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Official Statement of Dr Bilal Philips on his arrest in Philippines

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Alhamdulillah, by the blessings of Allah (swt) and readers like yourself, MuslimMatters has been an independent platform for our best thought leaders to educate us in our faith and catalyze change through powerful, necessary conversations. Since our humble beginnings as a basic wordpress blog in 2007, our content has remained free.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support us with a monthly donation of $10 per month, or even as little as $1. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

OFFICIAL STATEMENT OF DR. BILAL PHILIPS

In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Most Merciful

10 September, 2014
From Immigration Detention, Davao City
Mindanao, Philippines

Dear Friends, Students, and Supporters,
Salaam alaykum. Peace be upon you all.
I would first like to thank you for all your prayers and various positive expressions of care, concern and support. I’m happy to inform you that I am safe and well-treated in Davao City immigration custody, as my request for voluntary deportation is being processed.

Though I appreciate your rallies and demonstrations of support in Marawi City, Zamboanga and elsewhere, I advise you all to keep calm and not let your genuine expressions of support spiral out of control and degenerate into wanton destruction of property and the loss of life and limb.
Please allow the due process of law to take its course. The false allegations and misunderstandings circulating in the media will be tackled legally in order to clear my name and lift the ban on any future visits to the Philippines – God willing. There is sufficient evidence to prove my innocence in my hundreds of youtube video lectures and khutbahs (see my youtube channel: aabphilips), over 50 published books, many of which can be downloaded freely from my website: www.bilalphilips.com or www.kalamullah.com, or the hundreds of posts on my official facebook page: Dr. Bilal Philips, with almost 2 million likes.

As to my being on the no-fly black list of America, I join the ranks of Nelson Mandela who was put on it while he was in Robbin Island, and he remained on the list as president of South Africa until he won the Nobel Peace Prize for the same reason he was put on the list in the first place. Because of a narrow policy of the US and inhospitable atmosphere, I prefer not to go to US like one your local public official in Davao City who shunned going to the US for medical treatment. Not to mention the actual meaning of American label placed on me as an un-indicted co-conspirator in the 1993 attempted bombing of the World Trade Center. In normal language, “un-indicted” simply means “no charges have been filed against me due to lack of evidence”, and “co-conspirator” means “guilty by association”, that someone who the authorities arrested had my name in their telephone book, or they were seen shaking hands with me, or they prayed next to me in a mosque, etc.
Regarding the British 3-year ban, based on a statement taken out of context from a video program originally made in 1995 and rebroadcast along with my other programs continuously in Sharjah TV, UAE, since 2003, it has already been successfully demonstrated to Canadian Immigration authorities that I was misquoted. The ban in Australia follows the American lead blindly and the ban in Kenya also blindly follows the British ban. As for the German lifetime ban unilaterally issued by the Mayor of Frankfurt, it was thrown out of court in Germany last year. The Mayor’s appeal was also rejected by the higher courts, he was made to cover all court costs and the ban was lifted. I was not banned or deported from Bangladesh earlier this year as in commonly falsely reported. I entered the country and left on my own will.

Sensational journalism has also played a major role in demonizing me, like that of the daily newspaper which plastered a picture of me on their front page, Sept. 10th issue, with the heading “Suspected Terrorist Arrested”. The related article contained a series of irresponsible, inflammatory and inaccurate statements from PRO 11 Regional Director Chief Superintendent Wendy G. Rosario. Superintendent Rosario was quoted as saying that I was considered a person of interest because of alleged links to a terrorist group outside the country. I have never had any links nor have I ever been accused of having links to any terrorist group. Superintendent Rosario further stated that I was invited for questioning by the police while lecturing in a mosque which is inaccurate, as I did not lecture in any mosque in Davao, my lecture on “Raising Righteous Children” was a public lecture in the Sunny Point Hotel auditorium attended by Muslims and non-Muslims. He then stated that I was prevented from lecturing in Zamboanga scheduled for the 4 and 5th (correctly the 5th and 6th) which is untrue. I personally decided not to go to Zamboanga when the Mayor of Zamboanga withdrew her support by cancelling the venue and her provision of government security forces. She also requested the Department of Justice to prevent me from coming there. The organizers in Zamboanga requested me to come anyway, assuring security from ex-generals from their ranks, but I thought it prudent not to go since the mayor was personally opposed. He then stated that the Bureau of Immigration issued a blacklist order against me on the 4th September, also untrue. They issued the order on the 5th at the request of the Mayor of Zamboanga, and I arrived in the country on the 4th. He then mentioned that there was a report that I was already blacklisted while failing to mention that the previous blacklisting was lifted by the government. Such irresponsible sensational journalism has been identified by the UK government’s Runymede Report as a major source of Islamophobia. I trust and pray that the majority of the people of the Philippines will not tolerate such attitude.

It is very sad that lecturers and speakers like myself who call to Islamic moderation and oppose extremism, terrorism, indiscriminate violence and revolt, are blocked from conveying this peaceful message to Muslim minority communities. We recognize that extremism is a product of ignorance of true Islamic teachings so we promote in our lectures the acquisition of correct knowledge and the practice of Islam’s authentic teachings. In banning and demonizing us, they have created a vacuum of information which continues to be exploited and filled by extremist elements who easily recruit youthful impressionable followers with emotional messages to their savage, violent and merciless unIslamic methodologies and ideologies.

I have always been a proponent of peaceful solutions to our problems as you all know, the motto of my university (Islamic Online University.com) is “Changing the Nation Through Education”. Please be an active part of this prophetic methodology for change by joining the ranks of over 180,000 registered students in my university, most of whom are studying free of any charge in the free Islamic Studies Diploma program.

Peace be upon you all.
Dr. Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips
Chancellor, Islamic Online University

22 Comments

22 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Ibn Ibraheem

    September 13, 2014 at 4:21 PM

    May Allah Bless Abu Ameenah Dr Bilal Philips and his family.

    This man is truly great. He has spent most of his adult inviting people to the Oneness of God. He has done much charitable work. Anyone that works tirelessly for the truth gets a lot of hostility. And Allah has tested him a lot.

    I used to live in Dubai. He had setup an Islamic Center there that preached the Oneness of Allah and Islam. He was even told to leave Dubai by the authorities as he spoke against against the banking, drinking of alcohol, clubbing and prostitution that went on and still goes on in Dubai.

    Those who had lived in Dubai know that those activities are a big part of the tourism industry there and the authorities didn’t like it, so they asked him to leave.

    His lectures used to come on Sharjah TV and it was through his lectures (by the Grace of God) that I understood what Tawheed (Oneness of God) is. Before this my beliefs were full of shirk (associating partners with God)

    All the mosques there would give the Friday Sermon in Arabic. I didn’t speak Arabic, along with so many other foreigners living there.

    Bilal Philips arranged for the first mosque there to be giving Friday sermon in English.

    He was also the first islamic speaker that I encountered that explained the wisdom behind the rituals performed in Islam.

    I love this man. I had the pleasure of meeting him a couple of years ago in Abu Huraira mosque in Toronto. He had come to Canada to renew his passport, but the authorities were delaying it.

    May Allah provide relief for him and his family and to all people of the world that are treated unjustly.

    I ask Allah to open doors for all the people of the world who are oppressed. And May Allah save us from being an oppressor, whether to our wives, kids, families, friends, co workers or people we come across in our everyday dealings.

  2. Avatar

    O H

    September 13, 2014 at 5:30 PM

    “And they resented them not except because they believed in Allah , the Exalted in Might, the Praiseworthy”

    The issue of Haqq vs baatil will continue till day of judgement but the end belongs to the mu’mineen.

  3. Avatar

    Defender

    September 13, 2014 at 8:42 PM

    It is not surprising that the western media is after you and falsely placing allegations on you. May Allah secure you and make your affairs easy. Ameen.

  4. Avatar

    ummi

    September 14, 2014 at 10:43 PM

    Alhamdolillah ,May Allah protect him & those who has sincere intention to do good. Jazakallah khair for releasing your side of story . It is quite disheartening to see our teachers demonized ,yet we call Allah for help.

  5. Avatar

    Abdul Aziz

    September 15, 2014 at 2:12 AM

    The (ulamaa) Islamic teachers and scholars are the inheritors of the Prophets. None of the prophets had it easy during their dispensation. May Allah Grant All our Ulamaas the Inner strength of the (Anbiyaa) prophets to be able to endure all the persecutions , prosecutions ,blackmail ,allegations.Ameen

  6. Avatar

    Ismail

    September 15, 2014 at 10:13 AM

    Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) mentioned in a Hadith about a decline in authentic Islamic scholars when the Qiyamah is near. I think now we all understand how this has come to be. May Allah give him strength and steadfastness to persevere.

  7. Avatar

    H

    September 16, 2014 at 1:23 PM

    Alhumdullialh! He was obviously doing great work for people to want to silence him by such illegitimate means. His enemies couldn’t intellectually defeat him, so they just resorted to draconian strategies instead. You’ll often find that extremely potent da’ees find themselves in similar situations – so you could say that this is sort of a medal to those that are extremely effective. May Allah make it easy for him.

  8. Avatar

    Muslim

    September 16, 2014 at 6:25 PM

    May Allah ease things for you br.and give sabr to your family. Allah is with you, when your on Haqq …world has problems with that…thats our barometer!

  9. Avatar

    hassan

    September 17, 2014 at 9:21 AM

    May Allah continue to bless and protect our noble sheikh Bilal from the misguided mayor and haters of the religion of peace.

  10. Avatar

    Mahmud Amin

    September 21, 2014 at 3:25 AM

    He may not able to come to the philippines but his books surely do..Allahu Akbar!

  11. Avatar

    Deen Islam

    September 24, 2014 at 1:48 PM

    Assalamu lay kum Sh. Phillips, I am a Volunteer Guest Liaison from The Deen Show. I was asked to invite you to do a Skype interview for the show. Please see the message section for the message I sent you for more details. I pray that Allah (SWA) Most High, Most Merciful, Most Generous. will bring ease to you and remove you from this “blacklist” permanently (Ameen) .and Peace and Blessings on Muhammad (SAW) (Ameen) I pray that I hear from you soon. (Ameen)

    • Avatar

      Aly Balagamwala

      September 25, 2014 at 2:35 AM

      Dear Brother/Sister:

      We do not have any way to get your message to the Shaykh. Please contact him through his Facebook page or Twitter.

      JazakAllahu Khairin
      Aly
      CommentsTeam Lead

  12. Avatar

    Yahya Abbie

    September 26, 2014 at 5:59 AM

    may Allah the mighty grant u much patient as u are going through this my Sheikh!!

  13. Avatar

    Tosikul Alam

    October 10, 2014 at 5:18 PM

    I was an unguided young guy searching for truth. And I came to know this man and then the University founded by him. And I enrolled into the free diploma programme. As I continue I realize the truth. This man may Allah have mercy on him really changed my thinking and of course my life.

  14. Avatar

    Usamah Carman

    October 11, 2014 at 5:09 PM

    As A former Atheist, I would never have come to Islam without hearing this brother! He has suffered from nationalism as well as a weak Ummah that has aloud brothers like himself to be treated like common criminals. Although I ascribe to the Salafi methodology, too many of us have chosen that which appeals to our cowardice. I could go on on this matter, but I will not choosing to say may Allah protect our brother and return him to the work that he does better than any other caller to the Deen. Amin

  15. Avatar

    Muhammad Betz

    March 24, 2015 at 4:34 PM

    Assalamu alaikum,
    I met Dr. Bilal Philips when I studied Arabic at King Saud University in Riyadh, KSA, in 1990-1991. He was a kind and open person, who impressed me for being a voice of reason and moderation. He had a great family and circle of English speaking friends from the US, England, South Africa. I can’t help but think that the above political difficulties are the result of overreaching, understudied, politicos trying to make a name for themselves as anti-Islamists.

    After returning to the US in 1991, I have gone on to become Professor Emeritus (retired) in Teacher Education from Southeastern Oklahoma State University in Durant, OK. I now reside in Richardson, TX, and I am working in the field of Islamic Education, with Muslim youngsters, who are patriotic Americans and future Muslim leaders in the US.

    I send my best wishes to Dr. Bilal and his family, and May Allah the Almighty accept the best of efforts, which I know, have been conducted with honest, noble, and peaceful intentions.
    Sincerely,
    Muhammad Betz

  16. Avatar

    Carlos hakim

    September 6, 2015 at 6:23 AM

    Salam,my brother bilal waallahi most of the countries banned you is not the people’s but few people’s who hate Islam so bad I know that you are great passion and compassion Muslim scholar and the best mashaallah in English language!!!!! Life is too short please stay tune to ur deen waallahi next one is the best fear none but Allah,they the haters plan and Allah is the best planner amen ! No matter where you go there is and are always brothers and sisters there for you! Wassallamo aliekom
    Inshallah next time we Puerto Ricans will invites you smile Carlos hakim love& respect and prayers for you porvida my brother bilal keep the good works and plz plz plz plz keep putting weekly lectures on YouTube.

  17. Avatar

    Imtiaz Umarji

    March 6, 2016 at 5:58 AM

    I would like to receive your email updates

  18. Avatar

    Adam Abba Aja

    August 14, 2016 at 1:38 PM

    may Allah the almighty continue to protect our teacher in IOU http://WWW.IOU.edu.gm may Allah reward him.

  19. Avatar

    Fazeel Saeed

    November 14, 2016 at 9:55 PM

    Dear Ustaz, Allah judges people by heart. Insha Allah you live a very simple life but with a lot of knowledge inside you, by the grace of Allah. I pray to Allah that He would grant you Jannah without hisaab(reckoning).
    I am a witness that you have never instructed anyone to follow violence and destruction. You have always advised us to be kind and generous to all, including Muslims and non-Muslims and that is the advice of Prophet Mohamed(Pbuh).

  20. Avatar

    MEER SAHIB

    June 22, 2018 at 1:18 PM

    I am a Canadian, professional engineer of the Province of Ontario, and am proud of Sheikh Bilal. I had the pleasure of hosting a lunch in honour of Sh.Bilal at my residence in Jubail al-Sinaiyah, Saudi Arabia.
    Sh. Bilal is a great scholar, who always taught peace, forgiveness, and patience.
    Many American soldiers accepted Islam from Sh.Bilal and Sh.Deedad during the invasion of the Gulf.
    May Allah shower His choicest blessings on sh.Bilal and his family and his companions.

    Meer Sahib P.Eng.

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#Current Affairs

Muslims Leaders Who Are Also Foreign Agents

When American Muslim leaders are also foreign agents, you need to consider FARA, the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Ahmed Shaikh explores how this law may apply to American Muslim leaders who fall into “Team UAE” and “Team Turkey”

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Foreign Agents in the Muslim Community
Which deeds are most beloved to Allah?

Alhamdulillah, by the blessings of Allah (swt) and readers like yourself, MuslimMatters has been an independent platform for our best thought leaders to educate us in our faith and catalyze change through powerful, necessary conversations. Since our humble beginnings as a basic wordpress blog in 2007, our content has remained free.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support us with a monthly donation of $10 per month, or even as little as $1. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Foreign Agents in the US have a meaningful effect on Americans in the United States.  Should Muslims in the United States adopt the foreign policy narrative of the United Arab Emirates?  Should we be against calling the mass killing of Armenians during World War I “genocide?” Can American Muslim leaders and nonprofits be the voice of governments, give them public relations advice and do their bidding?

These questions are largely irrelevant as the American Muslim community already has some activists and Islamic Scholars who are foreign agents.

I am not claiming being a foreign agent is inherently wrong, unethical or somehow prohibited in Islam. In many instances, being a foreign agent is fine, or at least you can find examples where the activity is harmless and maybe even beneficial. Non-Muslims serve as foreign agents, peddling influence and giving advice. Why can’t ordinary Muslims, even Muslim leaders, activists, and Islamic scholars do the same? What we need though is transparency about these relationships, similar to how we keep tabs on people who carry hazardous waste. It’s often a useful and beneficial service, but also, well, hazardous. 

As we have seen from recent cases Imaad Zuberi, Mike Flynn, and Paul Manafort , it is reasonable to expect more prosecutions of unregistered foreign agents in the coming months and years.

American Team Turkey vs. American Team UAE

My purpose here is not to re-litigate events during the first world war or the UAE’s murderous worldwide batil-slinging foreign policy. It is also not to offer a further critique of American Muslim leaders and scholars who blow smoke for one foreign interest or another. For that, you can read my recent article. Instead, it is to help American Muslims involved with foreign entities to be aware of the law so they can prepare accordingly. 

The “Team Turkey” vs. “Team UAE” saga playing out among the Muslim community’s leadership, including nonprofits and religious leaders, is dangerous, and there is potential legal jeopardy to members of both “teams.” The law in an individual case is often complex, and I am not claiming anyone referenced in this article is a criminal. However, anyone who thinks aspects of this article applies to them should seek legal counsel post haste.

Pariah status may rub off

In the eyes of the US government, the UAE may be up one day, and Turkey may be down. Pakistan is pretty much always “down” no matter who is in power in the United States, so Muslims working with that government and various political parties and institutions in that country should be especially sensitive about being a law enforcement target, even if they believe they are working for a worthy cause. Keep in mind how the Muslim community has been treated historically by the Justice Department. For this or any future US Administration, American Muslim leadership may be low hanging fruit for prosecutors. 

Right now, the UAE, in particular, aggressively buys loyalty, buys people in positions to peddle influence on its behalf. It uses straw donors and funnels its money around the United States through various entities to get what it wants. These tactics work for them now, but it may not work forever. Any Muslim majority country can get “pariah” status and the social and political environment in the United States may turn against that country and its agents.

If the political winds in the United States change against the UAE, their leadership will probably not be affected. Things may be different for their agents in the United States, however. The same may well be true for agents of Turkey. We can learn from their best known non-Muslim foreign agent, former Trump National Security Advisor Michael Flynn

The United States has a long history, going back to its founding, of being suspicious of foreign influence in government and public opinion. Various clauses of the constitution and several laws exist to address this historic concern, though many are quite weak.  The one that Muslim leaders with ties to foreign governments should be most concerned with is the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).

Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) 

Anyone who closely followed the Mueller investigation into the 2016 Presidential election is likely somewhat familiar with FARA.  However, of more interest should be the prosecution and guilty plea last year of Dr. Nisar Ahmed Chaudhry, who was prosecuted for activities that are remarkably common for Muslim leaders, especially immigrants.

It’s not a crime to be an agent of a foreign government. The crime, as those paying close attention to current events, will understand,  is in not registering with the Justice Department. In short, it’s a federal crime for agents of foreign entities or people engaged in political or other activities in the statute, with some exceptions, to not register under this law. US Law defines the term ” foreign agent”- it is not necessarily pejorative. It does not mean being a spy.

Indeed, foreign influence-peddling is an entire industry. Often, people who engage in “influence peddling” are not especially sophisticated and may not be paid at all. They may simply be immigrant activists who love their homeland.

In the case of Chaudhry, he pleaded guilty to not registering an unincorporated group he created in his home, the “Pakistan American League,” and his work as a “foreign agent.” His crime? He spoke to officials in the Pakistani government, and worked in Pakistan’s interests in D.C. area government and “think tank” circles by organizing “roundtable discussions.” He was not paid for his work as an “agent” by Pakistan.  All of this is legal, except that he failed to register.

A Law About Transparency

Foreign Agents need to report on their activities or risk fine and imprisonment. Every six months, the US Attorney General issues a report on foreign agents who register under this law to Congress. You can find the most recent report here. These reports offer a helpful description of registered foreign agents operating in the United States, but anyone can take a deeper dive into the reporting if they want to. FARA is about transparency.

FARA does not prohibit speech or activities by anyone. The purpose is to inform the public and government about the source of information used to attempt to influence them. FARA is an old law that US Muslims need in our communities right about now. 

Enforcement of this law had been mostly dormant for years, and the Mueller investigation is said to have given it new life. Registrations under the law are up.

FARA is broader than you might think

FARA is not just for agents of foreign governments. Being an agent of a foundation, royal family, oligarch, or any other entity or person can trigger the same requirements and cause criminal liability for those who fail to register. Many registrations under FARA involve agents of entities and people that are not governments. 

As we have seen from Chaudhry’s case, Muslim leaders, activists, and scholars don’t need to be paid to be “foreign agents” under the law. Congress understood foreign agents could work for nonmonetary benefits. A foreign agent does not need to agree with everything the foreign principal does and says. A Muslim leader who gives certain kinds of advice to a foreign entity may need to register to avoid criminal liability. It does not matter if the foreign principal ignores the advice. FARA is not just a law about foreign lobbying, indeed lobbyists have a separate registration system and law.  Virtually any work to influence public opinion or give advice will fall under the law. There are many opportunities for Muslim leaders to get themselves into serious trouble

Religion or university affiliation may not save foreign agents 

There are exceptions to FARA reporting requirements. For example, diplomats, many journalists, and bona fide trade and commercial enterprises do not need to report.  Say Muhammad is the agent of a Turkish exporter of Turkish delight, selling delicious packaged desserts to grocery stores around the Midwest. Muhammad does not need to register under FARA. 

Similarly, those involved in bona fide religious, academic, or fine arts pursuits are exempt. So if Saad, a US Citizen, is hired by the Saudi government to teach Quran recitation to children of employees of the local Saudi consulate, Saad would not need to register. 

 If, however, the Turkish Delight company asked Muhammad to write op-eds and hold meetings to prevent tariffs on Turkey, well, that’s different. If Saad starts to give public relations advice to his Saudi employers, he should call a lawyer. It’s worth noting that FARA is not the only registration and disclosure statute. A lawyer with expertise in this area can help them sort it out. 

Learn from others

Carrying water for a foreign entity’s political agenda, a regular occurrence by some American Muslim leaders is not bona fide religious or academic activity. Such conduct falls squarely into a danger zone under the law. The US Justice Department has confirmed the religious and academic exception’s narrow scope. The Overseas Korean Cultural Heritage Foundation, for example, wanted an opinion they are exempt from registration.   They were working on developing a museum, which is an academic institution. However, the Justice Department advised the foundation must register under FARA. The reasons, among other non-nefarious sounding things, were exhibits on bilateral relations between South Korea and the United States.

In 2017, TV station RT America and news outlet, Sputnik, “both Russian-funded but with production companies in the US, registered as ‘foreign agents’ under pressure from the Justice Department.”

Muslim leaders with ties to foreign entities should also look to the example of the American section of the World Zionist Organization. The WZO has appropriately registered itself as a foreign agent. Its work seems reasonably standard for a Zionist organization, though. WZO “participated in workshops, seminars, and conferences and distributed materials to increase support for the foreign principal’s educational, cultural, and religious goals.” The foreign principal was the World Zionist Organization in Israel, not the government of Israel itself. Still, it needed to register. 

Even if someone falls into an exception to FARA, another related statute may well cause liability. So anyone who has to look around for exceptions should check with an attorney. 

Sunshine in the Muslim community

Much of the work against CVE involved learning what Muslim leaders working with governments were up to. Because of the federal “Freedom of Information Act” and state Public Records Acts, we have a better idea of what Muslim leaders have been collaborating with the war on terrorism against our community. The availability of public records has also kept some Muslims away from unsavory funding opportunities. There is always a risk they will be found out. Who needs that drama? As the late US Supreme Court Justice Luis Brandies famously said, “sunshine is the best disinfectant.” 

Some in the Countering Violent Extremism space have looked to foreign governments and organizations, particularly in the UAE. Working against the US Muslim community, which includes naming groups such as CAIR and MAS “terrorist organizations,” and investing in anti-Muslim surveillance is fundamental to UAE foreign policy. Foreign entities are not subject to the Federal Freedom of Information Act or state Public Records Acts.

Covertness can be beneficial when prosecuting the war on terrorism in our communities on behalf of a foreign master. However, security-state contractors working with foreign entities are engaged in an inherently political enterprise and should register. Unfortunately, nobody from the Muslim community in the CVE sector has. They should either start or quit foreign-sponsored CVE altogether. 

FARA is your friend

We have a strong need for transparency among Muslim leaders and organizations. Foreign interests have been looking to influence the US Muslim civil society for several years. It may well be that agents of foreign nation-states or entities in them have valuable things to say. The purpose of FARA is not to deny your ability to hear them and learn from them. However, knowing someone is a foreign agent will help us place the information provided by a Muslim leader, activist or scholar in a better context. 

Muslim leaders and organizations should strongly encourage each other to look at FARA when any foreign entity is involved. If for no other reason, to avoid potential criminal liability.

If you are a Muslim leader, activist or scholar working with a foreign principal, retain legal counsel. You need to know if registration is required. If it is necessary, and it often will be, provide a fulsome disclosure and keep updating it. You can be sure there will be at least a few Muslims reading it. 

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#Current Affairs

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

Hena Zuberi

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Kashmir hearing in Congress
Which deeds are most beloved to Allah?

Alhamdulillah, by the blessings of Allah (swt) and readers like yourself, MuslimMatters has been an independent platform for our best thought leaders to educate us in our faith and catalyze change through powerful, necessary conversations. Since our humble beginnings as a basic wordpress blog in 2007, our content has remained free.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support us with a monthly donation of $10 per month, or even as little as $1. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

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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What We Should Know About The Slaying Of An Imam 10 Years Ago In Dearborn

Dawud Walid, Guest Contributor

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informant jibril imam Luqman
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October 28, 2019 marks 10 years since the tragic homicide of Imam Luqman Ameen Abdullah who was shot 20 times in Dearborn, Michigan by a special FBI tactical squad. The homicide of Imam Abdullah was the culmination of the FBI spending over a million dollars in a so-called counterterrorism investigation which included rental of a commercial warehouse and freight trucks, the purchase of expensive electronic items and payment to at least 3 confidential informants. The raid on that fateful day in which Abdullah was killed and some of his congregants were arrested had nothing to do with terrorism-related charges, yet the imam and by extension the Detroit Muslim community was smeared in the process.

The FBI and the Department of Justice (DOJ) claimed that agents were compelled to kill Abdullah because he purportedly shot a law enforcement canine during the arrest raid. CAIR-Michigan filed a lawsuit against the FBI for wrongful death and fraud in this matter because there was no forensic evidence that corroborated that Abdullah had a firearm much less shot an FBI dog, which the bureau considered a law enforcement officer. There were no proofs provided that any gunpowder was on Abdullah’s hand or fingertips which would have existed if he had fired a gun, and none of his DNA nor fingerprints were found on the alleged gun. In fact, there was not even a picture of a gun at the scene nor did the Dearborn Police see any gun. The FBI blocked the Dearborn Police from entering the scene of the homicide for over an hour after the shooting which allowed the FBI special tactical team to leave with the purported firearm. In other words, the shooters of Abdullah, who headed back to DC without even being questioned by the Dearborn Police, are the only source that he had a gun. We believe that the FBI used what is known as a throwaway gun in a coverup when they killed the imam.

To add insult to injury that tragic day when Abdullah was shot 20 times including in the back and groin, law enforcement used their helicopter to fly the injured FBI dog, which was most likely shot by friendly fire, to a veterinarian hospital instead of using it to fly the imam to a close-by hospital. When the Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Michigan and the Acting US Attorney held a press conference about the incident, it was followed up later with special recognition for “Freddy” the FBI dog while the imam was painted as a type of extremist who wanted to establish sharia in the Westside of Detroit.

To add insult to injury that tragic day when Abdullah was shot 20 times including in the back and groin, law enforcement used their helicopter to fly the injured FBI dog, which was most likely shot by friendly fire, to a veterinarian hospital instead of using it to fly the imam to a close-by hospital.Click To Tweet

The lawsuit which we filed against the FBI was dismissed not because of the merits of our arguments but due to the federal government during the Obama administration suppressing information. The FBI would not release the names of their shooting squad which forced us to name them as John Does. The DOJ countered that we did not have standing on behalf of the family because we did not name actual persons. When we refiled using the names of the Special Agent in Charge and the head of the tactical team, neither who were actual shooters, the DOJ argued that the statute of limitations ran out in our complaint. We submitted an appeal to the US Supreme Court regarding the coordinated suppression of evidence; however, our appeal was denied. We still hold to this day that the FBI wrongfully killed the imam which was followed up by a systematic coverup.

Since the homicide of Abdullah, we now know that government surveillance against the Muslim community and the suspected terrorist watchlists grew tremendously during the Obama years in comparison to the Bush era. Also, the Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) which further targeted the community began under the Obama administration. Government spying and the broad usage of confidential informants, some who act as agent provocateurs, in our community are still concerns of ours. Where Americans pray or who we associate with that may have unpopular political views should not be predicates for FBI surveillance. In many cases, this has led to young American Muslims being criminalized. For Imam Abdullah, it led to his demise.

During the 10th anniversary of this tragedy, I ask us all to recommit ourselves to standing for the civil liberties of all Americans to not be mass surveilled and for none of us to aid and abet any governmental programs that facilitate of the violation of our 1st Amendment rights falsely in the name of public safety and national security. Click To Tweet

As my mentor, the late Ron Scott with the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality said when he stood with us in this case, “We are not anti-police; we are anti-law enforcement misconduct.” It is not our position that law enforcement be completely abolished. We are, however, against the unethical usage of informants which is part and parcel of the prolific history of the FBI in targeting prominent Americans such as Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali, whose religious and political views were viewed as threatening by the status quo. During the 10th anniversary of this tragedy, I ask us all to recommit ourselves to standing for the civil liberties of all Americans to not be mass surveilled and for none of us to aid and abet any governmental programs that facilitate of the violation of our 1st Amendment rights falsely in the name of public safety and national security. We never want to see another homicide such as what took place to Imam Luqman Ameen Abdullah due to overzealous actions predicated upon misguided FBI policy.

Photo: Luqman Abdullah, second from left. FBI informant “Jibril,” third from left. Credit: Intercept

21 Shots and the Pursuit of Justice: An Imam (Luqman Ameen Abdullah) Dies in Michigan

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