general. It saves time. You don’t actually need evidence.                         

          Try the link again. 

          If this stil doesn’t work, go to the Muslim Matters search box and type in “Mauri”, the author of the piece. The search results will include an article called “The Powerful Testimony of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui”.


  14. Qasym

    January 9, 2011 at 1:05 AM

    One of the last things she said at her trial after sentencing was I don’t want my name to be used for political purposes nor do I want any fighting over my name. Maybe we should honor her wishes and stop writing articles about her. She is content with her situation, just make dua for her.

    • Andrew Purcell

      January 9, 2011 at 5:55 PM

      Aafia is not content with her situation, she has simply accepted that she cannot do anything about it. Her family, friends, and supporters are not prepared to accept anything less than her return home.

      There is an old joke about a man who wanted to win the lottery. He prayed and prayed but he never won anything. Finally he asked God what he was doing wrong, and God replied, ” Buy a ticket.”

      My point is that prayer is good but you also need to make use of the available peaceful tools to get the job done.      

      • Qasym

        January 10, 2011 at 1:16 AM

        she said and I quote “I am content”

        • Observer

          January 10, 2011 at 3:12 PM

          So let me get this right, if your daughter was in her shoes and she said she was content with her situation, you wouldn’t do your best to still get her out of that situation?

          These statements are a product of ones strength and Iman. As muslims we strive to remove the difficulties of our brothers and sisters.


  15. Farhat

    February 8, 2012 at 6:17 AM

    I did not read it all. This is about the scariest real life story I ever read. May Allah (swt) protect us all. And not test us more than we can handle. Important to recite last to ayaat of Surah Al-Baqarah. 

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