Archive for the ‘Guest blog’ Category

Emad Shahin’s Statement to Students, Family and Friends

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014

[Dr. Emad Shahin is a highly respected scholar of Islam and politics in the modern Muslim world and  a friend to the Minaret of Freedom Institute. His indictment under the Egyptian military junta is actually  shameful self-indictment of the regime itself and we are pleased to be able to print his statement as a guest blog. ]

Statement to my Students, Family and Friends

January 23, 2014

It was with severe shock that I received news that I have been named in a case known as the “Grand Espionage,” which also included former President Mohamed Morsi and senior leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood. These claims are baseless and politically motivated.

The indictment listed far-fetched charges that my friends and associates would regard not merely as improbable but as beyond preposterous. The charges include: espionage, leading an illegal organization, providing a banned organization with information and financial support, calling for the suspension of the constitution, preventing state institutions and authorities from performing their functions, harming national unity and social harmony, and causing to change the government by force.

I categorically and emphatically deny all the charges, and I challenge the State Security Prosecutor to present real evidence to substantiate these fabricated charges. I am an academic and have been independent throughout my life. I am an advocate for democracy, the rule of law, human rights, and a fervent supporter of the main objectives of the January 25 Revolution in Egypt, namely freedom, dignity, and social justice.

For the record, I definitively state that I have never been a member of the Society of the Muslim Brothers at any point in my life, and I have never provided it with any financial or material support as alleged in the so-called indictment.

Furthermore, the indictment stated that I was “at large”. This could not have been farther from the truth, as I have never been subpoenaed by any prosecutor even though I have been living in Egypt since 2011. I have openly traveled abroad many times during this period to participate in conferences and attend academic events without ever being stopped or prohibited from leaving or entering the country, especially over the past few months. My workplace, the American University in Cairo, is well known to the authorities. I have never left or changed my place of residence, which is also well known to the government, and I have never been banned from travel or placed on a watch list as I left and entered the country several times during the past month. I appeared on television interviews as an analyst and a commentator to discuss the delicate political situation in Egypt and have always maintained a public presence. I am neither at large nor was I unwilling to appear before any interrogator had I received a formal subpoena and guarantees for fair proceedings, due-process of law, and a fair trial.

Though I have always been a fervent critic of authoritarian rule in Egypt, I have always expressed strong support for peaceful protests to restore democracy and express popular opposition against government repression.

Needless to say I am a well-known academic and intellectual with a long record of teaching and scholarly achievements. I received my PhD from the Johns Hopkins University (SAIS) and have been a faculty member at prominent universities in the US, Egypt, and the Middle East, including the American University in Cairo, Harvard, Georgetown, Notre Dame, George Washington, and Boston Universities. I have produced major scholarly works including being the editor in chief of the Oxford Encyclopedia of Islam and Politics.

I have been critical of the course of political events in Egypt since last summer and can only conclude that such criticism—entirely restricted to word and utterly unconnected to any organized group, faction, or party—is my true offense.  Like many fellow Egyptians, I am supportive of peaceful mobilization in defense of democracy, freedom, equal rights, and inclusion.  I will continue to advocate such values, exercising a right to protest that is enshrined in Egyptian law and, in recent years, deeply engrained in Egyptian practice.

Emad Shahin, Ph.D.
Professor of Public Policy, The American University in Cairo
Henry R. Luce Associate Professor, University of Notre Dame (2009-2012)
Visiting Associate Professor, Harvard University (2006-2009)
Faculty Affiliate, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, Belfer Center (2007-2008)
Editor in Chief, The Oxford Encyclopedia of Islam and Politics
Member of the Academic Advisory Board, Center for Christian-Muslim Understanding, Georgetown University
Member of the Editorial Advisory Board, Oxford Research Directions (Since 2011)
Advisory editor, The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World (Oxford University Press, 2009)
Member of the Academic Board, Al-Hadara Center, Cairo, Egypt
Member of Alexandria Library Scientific Board for the Production of “Selections of Modern Islamic Heritage” (Since 2012)
Foreign Reference Member, University of Oslo (since 2007)
Member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council (2008)

Messages from Seven Egyptian-Americans to El-Sisi, Mursi, the Egyptian People, and the U.S. Administration

Wednesday, July 10th, 2013

[Minaret of Freedom Institute supporter Safei Hamed has shared the following messages he and six fellow Egyptians have sent regarding the current crisis in Egypt]:

 1. A Message to General Abdel-Fatah El-Sisi:

With all appreciation to the men of the Armed Forces, the decision for the military coup against the elected civilian president, the suspension of the constitution and disbanding of the elected consultative chamber, are considered by international standards as serious destruction to the foundation of the civil society for which the revolution of January 25th started. These decisions have returned us to a period of history that Egypt had passed by several decades ago. Mixing the labels and names will not change the standing truth that the attack on the constitution which was approved by over 65% of the Egyptian voters is unacceptable on all grounds. We are distressed with the news and information about what is happening on Egypt’s street from abuses to the very fundamental human rights in peaceful demonstration without any protection from police or the army, in addition to shutting down several national media outlets that have different views as well as political arrests and detentions. Hence we call upon you to spare Egypt the scenario of Algeria and the slide into tearing the national fabric. This is a call to spare the Egyptian blood and to start an urgent national reconciliation initiative beginning with the cancelation of all the emergency/exceptional decisions and the return of the constitutional civilian rule.

2. A message to the Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi:

We urge you Mr. President to take an immediate Presidential decision to start the process for an (parliamentary) election within six months and to form a transitional cabinet of the various political views until the completion of the parliamentary elections which will decide the details of the new government. We urge you to issue a presidential pardon for all those who participated in the coup nice the authority has been transferred peaceably to the freely elected parties.

3. A message to the Noble Egyptian people:

We urge you to unite and reject any insult to any Egyptian or any loss of human right to any citizen in Egypt or abroad. Remember your glorious revolutionin January when you went out collectively to bring Egypt to a new world where you will enjoy an honorable life and seek a bright future. Be sure that we were and are with you, and we know that the early election will be an exit from the current crisis. Let us put Egypt ahead despite the differences in our thinking and our methods by unifying the goal of establishing the civil state for which this nation has dearly sacrificed.

4. A message to the U.S. Administration:

We are Egyptian Americans, who are proud of our American nation and we care for offering sincere advice that will be good for the two countries. We urge President Obama to adhere to US laws, and principle, and not to deal or recognize the military coup or its people who they installed in place of the duly elected civilian president and his government. This is to follow the US’s own laws and in agreement with all international principles.

Signed:

Dr. Safei Hamed
Dr. Hamed Elfeky
Dr.
Magdy Hussein
Dr. Mostafa Howeedy
Mr. Helal Hashim
Mr. Jowhar A. Othman
Dr. Ahmed Hasan Mostafa

Women and the American Mosque

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013

In a March 27 webinar, seven major organizations (including Women in Islam, ISNA, and CAIR)  released their third report on American Mosques in the US, this time on Women and the American Mosque. The report is simply excellent!  You can read it at: http://www.hartfordinstitute.org/The-American-Mosque-Report-3.pdf

The main findings of the report are that fewer than half of US mosques are welcoming of women, as measured by four criteria: attendance of women at Friday prayers, use of a curtain or divider to separate women (a practice that has actually increased over the past twenty years), women’s programs and groups, and women’s participation in mosque governance. Comparing mosques using the four criteria, it was found that those that were most welcoming to women (i.e., met all four criteria, or 3 out of 4 criteria) were W. Deen Mohammed mosques, while those that scored poorest (0 or 1-2 criteria) followed the Salafi approach. Results are also correlated with ethnicity of the congregation, and birthplace of the Imam. The most interesting results, I thought, classified the mosque according to its approach in interpreting Islam:
– looking to the purposes of Quranic text (what we try to do in our Quran Study class), and interpreting and applying them to meet today’s circumstances (56% of mosques self-identify themselves under this category),
– following great scholars of the past (31% of mosques),
– following a particular school of thought (11% of mosques),
– following the Salafi approach (1%),
and correlating this classification with the measure of whether or not a mosque is friendly to women. The results: no method of interpretation made the mosques predominantly women-friendly, not even the “looking to purposes” approach.

The report recommends that mosques develop a strategic action plan to promote the participation of women, as measured by raising female attendence at Friday prayers from 18% at present to 33% over the next decade, offering space in the main prayer area for women to pray without a curtain if they so desire, including women on the mosque’s board, and supporting women’s inclusion in word and deed (in Friday sermons, programs, newsletters, lectures that interpret Islam, and on websites). The object would be to change the underlying belief that women’s presence in a mosque is a source of “fitnah” to a principle that the very dignity of the American mosque depends upon the presence of women. ISNA has stated that its No. 1 priority going forward will be masjid development, with women’s issues at the top of its list of things to improve.

Sisters, perhaps we should help too.  May I suggest that each of us who attends or lives near to a local mosque should make a copy of this report, and give it to the governing Board with a request that that mosque develops its own action plan to include more women. Let’s see if we can get husbands to help with the request.  They are intended to be our quwamma. All recognize that when women attend mosques, they bring their children, which strengthens the development of a sound Islamic foundation for the entire family.

I know some of us (myself included) have turned away from mosques as places that have failed to reinforce our Islamic faith. Perhaps with the aid of this report, however, it’s time to go back to mosques to make our concerns known. It would be a constructive way to renew the discussion on the interpretation of Islam to its original purpose, that of a protection and a spiritual renewal for men and women alike.

Alphecca Muttardy

Letter from Palestine

Monday, May 16th, 2011

[“Abu Dharr” is the pseudonym of a Palestinian refugee who was in Palestine at the time of the demonstrations commemorating the 63rd anniversary of the Nakba (Catastrophe) of Israeli occupation and the exile of many of the indigenous people.]

On Friday we were to go to a small, prosperous town in the West Bank by the name of Tourmos Ayya to visit the family of a young man [who] had serious leg problems from a beating the Israelis gave him [years ago]. Before we left for the West Bank I wanted to go into the Old City to see the Dome of the Rock and the Noble Sanctuary and photograph it.
This was Friday, the day of communal prayer and we had been warned that this weekend was the Palestinians’ commemoration of the loss of the country, known as Nakhba (or Catastrophe) day, and that there would be
unrest.
When I got to Jaffa gate and entered the old city there was an American–a loud mouthed New Yorker–soliciting signatures for a petition “agains the division of Jeruslaem” and loudly accusing passers-by who wouldn’t sign the petiotion of lacking “balls” (he used the Yiddish word). I engaged him in conversation, told him I had no interest
insigning his garbage petition and that someday all of this would be Palestinain again. He declared there is no such a thing as Palestinian (thank you, Golda Meir). I asked him when he was going to tear down the Dome of the Rock and he said, “We won’t tear it down: we are excavating underneath it and a sonic boom is all it will take to destrioy it and rebuild the temple.”

Walking to the Mosque, there were literally hundreds of soldiers, usually eight to ten at each intersection of the Old City. Many of them were obviously Arab, and there were a surprising number of blacks. The racist irony is, of course, palpable. At the entrance to the Haram, there were barricades and dozens of soldiers armed with machine guns, vetting everyone who wanted to enter. They invariably refused entry to any males under the age of about 40.
There were arguments and yelling and things were tense. At the first barricade I was questioned by a soldier who was clearly an Arab. He spoke unaccented Arabic and had Arab features. When I spoke in English he answered me in English with an Arabic accent. He was friendly, and asked my name and if I really were a Muslim. I told him my name. He asked “Sahih?” (“Really?” in Arabic) and I answered “Sahih!” Then, when I asked him in Arabic “
Intu Arabi?” (“Are you Arab?”); he appeared uncomfortable, let me pass, and walked away from in a manner that I can only describe as discomfort. Arab Jews are made to feel ashamed of being Arab, and usually deny their heritage to everyone, including, often, themselves.

I had to go through the same exercise a second time before I could finally enter the Haram area through the Gate of the Chain, where I was greeted by a Palestinian elder (there were only a very few soldiers inside the Haram itself) who again asked me if I were a Muslim and was only convinced when I gave him my full name in Arabic and recited, “La
ilaha ill Allah Muhammad ar-rasul Allah.” I must say I felt a thrill in the area; the architecture is extraordinary, the stones filled with 1400 years of Arab history and 1400 years of earlier Jewish and Christian history, and is extraordinary. About 5 or 6 more times I was stopped and asked if I were a Muslim (on Friday the Haram is closed to non-Muslims, and given Nakba day everyone was tense).

When I tried to exit the gate swarms of people were entering and the yelling and arguments were fierce and the tension was even greater. Twice I was turned back by the soldiers when I tried to pass through blockades out of the area where people were entering. I asked a solder how to get out and he pointed me to the street where you enter the wailing wall area. There were metal detectors to go through, and I did not feel comfortable going in that direction. I wandered around some more, feeling like a salmon swimming upstream and at another blockade asked a soldier “How do I get out of here!?” He told me to follow him (which meant following a line of about 7 of them) through a blockade. At Damascus gate, outside of the Old City there were more soldiers and another blockade to get through. Pity the poor Israelis. They have it so hard. Being forced to treat people so badly!

Back at the hotel (in Israeli West Jerusalem—Kosher breakfast only, where, as is the norm, all of the service workers are Palestinian) I met Samiyah and Maroofah and we were picked up by … a cab driver who took us to Tourmos Ayya, via the usual circuitous routes through the chekpoints. Since he has a cab with a yellow Israeli plate (as opposed to a green West Bank plate—think yellow star of David) he is permitted to drive through the check point to his destination in either direction. Going out of ’48 Israel into the West Bank the cars are not really checked. Coming back in they are.

On the way we passed Israeli settlements, always either dense apartment complexes or town houses, always on hills looking over Palestinian towns, always surrounded by barbed wire and fencing, and frequently serviced by the “bypass roads”, limited access highways closed to the local population and enclosed by concrete walls their entire length, which allows the settlers access to their settlements without exposing them to the rocks thrown at them by the locals.

The hospitality as usual … was great; lots of food and interesting conversation. There were apparently many women at the house but with the exception of Abu Sharif’s wife and her mother they all remained completely secluded from us the whole time we were there. [The host] is an intelligent, well-read man and a kind of a country gentleman: he has many acres of farm land that he farms as a hobby and to provide food for his family and friends, and in addition to growing raises peas, wheat, and so on, has a huge number of honey bees, horses, dogs, cats, chickens, goats and on and on. He showed me his property and I met some of his grandchildren including … a fully Americanized young man of about 9, born and reared in New Jersey and recently taken back by his parents to live in Palestine to be schooled
and to learn Arabic. I talked to him and it was kind of sad: he missed New Jersey and his friends, and I think felt a kinship for me as an American.

Heading back to Jerusalem, [the driver] took us to Silwan, a Palestinian neighborhood on the Jerusalem side of the Wall, in a very steep valley right below the walls of the Old City and below the platform that carries the Haram. Silwan is a Palestinian area highly coveted by the Israelis and in great danger of confiscation. [Our host there] with his wife …  and their three kids live here in a family home occupied by their family since time immemorial. Being repeatedly refused permits over more than a decade by the Israelis to add on to the house, he built an addition illegally, and now must pay huge fees each year or risk having the home demolished. From his house he pointed out to me three homes that we could see flying Israeli flags. These were properties in the neighborhood purchased by Israelis, either through subterfuge or by offering prices highly over the market value. The Palestinians who sold them are regarded as being deeply dishonorable, and the Israeli flag-flying is an in-your-face provocation that says to the indigenous population, “This in not yours—-we will take it all from you.” Each house is constantly attended 24 hours a day by a contingent of soldiers protecting the inhabitants. Your American tax dollars at work!. It is in Silwan that yesterday during a demonstration, one of the settlers from one of these or a similar house, shot and killed a Palestinian boy.

Today is the official Nakba day commemoration; the West Bank is entirely closed to traffic in or out, and the situation tense. It seems we cannot get any business done today. I would like to go back  to the Old City, but I am not sure that that is possible.

“Abu Dharr”

Celebrating the Egyptian People’s Peaceful Victory

Monday, February 28th, 2011

Celebrating the Egyptian People’s Peaceful Victory

by Sharmin Ahmad (MFI Director)

I feel myself among the most fortunate persons in the world to be at the Tahrir Square to celebrate  Egyptian people’s peaceful victory, Friday, Feb 18.  My Egyptian husband Amr and I  flew from  Costa Rica-U.S.A to celebrate with over 3 million people.

We saw youth volunteering in cleaning up the streets,repairing sidewalks and young and old alike guarding their city. Police, after their brutal attacks on unarmed citizens have fled their posts. Yet, in an almost-no-police-state we found  tremendous sense of peace and felt safe. We walked freely past midnight. Shops were open and people’s spirits were euphoric. Everywhere I was greeted “Welcome to Egypt”.   People  have reclaimed Egypt from the despotic regime and now its theirs to protect and nurture.

No doubt this revolution will go down in history as a model revolution for the world.

Tahrir Square Pictures (This online album has 14 photos and will be available on SkyDrive until 05/25/2011.)

May Allah Bless Egypt and May it become the Model for People’s Peaceful Revolution of the 21st Century.

Sharmin Ahmad
Minaret of Freedom Institute
Director

 

Decision Making at a Crossroads of History: The Test to Western Leaders

Monday, January 31st, 2011

Decision Making at a Crossroads of History: The Test to Western Leaders

U.S. policy failures in the Arab and Muslim worlds are matched by instances of change in Muslim-majority countries that have taken Western leaders by surprise. Yet, in the most recent surprises, the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, the most powerful Western leader, President Obama, may still have a chance to change the course of U.S. relations with the Arab world–perhaps even the whole Islamic world. (Arabs represent less than 20 percent of the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims, but they are the largest ethnic group among them).

However, Obama and his aides need to stop shooting themselves (and America) in the foot. Vice President Biden should apologize to Egyptians for his defense of the imperiled dictator of Egypt. The Obama Administration should clarify its dealing with the Egyptian military chief, General Tantawi, who came for a short visit to Washington the day the Egyptian uprising turned into a full-fledged revolution (January 25, 2011) and left with no American public announcement about his trip. This man is in a position to facilitate Mubarak’s departure, as his Tunisian counterpart did with Ben Ali. Now his tanks and soldiers are in the streets of Egypt. The Obama silence on the nature of the visit could be interpreted by Arabs as double-dealing at a time that requires clarity. Holding the stick from the middle between a people in revolt and a falling authoritarian regime is neither ethical nor rational. Since the U.S. is intensely involved in the Egyptian crisis, the American government should reassure the Egyptians that Tantawi was advised not to use force.

The fall of Ben Ali, like the pending fall of Mubarak, shattered the myth that Arabs neither understand nor want democracy. Today they are dying to end dictatorship. Egyptians, like their Tunisian brothers and sisters, clearly want their oppressive regimes gone and their states remade in response to their nations’ aspirations. Any ploy to promote political figures from the old regime will face the same fate as the failing attempt by the Tunisian PM to refashion a government with personalities from Ben Ali’s junta. It is time to recognize that the U.S. and European alliance with Arab dictators is coming to an end. Managing the crisis with the old notions of stability while reality is evidently changing reveals impotence and lack of vision at a time when a new chapter of Arab political history is being written.

The stakes are high for America and the West, far beyond Tunisia and Egypt. Indeed, these two countries could be only the first cases in what history will know as the Arab anti-Dictatorship Revolution of 2011. The conditions of high unemployment and political corruption and police abuse that caused the Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings are present in many Muslim-majority countries, particularly the Arab region. The expression of people power in Tunisia and Egypt is adding a significant new factor in the conversation about the possibilities of democratic change in the Muslim world. The abstract debate of whether Islam and democracy are compatible is now moot.

The changing Arab political culture compliments the existence of an institutionalized civil society, which is comprised of NGOs, professional syndicates and worker unions in addition to social movements. Moreover, different leaders of political parties outside the ruling factions have had dialogue on political reform since the mid-1990s. The growing capacity to organize explains the quick success of Egyptians and Tunisians to form self-defense committees to provide security when the police in their respective countries abandoned their responsibility. In Egypt, the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood looms large. Western governments have to learn how to cope with this growing Islamist influence. A serious dialogue with the Muslim Brothers should aim to move them in one of two directions: (1) become a Muslim democratic party willing to share power, or (2) follow the model of Turkey’s Gulen Movement, stressing a mission of service and fostering social harmony while allowing members to form or join political parties on their own.

But it would be a mistake to exaggerate the influence of Islamists. Rachid al-Ghannouchi, exiled leader of the Islamist Al-Nahda group, has returned to Tunisia. There were a thousand people waiting to welcome him—hardly an event comparable to the 1979 return of Khomeini to Iran. Al-Nahda will have its rightful place in shaping the transformation of Tunisia from dictatorship to representative government. Islamists could come to power in the coming period of representative Arab governments, but the emerging anti-dictatorial culture in the Arab world will check any authoritarian tendencies.

Arabs are achieving political emancipation despite brutal suppression. Connecting with the Arab masses at this critical juncture will only ease Western relations with future Arab governments. However, this requires abandoning the stereotype that Arabs only understand charisma and force. It also requires allowing the Arabs to abide by the results of free and fair elections and not have them overturned by outside forces as in the case of the Palestinian elections.

Mohamed Nimer
Assistant Professor of Islam and World Affairs
American University

Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin: An Update

Sunday, October 10th, 2010

[When Jamil Al-Amin who had been transformed from the fiery proponent of violence into the man credited with cleaning up Atlanta’s crime-ridden West End by his conversion to Islam was arrested for “cop-killing” the Muslim community was stunned and suspicious of a frame-up. Recent shocking developments in the handling of his incarceration outlined by human rights activist Mauri Saalakhan below suggest that we must continue to press for the truth in this matter to emerge.]

Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin:  An  Update

On Thursday, August 2, 2007, the public learned that  Jamil Al-Amin, formerly known as H. Rap Brown, no longer was in the custody of  the State of Georgia; he had  been moved, without notification to his attorneys or family members, from the  Georgia State Prison at Reidsville, Georgia into the custody of the  Federal Bureau of Prisons.  Information provided to the press indicated that Mr. Al-Amin was moved to  Oklahoma City and then within a day to the ADMAX  federal prison in Florence,  Colorado.  It was only on August 15, 2007 that he  was able to inform his attorneys that he was moved from Reidsville State Prison  to the Atlanta Medical Center, in Atlanta, for two days of exploratory tests for  chest pains.  He then was moved to  Georgia’s Jackson State  Prison before Georgia handed him over to the  Federal Bureau of Prisons.  Once in  federal custody, Mr. Al-Amin was moved to Oklahoma  City and then moved to his final destination—the “Supermax” federal  prison in Florence,  Colorado, to be held in 23-hour  lockdown.

Mr. Al-Amin has three legal actions pending.  The transfer to federal custody in a  facility over 1,400 miles away removes him from the Georgia area  where family and friends would be able to visit on a regular basis.  The move continues to isolate him from  other inmates and the opportunity to worship with others, and it further imposes  harsh conditions which Mr. Al-Amin challenged while incarcerated in the  Georgia prison system.

Attorneys questioned the Georgia Department of  Corrections as to the reason for Mr. Al-Amin’s transfer to federal custody, even  though he has not been charged or convicted of a federal crime.  Devon Orland, Department of Law, State  of Georgia, responded:“The decision to transfer Mr. Al-Amin was made in conjunction with  the federal government and was based upon legitimate security concerns.  As for the specific events that led to his transfer I am not at  liberty to discuss those but can tell you that there were legitimate security  concerns. Neither I, nor anyone with the Department of Corrections  has control over where Mr. Al-Amin will be housed within the federal  system.  He will be subject to  the same rules for transfer as any other prisoner within that  system and you will need to check with them as to his current status,  likelihood of his being housed within Georgia and rules regarding attorney  contact and legal mail.  Mr.  Al-Amin is in the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons but is  under a State of Georgia prison sentence so “responsibility” is hard to define out  of context. The Bureau of Prisons is responsible for the care and incarceration  of Mr. Al-Amin if that  is the question you are asking…”

Pending Litigation

Habeas  Corpus:  Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin v. Hugh  Smith. On November 14, 2005, counsel for Mr. Al-Amin filed a  Habeas Corpus in the Superior Court of Tattnall County, State of Georgia.  The habeas corpus action cited 14  grounds for reversal of Mr. Al-Amin’s conviction and sentence of life without  parole. Grounds presented included  ineffective assistance of counsel based on the failure of trial counsel to:  request a change of venue due to negative publicity; permit Mr. Al-Amin to  testify in his own defense; investigate the confession of an individual;  challenge the issue of the prosecution striking all persons from the jury who  indicated an affiliation to Muslims; failure of the prosecution to provide  discovery to the defense; inappropriate statements made by the prosecution  regarding the failure of Mr. Al-Amin to testify, and his courtroom conduct by  not standing for the jury as members entered the courtroom. Other grounds included error on the part of the judge by  denying Mr. Al-Amin the right to counsel of his choice by eliminating all but  one of his four trial lawyers from participating in voir dire of the jury; the  opportunity to present favorable evidence and testimony; and the opportunity to  raise prior misconduct of an FBI agent.

The habeas also challenges the government sponsored oath  taken by the grand and petit jurors and witnesses which resulted in a conflict  between religious practices and state function in violation of the Establishment  Clause and the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.  Counsel also addressed the issue of  violation of the 6th and 14th Amendments based on jury  selection procedures. Attorneys and investigators worked during 2006 to  identify witnesses and obtain documents to present during a scheduled February  27, 2007 habeas hearing.   The  hearing was held and attorneys currently continue to take depositions and to  supplement the habeas brief before the judge assigned to the case renders a  decision.  The attorneys received  the habeas hearing transcript and trial record free of charge after the judge  approved pauper status requested by Mr. Al-Amin.  After depositions are taken and  presented to the Court, the judge is expected to make a decision whether Mr.  Al-Amin is entitled to a new trial based on evidence presented.

From a cell at the Florence, Colorado ADMAX federal prison, Mr. Al-Amin  continues to challenge the State of Georgia’s prison system through the filing of two § 1983 actions.

Opening Legal  Mail: Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin v. Hugh  Smith and Sanchez-Martin: This action was filed to challenge the warden and staff  of the Georgia  State Prison at Reidsville for opening legal mail outside  of Mr. Al-Amin’s presence sent from Attorney Karima Al-Amin.  In November 2004, the Department of  Corrections ruled that Reidsville violated standard operating procedures by  opening mail clearly marked “legal” from Mr. Al-Amin’s wife who is an attorney  licensed to practice law in Georgia.  Opening legal mail outside of an inmate’s presence is a First Amendment  violation as well as a violation of the attorney-client privilege. The District Court ruled that Georgia  continued to open Mr. Al-Amin’s legal  mail from Attorney Karima Al-Amin in violation of its  standard operating procedures.  The  State of Georgia appealed the decision to the  11th Circuit Court of Appeals, and the Court appointed counsel from  the law firm of Kilpatrick Stockton, LLP, to argue Mr. Al-Amin’s case.  Argument was held on September 20, 2007  resulting in the 11th Circuit ruling, on January 7, 2008, that the  Reidsville warden and staff violated Mr. Al-Amin’s First Amendment rights by  opening legal mail from Attorney Karima Al-Amin outside of his presence.  The State appealed to the  11th Circuit for a rehearing, and the Court denied the appeal.  The State subsequently filed its writ to  the U.S. Supreme Court, which was denied on October 6, 2008.  The pro bono attorneys from Kilpatrick  Stockton are preparing for trial and will explore challenging the Prison  Litigation Reform Act, which prevents Mr. Al-Amin from receiving punitive  damages.  Attorneys further are  exploring filing a separate action challenging Reidsville’s effort to infringe  on Mr. Al-Amin’s right to practice his religion while incarcerated.  This action would be a RLUIPA claim.

Retaliation  Lawsuit: This action addressed Reidsville’s past 23-hour lockdown  confinement of Mr. Al-Amin, retaliatory actions, and the transfer to the ADMAX  federal prison in Florence,  Colorado.  The State of Georgia  transferred Mr. Al-Amin based on a March 1990 Agreement between the Georgia  Department of Corrections and the Federal Bureau of Prisons to house a state  inmate upon request.

This transfer more than 1,400 miles  from his legal counsel at a time when lawsuits are pending in Georgia took place without notification to Mr. Al-Amin’s attorneys or family members,  even though his habeas and lawsuits were pending.  The retaliation lawsuit also addressed  efforts to prevent Mr. Al-Amin from freely exercising his right to practice his  religion in the Georgia prison system. A new retaliation lawsuit will be filed now that all  administrative remedies have been exhausted.  The new legal action will present the  same challenges as the previous retaliation lawsuit.

Although the Federal Bureau of Prisons  maintains it will return Mr. Al-Amin to Georgia upon Georgia’s request, Georgia is  refusing to seek his return.  We see the  transfer out of the State of Georgia to a federal institution that operates a  behavior modification program is seen as a punitive action on the part of the  government and welcome assistance to petition for a change  to a neighboring federal facility or Georgia prison, and out of the SUPERMAX conditions.

El-Hajj Mauri’ Saalakhan
Director of Operations
The Peace And Justice Foundation

The Sentencing of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui

Friday, October 1st, 2010

[This is an abridged version of Hajj Mauri Saalakhan’s notes taken at the Sept. 23, 2010 sentencing of Dr. Afia Siddqui, edited from his copyrighted article with permission.]

Judge Berman began by walking the court through the accepted facts of the case. He noted, among other things, that it has never been definitively established why Aafia was in Afghanistan in July 2008. As he proceeded to outline the differing points of speculation as to why she may have been there, he failed to even mention the possibility that she may have been kidnapped and taken there! (I found this omission glaring to say the least!)

Berman spoke about the 2 lbs of sodium cyanide and the documents in English and Urdu outlining U.S. targets, and the means to conduct terrorist attacks, that Aafia was allegedly carrying in the bag that she had with her. (A bag that Aafia testified during the trial was given to her when she was briefly released in Afghanistan, in a severely weakened and disheveled state by her captors, after five years of secret and torturous imprisonment.)

There were a number of issues raised and statements made during the proceeding that generated many more questions for this observer.

According to the government, Aafia twice attempted to escape from Afghan custody; she had incriminating terrorism-related items in her possession, and yet she was permitted to remain unrestrained behind a curtain in a room of a police compound. Why? Does this scenario even make sense from a security standpoint?

Judge Berman made repeated references to Aafia’s mental state – acknowledging the damage done to her psyche when it suited him to do so; and ignoring the damage done when it didn’t. He also noted the frequent security searches that Aafia objected to during the time she was in New York’s custody awaiting trial.

The “security searches,” as he termed them, were the strip searches (which also included a cavity search) that this woman – already in maximum security confinement – was made to endure each time she was moved from one point to another for any reason! This treatment alone is severely damaging to the psyche of any modest woman – but especially for a hijab observing Muslim woman.

Berman stated that the jury convicted Aafia of all seven counts in the indictment; that Aafia articulated her belief during the trial that Israel was behind the attacks of 9/11; and that one of the employees at the Brooklyn detention center (where she was being held) was conspiring against America. Berman also accused Aafia’s oldest son (Ahmed) of making  contradictory statements since his release; he noted that Aafia’s former husband (Mohamed Amjed Khan) claimed to have seen her on a number of occasions, in passing, during the time of her disappearance; and reiterated the point that there was “insufficient evidence in the record” to determine where she was between 2003-2008. (A process that he helped to facilitate.)

Berman asserted that Aafia came into contact with radical elements while in Boston, according to the testimony of a professor whose name I didn’t get. He noted how “complicated” the case had been, and referenced an incident during the trial that resulted in his decision to excuse a juror from the case who felt threatened by a conspicuously attired observer in the courtroom – an observer who made threatening and disruptive gestures before being removed by U.S Marshalls.

It is suspicious that this unknown person, who despite his arrest,  was never identified in media reports, served to sow additional prejudice in the collective mind of the jury against the defendant in the dock.

The defense attorney, Dawn M. Cardi, began by stating she respectfully disagreed with Judge Berman’s recitation of the so-called “facts” surrounding this case. She noted how she had to get top secret clearance –- a very time consuming and cumbersome process — to have access to certain “top secret” documents, only to later be told, “there is no classified evidence relevant to this case!”

Cardi argued that Aafia suffered from “mental illness” and “diminished capacity” and, according to one of the experts at Carswell, where she spent the first few months of her return to the U.S. receiving medical treatment and psychological evaluations, she was possibly schizophrenic.

She also argued that while the government has repeatedly used Aafia’s academic major as an indication of the potential threat she posed to America, Aafia was not a “biologist.” Her academic focus, as reflected in the title of her thesis, was on how children learn. She also noted that the jury found Aafia not guilty on “premeditation” (a finding that Judge Berman chose to ignore).

Cardi also noted the Wiki-leaks reference to Dr. Siddiqui. According to these documents, Aafia was reportedly reaching for the gun (M4 rifle) when she was shot! In referencing the judge’s assertion that, “There is no question about the jury’s verdict,” Cardi insisted that there were indeed questions about the verdict. She spoke about the manipulation of fear, and asked for as maximum sentence of 12 years without the enhancements.

The government’s closing arguments could be summed up in the words of lead prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher LaVigne (who stated, in the government’s successful pursuit of a Life sentence):  “Any fear that was injected in this courtroom came from witnesses like Captain Robert Snyder of the United States army… looking down the barrel of a loaded gun and believing he would die… This [Aafia’s alleged assault on U.S. personnel] was not some random act. On that day the bottom line is, she saw her chance and she took it.”

In my humble opinion, this narrative was successful — despite all of the contradictory material evidence and testimony in Aafia’s favor — for three reasons: (a) the way this case was consistently portrayed in the mainstream media; (b) the court’s decision to bar certain exculpatory testimony that could have proved Aafia’s innocence; (c) and the failure of Aafia’s well paid [by the government of Pakistan] defense team to vigorously put on the type of defense that a political trial of this nature required!

Aafia’s defense kept emphasizing mental illness, and at one point Judge Berman interrupted to alternately raised doubts about the severity of Aafia’s mental state and then raised doubts about the prospect of Aafia getting any better.

Aafia flatly rejected the mental illness defense, defiantly stating in a strong, clear voice: “I am not paranoid. I am not mentally sick, I disagree with that! (While there is no question that serious damage has been done to our sister’s psyche, I personally believe Aafia Siddiqui is very, very sane –- in a morbidly insane world!) While Berman spoke of how Aafia consistently failed to cooperate with “authorities” – he said nothing about the conditions of confinement which, no doubt, factored into Aafia’s failure to “cooperate.”

Aafia began her address to the court  by insisting she was not concerned with her own welfare -– she is content with the qadr (or will of God), and that she is not being tortured. (She did not say she was never tortured; she said she was not being tortured at present.  Those of us who have followed this case closely are aware that Aafia was tortured when she was secretly held. Further, Aafia has been imprisoned in the U.S., for the past two plus years, under conditions that I believe violate our nation’s constitutional guarantee against “cruel and unusual punishment.”)

Aafia accused someone (by the name of Mr. Desmond, I believe) of plotting against the United States. (This may have been a sign of mental unbalance. ALLAH knows best.)  She again referenced the “secret prison(s)” in which she had previously been held, a secret imprisonment that the U.S. government adamantly refuses to acknowledge.

Aafia spoke about terrorists who were masquerading as Hispanics to do America harm, and of how DNA testing can be done to determine the “pedigree” of a person. She also spoke about not being against all Israelis, but that there is an element among them that are blameworthy.

She noted at one point, in a rather light-hearted way, that most of the teeth in her mouth were not her own, because of the beatings she endured while she was secretly held. She also claimed that one of her doctors had initially diagnosed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) was then pressured into saying otherwise (i.e. that Aafia was schizophrenic).

Aafia testified to how –- before being brought to the U.S. — she would regurgitate to the FBI the things that she thought they wanted to hear (a mind “game” she called it), in the belief that by doing so she would be able to get her children back. She passionately emphasized that she is against all wars.

She spoke about a dream she had involving Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him), and she advised the Taliban to put mercy in their hearts. She referenced [British journalist] Yvonne Ridley’s capture and subsequent voluntary conversion. She said in her dream she saw the Prophet enter a room with American soldiers who were captives of war. The Prophet (pbuh) spoke consoling words to them. Her advice to Muslims was to not hate American soldiers.

She also (curiously for this writer) spoke about Israeli-Americans who had her daughter for years and never raped her. When she said this I wondered if this was something she had been told, or was this a conclusion that she had come to as a sort of psychological coping mechanism? (Surely ALLAH know best.)  Moments later Aafia’s voice broke –- when she touched briefly upon the anguish experienced by a mother who doesn’t know where her children are.

In his ruling Judge Berman proceeded to outline the reasoning behind the barbaric sentence he was about to impose on Dr. Aafia Siddiqui. At the heart of his thinking was his stated belief that rehabilitation for Aafia was virtually impossible, as he proceeded to impose “enhancements” that would significantly magnify her sentence.

1.      He found that the “hate crime enhancement” applied due to the national origin of Aafia’s alleged victims (U.S. personnel).

2.       He found that the “official victim enhancement” applied because the alleged intended victims were government officials.

3.      He found that the “terrorism enhancement” applied because the alleged offense was intended to influence or punish the government. (Keep in mind, Aafia was not officially charged with even one terrorism count in the indictment; and yet she received a terrorism enhancement! Berman feebly argued that the defendant’s purpose or intent factors into the equation.)

4.      He also found that a “criminal history enhancement” applied in the case. (I’m still trying to figure out the rationalization behind that one.)

5.      He also found that an “obstruction of justice enhancement” applied, because Aafia gave (in his view) false testimony during the trial.

6. Berman also found Aafia guilty of “premeditation,” based on the claim that when Aafia allegedly fired the M4 rifle at the agents and soldiers in 2008, she screamed, ‘I want to kill Americans,’ and ‘Death to America!’

When, in an embarrassing response to Judge Berman’s deliberation over the issue of whether or not Aafia fired the M4 rifle, one of the prosecutors stood up to say the jury did not find that Aafia fired a weapon, the judge clumsily remarked that he found that she did!

After being hit with what constitutes a mandatory life sentence (86 years), Dr. Aafia Siddiqui was the embodiment of faith and grace. She again partially turned toward the witnesses in the courtroom seated behind her, and counseled the Muslims to not become “emotional.”

At one point Aafia addressed the judge’s bias at the conclusion of the trial (when he charged, or instructed the empanelled jury before their deliberations). She reminded him of how he had emphasized to the jury that if they found that there was a gun in the room that Aafia potentially had access to, that they had to find her guilty on that particular gun related count.

What then followed became a lesson in faith and spiritual perseverance, demonstrating that Aafia was clearly in a much better place, mentally and spiritually, than were Judge Richard Berman and his fellow persecutors. Aafia counseled those present, and those who would get the news later, not to be angry at anyone involved in this case –- not even the judge!

“This will shock the Muslims: I love America too…I love the whole world…”

“I am one person, and the Prophet Mohammed, peace be upon him, forgave all of his personal enemies. Forgive everybody in my case, please…the world is full of injustices…and also forgive Judge Berman.”

“I don’t want any bloodshed…I want peace and to end all wars.”

This was some of the nasiha (sincerely-given advice/counsel) offered by this incredible, long suffering, 38-year-old Muslim woman. Berman feebly expressed his gratitude for Aafia’s good wishes, and said he wished all defendants were like her.

When Judge Berman informed the defendant of her right to appeal his verdict, Aafia’s response was: “I appeal to God…and he hears me.”

A closing thought of a personal nature

I left that federal courthouse in New York feeling like I had witnessed something truly amazing. Despite the anticipated outcome, I felt inspired, and that a tremendous weight had been lifted off of me. It had just recently come to my attention earlier that same week how much anger I had been carrying around inside of me because of this case (and many others like it).

It wasn’t just Aafia Siddiqui. The anger I felt, the anger that had reached a boiling point with this particular case (involving this sister), is an anger that had been building up for years! It was a volcanic accumulation of all of the pain, tears, anger and frustration that I had been exposed to (and often-times experienced) going back many years. Aafia Siddiqui’s case was simply the one that brought it all to a head.

Later that night, I pleaded with Almighty ALLAH (The Beneficent, The Merciful) to help me deal with that internalized rage…and a few days later, ALLAH answered my prayer.

Thank you Aafia.

El-Hajj Mauri’ Saalakhan

Dr. Siddiqui Testifies

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

[This guest blog by Mauri Saalakhan is an abridged version of his copyrighted essay “THE POWERFUL TESTIMONY  OF Dr. Aafia Siddiqui.”]

For years, Aafia Siddiqui – a daughter, a sister, a  mother of three, committed Muslim, social scientist, hafiz of Qur’an had suffered in virtual silence … aching to be heard, to  be understood, to have certain malicious untruths corrected and exposed for the  lies they were. The high courtroom drama of Thursday, January 28, 2010 revolved around the question of whether or not U.S. District Judge Richard  Berman would grant Aafia’s repeated demand to take the stand in her own defense. Aafia’s lawyers appeared to be animate in  their opposition to her taking the   stand, while the prosecution appeared (on the surface) to be in favor of Aafia being entitled to her  Fifth Amendment right.

Her brother (Muhammad) was apprehensive about her taking  the stand. Even Pakistani Ambassador Hussain Haqqani, during a short visit  he was allowed with the defendant, reportedly advised Aafia to follow the  advice of her lawyers.

Aafia’s response to this collective concern  was that she would make istiqara (a  supplication to ALLAH Almighty for guidance on the matter); and in the end Aafia  Siddiqui would be  heard. While I understood the reservations of those  who were concerned about Aafia taking the stand (given all that she had already  been through), I knew that Aafia needed to be  heard, to have her day in  court.

The government’s support of Aafia taking the  stand was full of irony, given the fact that the government had repeatedly  argued (during pre-trial and trial proceedings) that Aafia should not even be  allowed to remain in the courtroom, because of her periodic outbursts and  “uncontrollable” nature (in their view).

Over a  12 day period while Aafia was at the Craig Field Hospital at Bagram for  critical care medical treatment, following her near fatal re-arrest in July  2008, two FBI agents had continuous access to the injured prisoner (a male and  female who did not identify themselves to Aafia as FBI personnel).

FBI Special Agent Angela Sercer was the first to testify. She spoke about how she  interrogated Aafia on a daily basis for the purpose of gathering “intelligence.”  She described how she sat with Aafia for an average of eight hours each day, and  of how they discussed the shooting incident and other related matters  (discussions she said Aafia would always initiate). Agent Sercer prepared  written reports, and disclosed during testimony that Aafia was never Mirandized  (i.e. informed of her rights to remain silent and  consult with an attorney  before questioning), nor did she have access to a Pakistani consular official.

The second agent to testify was FBI Special Agent Bruce Kamerman, who  had reportedly been assigned on 7/21/08. He claimed that Aafia made  numerous statements, that she seemed lucid and to not be in much pain. He  also insisted that there was never any coercion.  He testified that Aafia had no visitors, and that no Afghan staff attended to her. He also  claimed that  there were occasions when Aafia would declare that her children  were  dead, and other times when she stated they might be living with her  sister.

Following the testimony of the second agent, Aafia took the witness stand in the absence of the jury and after judge determined that she was capable enough to enjoy her  constitutional “right” to take the stand in her own defense, the jury was  brought back into the courtroom, and the spectacular courtroom drama was on.

Aafia testified that when she first realized  she was in a hospital she had tubes everywhere. She was in a narcotic state  resulting from the administration of powerful drugs (one or two she could  remember by  name, others she couldn’t).  She recalled how her hands and feet were  secured uncomfortably apart. She  said the agents never identified  themselves as FBI, except for a “Mr.  Hurley.”

Aafia accused Agent Bruce Kamerman of  subjecting her to “psychological torture.” She accused him of being immodest  whenever he was present and medical personnel needed to examine her, and  complained of how he  would stand right outside the bathroom door whenever she  needed to use  it. She testified that Kamerman would sometimes come in the middle  of the  night (when he wasn’ t supposed to  be there), and encourage the person  assigned to take a break.

Aafia said she  remained in a sleep deprived state as a result of his frequent presence. During this period she never had any contact  with family, nor  with any Pakistani authorities. She thought that [FBI Agent] “Angela was  just a nice person.”

During the cross examination Aafia spoke  about being “tortured in the secret prison,” and of how she kept asking about  her children. She insisted that she never opined that they might be with her  sister. (A former Bagram  and  Guantanamo prisoner Moazam Beg reported that a female  Pakistani national, known only as Prisoner 650 at Bagram who appeared to be in her 30s, had been torn away from her children and didn’t know where they were.)  Aafia also testified that she had multiple gunshot wounds in addition to a debilitating back condition (resulting from being thrown on the floor after she was shot), persistent  headaches, and an  intubation tube. She also emphasized that she was in and out of consciousness;  and, at times, mentally incoherent.

As Afia testified that after  completing her doctorate studies at Brandeis, she taught in a school, and that her interest  was in cultivating the capabilities of  dyslexic and other special needs  children, the  monstrous image that the government had carefully crafted (with considerable  support from  mainstream media) of this petite young woman began to be  effaced by one of a committed Muslimah, humanity-loving  nurturer and educator, gentle yet resolute mujahid for truth and justice began to  emerge with full force.

Testimony then proceeded to the events of  July 17-18, 2008. Aafia recalled being concerned about the  whereabouts of her  missing children. She also remembered a press conference in  an Afghan  compound, being tied down to a bed  until she  vigorously protested, and later untied and left behind a  curtain.  She  later heard American  and Afghan voices on the other side of the curtain,  and concluded that they  [Americans] wanted to return her to a “secret  prison” again. She pleaded with the Afghans not to let the Americans take her  away.

She testified about peaking through the  curtain into the part of the room where Afghans and Americans were talking, and  how when a startled  American soldier noticed her. He jumped up and yelled that  the prisoner  had gotten loose, and shot her in the stomach. She described how  she was  also shot in the side by a second person. She also described how after  falling back onto the bed in the room, she was violently thrown to the floor and   lost consciousness.

She testified that she was in and out of  consciousness, and vaguely recalled being placed on a stretcher, a helicopter,  and receiving a blood transfusion -– which she protested, drawing laughter in the  courtroom when she recounted how she had “threatened to sue” her medical  attendants if they  gave her a blood transfusion. During this testimony, Aafia  animatedly  rejected the allegation that she picked up a [M-4] rifle and fired it  (or that she even attempted to do  so).

The cross examination began with Aafia  revisiting the degrees that she received at MIT and Brandeis universities. She  acknowledged that she took  a required course in molecular biology; but emphasized that her work was  in cognitive  neuroscience. When questioned on whether she had ever done  any work with chemicals, her response was, “only when  required.”

This line of questioning was  significant for its prejudice producing potential in the minds of jurors. While Aafia is not being  charged with any terrorism conspiracy  counts, the threat of terrorism has been the pink elephant in the room  throughout this troubling case. The prosecutor attempted to draw a sinister  correlation between Aafia and her [then]  husband being questioned by the FBI in  2002, and leaving the U.S. a week later. Aafia noted that there wasn’t anything  sinister about the timing; they had already planned to make that trip home  before the FBI visit and she later returned  to the U.S. to attempt to find work in her  field.

One of the most heart-wrenching moments in  the cross-examination was  when Aafia described how she was briefly re-united  with a young boy in  Ghazni (July 2008) who could have been her oldest son. In a mental daze at that time, having seen none of  her children in five years, she could not definitively (then or now)  determine if that was indeed her son, Ahmed.

Aafia distanced herself from any incriminating documents that may have been in her bag on the day that she was re-detained saying the bag was given to her. She didn’t know what was in the bag, nor could she definitively determine if the handwriting on some of  the documents was hers or not. She also mentioned on a number of occasions (to  the chagrin of the prosecutor) how she was repeatedly tortured by her captors at  Bagram.

Aafia also elicited an approving reaction in  the courtroom when she opined, in reaction to the government’s narration of  events, she could not believe a soldier would be so irresponsible as to leave  his M4 rifle on the  floor unsecured. While rejecting  most of Kamerman’s testimony revisited by the  prosecutor, Aafia spoke highly of a number of nurses  (and a doctor) who took care of her at Bagram.  There was one nurse in particular that  Aafia promised to mention favorably if she ever wrote a book. She then produced  laughter in  the courtroom again when she stated, “Since I don’t think I’m going to write a book, I’m mentioning her now.”

One of the most powerful and revealing  moments in the testimony was  when she spoke about the people who systematically  abused her in the  “secret prison” – denouncing them as “fake Americans, not real  Americans.” (Because of the way  their actions both violated and damaged  America’s  image!) As her testimony repeatedly drew the ire of an  increasingly frustrated prosecutor, Aafia noted how she can now understand how  people can be framed (for crimes they are not guilty  of).

After a beak in the testimony which, IMHO, was to allow the prosecutor to regain her composure and consult with fellow  prosecutors for a more effective line of  attack, Aafia spoke of how she  was often forced-fed
information from one group of persons at the secret prison,  and then made to regurgitate the same information before a different group of  inquisitors. While it was presented to her as a type of “game,” she spoke of how  she would be “punished” if she got something  wrong.

I sincerely believe that Aafia  Siddiqui’s time spent on the witness stand on January 28th was a cathartic  experience for her –- but one that the prosecution, in retrospect, now deeply  regrets. For any truly objective and fair-minded person who witnessed that day’s  proceedings, the U.S Government’s case against Aafia Siddiqui was exposed for  what it always  was: a horrific and  profoundly tragic miscarriage of justice!

El-Hajj Mauri’  Saalakhan
The Peace & Justice Foundation

Freedom, Not Fashion Is the Issue

Sunday, September 6th, 2009

[Recently, Elham Manea, an Egyptian-born Yemeni who is the deputy head of the Arabic Service of Swiss Radio International, wrote an article critical of Obama’s appointment of researcher Dalia Moghahed to the to the Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, mainly on the basis that Manea was upset by Obama’s defense of the right of American Muslim women who choose to wear the “hijab” (Islamic headscarf) to do so. I was disturbed by Ms. Manea’s eagerness to ascribe motives to people she has never met and to over-rule their freely made choices on the basis of social pressures that may or may not apply to her own life but are not the case in America. In any case, our respected friend and colleague  historian Khalid Blankenship offers this concise critique.]

I am unable to understand the desire of people who call themselves liberals and progressives to exclude the hijab from the realm of acceptable discourse. It is only a piece of cloth or a dressing style, and the attempt to insist that it has some sinister political or religious symbolism completely fails to recognize the difference that the various forms of hijab contain. My wife, for example, observes hijab, a decision she made herself in college despite the unanimous opposition of the males in her family. Critics such as the one represented in this thread (Manea) do not know me or my family and have no right to impose meanings on our actions that have no relevance to us. Such critics’ discourses, in trying to eliminate the voices of observant Muslims of different stripes from all access to government and in carrying on a prejudicial and hostile discourse against observance in fact, whether they intend it or not, abet and prepare the way for those forces that would like to harm myself and my family, and I will not be silent about it. Surely societies that have no problem with the very parallel forms of observant orthodox and ultraorthodox Jewish women’s dress can find it possible to accommodate various types of Muslim women’s dress as well, without engaging in unsupported innuendos about the intentions of the women wearing them. Let people be judged for positions that they actually take and the actual content of their views instead of for their appearance. And in fact, it would seem to me rather the epitome of liberalism, progressivism, freedom, and democracy for the US government, as opposed to those of France and Turkey, to affirm the right of all women to dress in whatever fashion they choose, including in any of the various forms of Muslim hijab. It is rather an intrusive and illiberal statism that would attempt to dictate even the clothes people may wear. What an absurd usurpation of the concept of liberalism for such a statism to attribute liberalism to itself.

Khalid Blankinship
Temple University