EL-HAJJ MAURI’ SAALAKHAN
I BEGIN with a note on this month of ours. Writing in a somewhat mentally fatigued state a week or so ago, I mistakenly jumped the gun on announcing Rabbi al-Awwal (the third month in the Muslim calendar). We are just now into the first week of the month that holds a special significance for Muslims in all corners of the world, because it was the month in which the last divinely sent Messenger and Prophet from Almighty ALLAH - Mohammed ibn Abdullah (may ALLAH’s peace and blessings be upon him) – was born.
With that said, I am pleased to announce that the recent one day seminar on Muslims and torture within the U.S. prison system, organized by the Muslim Alliance of North America (MANA), was a genuine success. While it was not as well attended as it should have been, it was well attended enough to have been well worth the effort.
On the attendance note, I was particularly disappointed that we did not have the representation of Muslim families (who been have directly impacted by the madness) that we should have had. In the Washington area alone (DC, Maryland and Virginia) there are enough families with political prisoners to have taken up half the space in that ballroom. No doubt, weather conditions were a factor for some; but for others, perhaps most, there were other negative factors which played a part as well – i.e. fear, tribalism, counterproductive feelings of self-interest, etc. Toward this end, I remind us all of a passage from The Noble Qur’an: ALLAH will not change the condition of a people until they change it themselves.
The audience of Muslims and non-Muslims (primarily African American) was treated to a thought-provoking potpourri of perspective on what’s taking place in the U.S. prison system, vis-à-vis the unconstitutional use of torture, by an array of experts. Of special note, for this writer, were three highly qualified female presenters. (I single them out primarily because we, Muslims, don’t hear as often as we should – in our local, regional and national conferences – from the women of expertise among us; and we short-change ourselves intellectually as a result!)
S. Soffiyah Elijah, Deputy Director of the Criminal Justice Institute at Harvard University; Bonnie Kerness of the Prison Watch Project at the American Friends Service Committee; and Natsu Taylor Saito, a law professor from Georgia State University, were all outstanding in their presentations at February 13 Howard University conference.
As I noted in my earlier promotional release, the one day seminar had the full endorsement and support of The Peace And Justice Foundation; and it’s our hope that other national Muslim organizations in the U.S. will follow suit, because this is one of the major issues of our time!
I promised (insha’Allah) in my own remarks that I would release some additional perspective in writing on the subject at hand. Initially, I was asked to serve as a moderator for one of the panels. In the 11th hour I was re-assigned to serve as a presenter on the “Strategies for Change” component of the seminar, which came at the end of the day’s event.
As a result of the short notice, I outlined my thoughts (in my notebook) as I listened to the other speakers deliver their presentations; and then when it came time for me to deliver my own, I spent more time than I had planned sharing some rather emotionally-leavened information on the case of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui. While I did touch upon three or four recommendations, most of what I had outlined remained in my notebook. For the record, these are my thoughts.
Strategies for Change
- Muslims in America must fully embrace and develop the capabilities (on every front) to effectively engage in the propaganda struggle. The jihad of the tongue and the written word is the most important jihad for Muslims in this part of the world!
A vivid example of the propaganda challenge has been afforded us by juxtaposing a number of recent incidents which have taken place in Michigan and Texas. Recently an incident took place at an airport in Detroit (MI) involving a mentally disturbed young Muslim male (Umar Farook) who, some believe, attempted to commit suicide on a passenger jet. Not only has the young man been charged with “terrorism,” a political clamor has ensued for him to be tried as an enemy combatant in a military tribunal.
A few months ago a Muslim soldier (Major Nidal Hassan) committed an act of war – and, from a U.S. government perspective, treason – when he allegedly killed and injured a number of fellow soldiers at the Fort Hood, Texas military base. His offense has been labeled “terrorism,” despite the fact that from both the textbook and universally understood definition of this word, what Hassan did does not constitute “terrorism.”
And finally, we have a seriously disgruntled and mentally disturbed man by the name of Joseph Andrew Stack, who reportedly after composing a strongly worded “manifesto,” deliberately flew his private plane into a government building in Austin, Texas – a building filled with hundreds of government civilian employees. While Mr. Stack’s deadly assault was termed, by both government officials and the mainstream media, a “suicide,” we know this would NOT have been the case if Mr. Stack had been Mr. Mohammed instead! Why? – because according to established group think, we all know (or at least we’re supposed to know) that while all Muslims are not terrorists, all terrorists are Muslims. (No one else need apply for this special designation.)
Getting back to the “strategies for change”
- We must do more to cultivate, expand and fortify Muslim print, broadcast and electronic media in America – and have the intestinal fortitude to use these media effectively.
- We must help each other break free from the mental chains of Apathy, Fear, Tribalism and corrupting Self-Interest. (These are some of the most common psychological plagues that stand in the way of our unified response to the major challenges of the day).
- We must fully participate in, and help strengthen human rights-oriented coalitions with our non-Muslim friends and neighbors, and work together for real CHANGE in America and the global community.
- We must work to exert positive pressure on the government (all branches, but especially on the history making Obama Administration) to DO the right thing! If not now, when?!
- To the Muslims: we must learn to have Faith in our Faith! (As the Noble Qur’an says: Do men think that they will be left alone on simply saying, ‘We believe,’ and that they will not be tested? And also: O you who believe! If you help the cause of ALLAH, ALLAH will help you, and plant your feet firm!)
- We must do more to educate the American people on the human rights violations being committed in their name (in America and around the world), and how these systemic violations violently contradict the values that America is supposed to stand for.
Toward this end, we must also consistently point out how these violations endanger the American republic itself. As Sheikh ibn Taymeeyah correctly opined centuries ago: “Civilization is based on justice, and the consequences of oppression is devastating. Therefore, it is said ALLAH aids the just state even if it is non-Muslim, yet withholds his help from the oppressive state, even if it is Muslim.” And as one of America’s founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson, also noted in one of his writings: “Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect God is Just; His justice cannot sleep forever.”
- Muslim leaders and organizations in America should call for a national campaign of NON-VIOLENT RESISTANCE (with an emphasis on resistance, not just sitting at home and praying for change). We have the basis for such a call in the sunnah and sirah of the Prophet (pbuh), vis-à-vis our present day reality and the traps that are being laid – especially for our youth – by opportunistic war profiteers both here and abroad!
- And lastly, we should commit ourselves – individuals and organizations – to the mass mobilization for Dr. Aafia Siddiqui being planned for the morning of Thursday, May 6, in New York City (the day of Aafia’s sentencing following the unjust verdict that was recently imposed in her case). The miscarriage of justice in the case of this deeply committed and long suffering Muslim woman has provided us with an opportunity to push back in a way that would greatly benefit the cause of justice throughout the land!
- On a final recommendation note, I recommend that MANA upload the proceedings from the February 13th seminar, ASAP (if they haven’t done so already), so that many others can benefit from the information that was shared.
Some concluding notes on our sister-in-Islam, Dr. Aafia Siddiqui.
Yesterday I visited an Islamic Center in the Allentown (PA) area for jumah (the Friday prayer service). Following the prayer, I was given about 10 minutes to speak to the community about Aafia and the May 6th Mobilization, and then something interesting happened. After I finished my brief presentation, a middle-aged, seemingly well-to-do Pakistani brother came up and requested a couple of minutes to respond to what I had to say.
In his remarks, he cautioned the assembled Muslims – most of whom remained behind to hear what I had to say - against embracing the campaign for Aafia Siddiqui without carefully investigating the matter for themselves (on this I couldn’t agree more). He then proceeded to regurgitate some of the vile propaganda used against Aafia for years now. Among other things, he claimed that when her computer was confiscated by the government, she had the names and/or contact information of some of the most prominent leaders of al-Qaeda on it.
He also noted that she had a trial and was found guilty in a fair proceeding. The proceeding was far from fair; but how could he know this, when he wasn’t anywhere near the trial himself. I was!
While it is indeed true that Aafia had a kangaroo court proceeding that masqueraded as a trial, the factors that led to the finding of “guilty on all counts” were the following:
(a) a pro-prosecution (and probably pro-Zionist) judge by the name of Richard Berman;
(b) a biased jury;
(c) the failure of well paid lawyers to mount the type of sustained, vigorous defense that was needed for a trial of this nature;
(d) and the failure of the Muslim community in the New York area (generally speaking) to respond to the challenge that this case presented, with the level of visible pressure that Muslims in Tri-State New York were capable of giving!
Before departing the center yesterday, I recommended to its president that the community convene a special forum to discuss the case of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, and I gave him the assurance that I would be more than willing to return for such a forum, insha’Allah.
I also recommend that if there are any individuals from the opposing side (government or private) who believe they know the facts of this case, then let us debate the issue in a civil manner. I am willing to debate anyone anywhere on this case involving Aafia Siddiqui; as long as I can be assured of having equal time to make my case!