|Preemptive Prosecution Is Legal Persecution, Say Rights Advocates|
|Community News - Community News|
|Written by Hena Zuberi, Muslim Link Staff|
|Monday, 21 January 2013 20:33|
Falls Church Fundraiser Held In Support of Prisoners, Families
In the time it took for the Muslim Legal Fund to plan and complete its fundraising tour with Dr. Tariq Ramadan, federal prosecutors had announced yet another arrest from a terrorism sting; they announce one at the rate of about one every 60 days. The MLFA was in Falls Church, VA for a fundraising event at Dar Al Hijrah on December 16th, 2012.
"Two hundred names preemptively prosecuted by the United States government are on this wall," said Khalil Meek, the Executive Director and co-founder of MLFA while pointing to a wall of names of the incarcerated temporarily set up in the main hall at Dar al Hijrah. "Not one person [was] injured by any of them [their alleged crimes were] non-violent and non-lethal. The crime is ideology. This is happening in courts all over the country.” Photo by Muslim Link.
"At least half the talks I give around the country are to peace groups that recognize the Muslim community is like the canary in the coal mine," said Attorney Stephen Downs. "If the Muslim community is suffering because their civil rights have been taken away from them it is only a matter of time that the rest of the us will be smothered by them. The names in pink [on the wall] are peace activists in jail...under the [same] material support theory."
In his speech, Downs introduced the hall to the work of the National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms, of which he is the Executive Director. NCPCF, made up of 20 Muslim and non-Muslim civil groups to complement the work of the MLFA, aims to mobilize public opinion and prevent future cases.
Project Salam collaborated to form the NCPCF, a coalition whose mission is to educate the public about the erosion of civil and political freedoms in the society and the abuses of prisoners within the U.S. criminal justice system especially after 9/11.
"At least half the talks I give around the country are to peace groups that recognize the Muslim community is like the canary in the coal mine," Downs explained. "If the Muslim community is suffering because their civil rights have been taken away from them it is only a matter of time that the rest of the us will be smothered by them. The names in pink [on the wall] are peace activists in jail...under the [same] material support theory."
He pointed out there were African American from the 1960s whose names were on the wall. According to Downs, they were given years of solitary confinement to send out a message from the government, to humiliate prisoners and the ideology."It is unfair and barbaric and needs to be stopped," says Downs.
The educational campaigns that NCPCF addresses are two fold, aimed at Muslims and non Muslims. When he speaks at masajid, Downs hopes he can get through to the young men that their loose talk about jihad is the opening that the FBI needs to send an agent provocateur to them. He believes that if his message can reach his non Muslim audience, and they are exposed to how many young men with low IQs and mental health problems have been targeted for years, he could turn public perception.
Downs let the community know that they can participate in letter writing campaigns to prisoners, and the families of prisoners who feel marginalized. He described a recent event where several families came together in a social setting. "For the first time they felt that they could speak about the pain that they were suffering," said Downs.
Raeed N. Tayeh, an MLFA board member and former resident of Northern Virginia, read off names of Muslims from the Falls Church community who were victims of injustice. In Virginia Paintball case, Tayeh recalled the judge stating she knew the defendants had not committed a crime but she was bound to give them the draconian sentence."When the hands of a judge are tied then you should be very afraid," said Tayeh.
Tayeh introduced the audience to Jamal Abusamhadaneh; MLFA has successfully spent $80,000 on his landmark citizenship trial. The audience erupted in applause.
At the event held at Dar Al Hijrah, the speakers made a case for the Muslim Legal Fund. " We believe in Ikram al Muslimeen, loving for your brother what you love for yourself, including liberty [and] justice," said Meeks.
Imam Shaker Elsayed came up to the podium and told the congregation that the MLFA and NCPCF were his honored guests and soon after the funds started flowing in. He reminded them that one of the uses of zakah is the freeing of prisoners. "We don't want your money while you are scared, give with confidence," said Tayeh.
The Dar Al Hijrah community understood the MLFA's vison and a significant amount of money was raised on. 'After hearing these stories, I think they could target our communities' youth next," whispered one sister as she signed the pledge form.
The organizers introduced Tariq Ramadan, Professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies in the Faculty of Oriental Studies at Oxford University for his keynote address. Dr. Ramadan himself was a victim of the Patriot Act. In 2004, Ramadan had accepted a job to become a tenured professor at the University of Notre Dame, but days before his arrival, the Bush administration revoked his visa.
"Ask yourself, you are Muslim. no one is preventing you from learning about your religion. How much time are you giving to your mind, to your heart, at the end of the day we can sit down and blame the government, blame everyone. Before asking them to like us what are we doing to respect ourselves. Say La ililla ha illalah and liberate yourself from ignorance," said Ramadan, captivating the audience.
Shahawar Matin Siraj's mother, Shahin Parvez was at the MLFA event clutching a frayed handwritten letter, folded and unfolded a thousand times from informant, Osama Al Dawoodi. The letter stated that he had never received the entire money promised to him by the FBI.
A look of worn desperation in her eyes, Shahin pointed to several more women in the room, some with babies in their arms, others networking with activists; all wanting justice and someone to hear their story. "My son is innocent. Maybe not having a child would have been better than this torture,"said Shahin.
Siraj, who was convicted in a plot to bomb the New York Subway in 2007, has an IQ of 78. His lawyer Martin Stolar expected to win an acquittal through the entrapment defense but Siraj was given a 30 year sentence. Not much as changed over the past 5 years when Stolar said that the FBI is creating crimes to solve crimes so they can claim a victory in the war on terror.
This event was a blunt reminder that when the civil liberties of one group of citizens are threatened and people are convicted based on ideology and thought crimes, it sets up legal precedents which endanger the entire country's freedoms.