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Falling Stronger: A Detainee’s Perspective

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By Ibrahim Mohammad

The last two years have been surreal for me. When you’re imprisoned with no access to the outside world or to fresh air and sunshine, time ceases to have meaning. You measure time by weeks and months rather than hours and days. It’s as though you’ve entered an alternate universe, stuck in limbo.

When I was first arrested, I didn’t know what to expect. Naively, I asked if I would be back home that evening. I never imagined I’d still be detained more than two years later. It just made no sense. How could someone who has been living peacefully with his family, working productively and responsibly for more than decade, and has never been accused of any crime before, suddenly be whisked away and locked up with the most violent of criminals? I can understand having to face a trial to defend my innocence, but I don’t understand this pre-trial punishment. “Innocent till proven guilty” is such a basic universal concept that it seemed absurd I could be imprisoned and punished for this long – waiting, having to prove my innocence, rather than simply defend it.

Incarceration in county jails, I’ve come to understand, is actually much harder than real prison – which sounds absurd because most people being held in jails are considered “innocent” awaiting trial. In prisons, state or federal, convicted inmates have relative freedom: they eat better, have access to outdoor recreation as well as more avenues for entertainment, and better contact with their families and the outside world. Here in the county jail, you’re locked up in squalid cell blocks almost 24 hours a day, packed up like sardines in a can, with no windows, no outdoor recreation, and contact with family limited to one 30 minute “visit” a week over a grainy, dim, video monitor. The food is much worse than in prison and the only recreation offered is an hour of indoor recreation in the basement on week days and weekly trips to the jail library. Even a chance to sit on a simple plastic chair during attorney visits seems like a luxury in here.

The conditions being as harsh as they are, many inmates feel desperate to get out, and hence agree to the first plea offer they’re made, thus avoiding the many months of waiting a trial would take. Perhaps that explains the logic behind the conditions of jail detention. The excuse made is that jail detention is meant to be temporary, but in what world is two and half years “temporary”? It’s one thing if someone was caught red-handed, or is known to be dangerous. Here, the government, after years of close surveillance and scrutiny, has acknowledged that they don’t consider me a danger. The charges are from eight years ago, and my connection to the crime is so tenuous so as to be non-existent. I’m being accused of facilitating some financial transactions for a family member, who may have given some of those funds to an associate of his, who then allegedly gave it to someone else, who then may have given it to another person, who a year after these alleged events became designated as a terrorist. Yet, the government believes that I should be detained for a quarter of a decade prior to trial because of how heinous my “crime” is and because I’m a flight risk. This is despite no “smoking gun evidence”, according the government at the bond hearing in November.

It takes a while to come to terms with the idea that some people hate you so much, that they’re willing to go to great lengths to take you away from your family and imprison you for decades, knowing very well that you pose no threat and were not guilty of any crime, simply because of your faith. People who live ordinary lives like most of us do, and like I did until my arrest, do not normally experience that kind malice and spite, so it takes a little getting used to. Having spent more than a year discussing the case and the evidence with my attorney, it is abundantly clear that the government investigators and prosecutors know full well that I’m innocent, yet they still twist and distort facts in order to gain a conviction. They ignore those facts that don’t fit their narrative and misrepresent others to make them fit. Their goal is not justice, their goal is conviction. It is not prosecution but persecution.

How I’ve held up so far is something I myself cannot fully explain. I’m not a naturally strong person or a fighter. I’ve always been very non-confrontational, even passive. But I do believe strongly in truth and justice. More than anything else though, it’s been my faith and trust in Allah, based on the knowledge and understanding of Him that I had gained over the years, that has held me instead. We are taught that persecution is the wont of the believers throughout the ages. It’s happened to great people in the past – to the Prophets Yusuf (Joseph), Yahya (John), and Esa (Jesus), peace be upon them all. We are also taught that God places no burden on His servant greater than he/she can bear. So, every time I feel that I’d reached my limit of endurance, God All-Mighty and All-Merciful gives me a sign – some unexpected good news, some act of kindness towards me or my family, some words of encouragement – that reinvigorate and strengthen my faith and resolve.

The analogy I make is that of a reluctant worker who is being forced to do some heavy manual labor – his body is pushed till its limit and his muscles feel ripped and hurt. But once they heal, he finds himself stronger and more resilient. I am eternally grateful to God for having made me stronger in my faith and having provided for and taken care of my family and myself. As a husband and father who was the sole bread-winner of his family, the biggest burden on my mind from the moment I was arrested has been concern for my family’s well-being. Yet due to the Grace of Allah Almighty, and the unselfish efforts of some truly exceptional and generous people, my family has been well-taken care of, and that more than anything else has given me the strength to continue this long and grueling fight. For those people who have been helping take care of my family, God knows who you are, and your reward is with Him who is best capable of rewarding good deeds.

My faith, alhamdulillah, is stronger than ever, as is my relationship with my family. All my oppressors have succeeded in is making me a stronger believer in God, and the hardship they’ve caused us has done nothing except anneal and strengthen the ties between me and my family. They have not succeeded in changing me, except for the better. I have never hated anyone, and I don’t do so now, despite their efforts. I wish peace and happiness for all, even them.

I end with greetings of peace to all those who took their time to read these brief thoughts that I was able to compose from my prison cell. May Allah guide us all to the best of this world and the next. And indeed, all praise and thanks are due solely to God, the Lord of all people.

An unexpected ruling on the judge’s part earlier this week has greatly affected Ibrahim’s current detainment and has violated his constitutional rights. After more than 3 months since his third bond hearing, the judge has yet to make a ruling regarding his release on bond. Thus, at the pretrial on Feb 15, 2018, the #FreeIbrahimNow team asks you to pack the courtroom at 11 am. U.S. Courthouse, 1716 Spielbusch Ave. Toledo, OH 43604 and sign this petition

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Avatar

    ESD

    February 14, 2018 at 12:07 AM

    May Allah free you!

  2. Avatar

    Sabeen

    February 16, 2018 at 1:25 AM

    Indeed no one will be burdened more the they can carry, All our prayers with you..#freeIbrahimNow

  3. Avatar

    AD

    February 24, 2018 at 10:10 AM

    May Allah make things easy for you and your family. I ask Allah to forgive you and raise your ranks for every moment of suffering that you’re going through.

    To the admin/family members of IM: Is there a way to get in touch with him? I’m his former roommate from UIUC and wanted to send a msg to him. If not, please convey my regards to him and let him know that he’s in my du’as. JazakAllah khayr.

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#Current Affairs

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

Hena Zuberi

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

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

The statement reads:

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

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

Faith Forward Dallas at Thanks-Giving Square”

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

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

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

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

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#Current Affairs

#UnitedForOmar – Imam Omar Suleiman Smeared by Right-Wing News After Opening Prayer at US House of Representatives

Zeba Khan

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Sh. Omar Suleiman delivered the opening prayer in the US House of Representatives yesterday, May, 9th, 2019  at the invitation of Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D) of Dallas.

Immediately since, right wing media platforms have begun spreading negative coverage of the Imam Omar Suleiman – calling him anti-semitic, a common tactic used to discredit both Muslim activists as well as criticism of Israel policies.

News outlets citing the criticism have pointed to a post from The Investigative Project on Terrorism or ITP, as the source. The  ITP was founded by and directed by noted Islamophobe Steven Emerson. Emerson’s history of hate speech has been documented for over two decades.

Since then, the story has been carried forward by multiple press outlets.

The immediate consequence of this has been the direction of online hate towards what has been Imam Omar Suleiman’s long history of preaching unity in the US socio-political sphere.

“Since my invocation I’ve been inundated with hate articles, threats, and other tactics of intimidation to silence me over a prayer for unity,” Imam Omar Suleiman says. “These attacks are in bad faith and meant to again send a message to the Muslim community that we are not welcome to assert ourselves in any meaningful space or way.”

MuslimMatters is proud to stand by Imam Omar Suleiman, and we invite our readers to share the evidence that counters the accusations against him of anti-semitism, bigotry, and hate. We would also encourage you to reach out, support, and amplify voices of support like Representative E.B.Johnson, and Representative Colin Allred.

You can help counter the false narrative, simply by sharing evidence of Imam Omar Suleiman’s work. It speaks for itself, and you can share it at the hashtag #UnitedForOmar

JazakAllahuKheiran


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At an interfaith panel discussion, three North Texas religious leaders promoted understanding and dialogue among Muslims, Jews, and Christians. Amid a vexed political and social climate, three religious leaders in North Texas—a priest, an imam, and a rabbi—proved it’s possible to come together in times of division. Source: DMagazine.com


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The congregation, led by Imam Omar Suleiman, penned more than 150 cards and letters. source: WFAA News


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“We must recognize that the white supremacy that threatens the black and Latino communities, is the same white supremacy that spurs Islamophobia and antisemitism,” -Imam Omar Suleiman

Source: Bend The Arc


Through Dialogue, Interfaith Leaders Hope North Texans Will Better Understand Each Other

“When any community is targeted, they need to see a united faith voice — that all communities come together and express complete rejection of anything that would pit our society against one another more than it already is.” -Imam Omar Suleiman

Source: Kera News

 


Conversations at The Carter Center: Harmonizing Religion and Human Rights 

Source: The Carter Center


Imam: After devastating New Zealand attack, we will not be deterred

My wife and I decided to take our kids to a synagogue in Dallas the night after the massacre at Tree of Life in Pittsburgh to grieve and show solidarity with the Jewish community. My 5-year-old played with kids his age while we mourned inside, resisting hate even unknowingly with his innocence…” Source: CNN

 

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#Current Affairs

Ben Shapiro Gets Wrecked on the BBC for Racism Against Palestinians and American Jews

Andrew Neil so thoroughly destroys Ben Shapiro that he has a snowflake meltdown and retreats in the middle of the interview to his own safe space, off-camera. 

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The video plays at the 10:00 minute mark where Neil begins to break down Shapiro on his statements about President Obama, Palestinians, and American Jews.

Let’s set the context – popular conservative commentator Ben Shapiro, known for his aggressive debate style in the public square, visited the BBC to promote his new book.  The interviewer, Andrew Neil, after giving Shapiro a chance to introduce himself to the BBC audience, questioned him about the anger both the left and the right feel towards one another, and Shapiro’s own role in stoking that anger and polar opposition within the Republican party over many years.

The reason for this line of questioning is because Shapiro claims this to be a problem in American discourse and fails to consider his own contribution to the problem, and it is this hypocrisy that Neil confronts him about.  Shapiro attempts to respond, but is promptly crushed by Neil’s responses with Shapiro’s own quotes.  For example, he brings up the following tweet written about Palestinians which Shapiro agrees was wrong but hasn’t taken down:

 

Shapiro futilely attempts to respond, but Neil continues to quote Shapiro until he is left with no choice except to throw ad hominems at his interviewer, which were deftly turned back on Shapiro, leaving him to look even more petty for his attempted condescending remarks.  The end result is the man claiming earlier to welcome a spirited debate quickly found himself running away to lick his wounds.

Perhaps the greatest irony in this debate – Shapiro accused Neil of being an opinion journalist of the left-leaning variety, while Neil is a conservative and chairman of The Spectator, whose editorial outlook is conservative.

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