Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Unraveling Syria: Many Citizen Militias Fighting Against Assad

Many good people sincerely believe that the Syrian revolution is a CIA-Mossad plot against Bashar Assad, who they think is against Israel. Other well-meaning people are convinced that that ISIS is a CIA-Mossad plot to undermine the legitimacy of the Free Syrian Army.

“95% of ISIS weapons are from Russia who are likewise arming Assad and therefore Russia profits both sides of the engineered conflict,” insisted an FSA supporter. “If FSA was supported by USA - then Assad would be gone, tried and sentenced to death for his war crimes against all of Syria 4 years ago and ISIS would not exist.”

In order to try and clarify the mystery of who’s who in the Syrian war, I talked to Ahmed, a Syrian-American opponent of the regime, whose family members recently fled the country. His family has suffered brutally under the Assad regime for decades.

He wanted me to be aware that the Syrian uprising began after 40 years of oppression. Spontaneously in 2011 some young kids in the south of Syria in the city of Dara wrote “Freedom! Freedom” on a wall. They were arrested by the secret police. One kid’s body was returned to his family after being tortured to death. The other kid was returned alive with his fingers chopped off.

Protests against the government spread throughout the country over the next month. Law enforcement shot live ammunition at demonstrators. Townspeople started gathering to defend the demonstrators with personal arms such as AK-47.

Within six months, low rank Sunni army personnel started mass defections from the military, because they did not want to shoot their own people. The high ranking officers are all Alawite. The ex-military Sunnis turned freedom fighters started gathering and made connections in border areas in Turkey and Jordan. The Syrian border with Turkey is mountainous and there are many villages, which makes it easy to escape. But the border with Iraq is desert and it is very difficult.

There was no Islamic movement the first year of the uprisings. Only small arms were used on both sides. The second year, 2012,  the Assad regime became increasingly unstable and started sending in tanks and doing aerial bombardment of civilian populations. At this point, humanitarian volunteers from Bosnia, Chechnya, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq started pouring in for emotional and religious reasons. The local population welcomed them on an individual basis. There was no official organization. The people started grouping and making connections in nearby countries where they could travel and visit.

As the movement got bigger, the original freedom fighters who defected from the army went to retire in nearby countries for a number of reasons: There was no financial support for their families, and they were not people of high ideology who want to die for the sake of Islam. Neighboring countries hosted 2000 high ranking Syrian ex-officers to keep as assets to use for future influence, when it appeared the regime would fall. However, these officers cannot leave. They are kept in some kind of camps or living quarters..

Then, the Syrian government asked for help from Iran and Lebanon’s Hizbollah to fight for the Shia. The Syrian government is not Shia. Shia is a sect of Islam. They are Muslims. The Alawite are not Muslims. Historically, France declared Alawites as Shia. But Syria is not Shia.

Many people mistakenly believe that Syria is defending Al-Aqsa, even though on the Israel/Syria border, nobody ever tried to attack Israel. This is Israel’s most stable border, protected by Assad. Iraq is under the influence of Iran. Iran doesn’t want Syria to be Sunni.

At this point, there are hundreds of fighting groups, said Ahmed, who says he truly believes that ISIS was started by foreign agents but lost control “just like the Taliban.” The majority of the leaders of ISIS are high-ranking Iraqi ex-army officials, who used to work for Saddam Hussein. The Iraqi army was the 4th largest army in the world. They are now working with foreign intelligence and serving in ISIS and getting income from foreign countries, plus plunder.

Ahmed said that the majority Syrian population does not want a conservative Islamic state. They are Islamic liberals. They like to have fun. They have no interest in fundamentalism or “radical Islam.” Western injustice and aggression leads to IS politics, he said.

I asked, “When there is no government and everything is destroyed, wouldn’t it be natural for the town to meet at the mosque, and if there is no law, it would be easiest to use Islamic law?”

“People will go back to their natural religion when there is no infrastructure other than the madrasa,” stated Ahmed, who has spent significant time in Afghanistan. However, he did not feel that Syria was anything like Afghanistan. 

In the 1970’s, Wahhabis from Saudi Arabia came to indoctrinate Syrians but people argued against them. Nevertheless, like Bosnia, Syrians will welcome those who help to control Syria and establish order and peace.

Ahmed said the west is pushing Syria to the point where they will say, “Please bring anyone, even another Alawite, to get rid of Assad” to stabilize the region. No matter what, it will take 25-50 years to rebuild the country to what it was.

Regarding the Free Syrian Army, he said there are three kinds: those who gave up and left the country, those who will fight for whoever pays more, and those who are controlled by third parties. He had a higher opinion of al-Nusra, whom he said number in the thousands, not hundreds. The majority of al-Nusra are Syrians not foreign fighters. They have the best fighters. They have good individual support but also have influence with high rank people. Both Saudi Arabia and Jordan try to send their infiltrators to get high ranks to try and get influence or reward.

The “sincere fighters” don’t belong to any big party or private agenda. The majority of Syrian fighters belong to loose small groups. Around Homs and Damascus, in the revolution areas, there could be 15-20 small groups of 100, 200 or 300 militia men for every local area. Some groups make Islamic council and unify with groups like al-Nusra or Ahrar al Sham.

I mentioned the news that Iranian General Mohammad Ali Allahdadi was killed in an Israeli airstrike in Syria along with six Hizbollah fighters in the Golan Heights. Ahmed said that on that same day, the Syrian opposition shot down a small plane that was filled with high ranking Iranian, Jordanian and Hizbollah officials. He theorized that the media gave Israel credit for the killing in order to downplay the powerful news of the Syrian resistance.

Regarding foreign funding, he mentioned a few weeks back there was a local militia named Hazen that took money from America but then gave it to al-Nusra.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Abductions, Mysterious Prison Deaths


Editor’s Note: Karin Friedemann is a TMO columnist. The views expressed here are her own.
A courtroom sketch shows Nazih al-Ragye known by the alias Abu Anas al-Liby as he appears in Manhattan Federal Court for an arraignment in New York, October 15, 2013. REUTERS/Jane Rosenberg/Files
Two mysterious deaths of political activists occurred inside U.S. prisons this month. One of the deceased was Nazih Abdul-Hamed Nabih al-Ruqai’i, popularly known as Abu Anas al-Libi, a Libyan who fought with al Qaeda in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union in the 1980s. He later joined an Islamic fighting group seeking to depose Qaddafi, but he never took up arms against America. He and his family lived in England without event for many years before returning to Libya in 2011 because of a general amnesty offer by Qaddafi’s son.
Al-Libi was kidnapped on October 5, 2013 in front of his home in Tripoli by a team of US military, CIA and FBI agents, who then rendered him to a Navy ship for torture. Intelligence officials interrogated him for a week aboard the USS San Antonio, all the while floating in the Mediterranean to avoid having to follow U.S. laws. Al-Libi was then officially indicted for involvement in the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania and transferred to a prison in New York City.
He pled not guilty to these charges on October 15, 2014. He was supposed to go to court on January 12, 2015 to defend himself against the government’s accusations. Instead, he died in prison on January 2, 2015. He was buried January 10 in Libya at a well-attended funeral. What was that all about?
The other prisoner who ‘suddenly died’ was Phil Africa, imprisoned for life as a member of the American Black revolutionary group, MOVE, which had connections to the Black Panther Party and the Black Liberation Army of the 70’s and 80’s. On August 8, 1978, Philadelphia police brutally raided their communal home and arrested nine people including Phil Africa. The MOVE house was later aerial bombed in Philadelphia by the U.S. government on May 13, 1985. Two of his children died in the fire.
On Sunday, January 4th, 2015, Phil Africa was secretly transported from his Dallas, Pennsylvania prison to Wilkes Barre General Hospital at the same time as MOVE members were attempting to visit him. At the hospital, he was held in isolation for five days and not even allowed to call his wife of 44 years, Janine Africa.
The hospital and prison received hundreds of phone calls in support of Phil, and on January 8, he was finally allowed to call his wife. She reported on the website of the MOVE organization, that he was heavily drugged, incoherent and couldn’t even hold the phone to talk to her.
On January 9, Phil was sent back to the prison infirmary. The next day, Ramona and Carlos Africa were granted permission to visit Phil in the prison infirmary. When they reached him, he was incoherent and couldn’t talk or move his head to look at them. An hour after they left, they got a call that Phil passed away.
“Inmates in the infirmary and others in the prison were shocked when they heard the news. They had witnessed his vigorous health for decades in the prisons, had just seen him stretching and doing jumping jacks six days earlier,” wrote Ramona Africa.
“The fact that Phil was isolated for the six days before he passed, that the prison even refused to acknowledge that he was in the hospital is beyond suspicious.”
“When Merle Africa died in prison on March 13th, 1998 the conditions were very similar. She had been one way in the prison, but within hours of being forced to go to an outside hospital she was dead,” Ramona Africa further stated.
What these terrible cases have in common is that both al-Libi and Africa, whose adopted names demonstrate idealistic dedication to their land of origin, were members of now-defunct revolutionary groups. Al-Libi’s wife, Umm Abdul Rahman told the Daily Beast, “My husband was affiliated with al-Qaeda a long time ago. But he was never a senior leader in al-Qaeda.”
Al-Qaeda at the height of its glory had not more than a few hundred soldiers, while the same is true of the Black Panther Party. These relatively obscure revolutionaries are now old men. They are considered social justice activists by those who support them, and retired terrorists by those who don’t. The U.S. government’s policy to emotionally destroy political prisoners by deliberately separating them from their loved ones at the time of death seems vindictive.
“It’s this system’s intention for MOVE people to die in prison,” stated Ramona Africa.
“The MOVE 9 never should have been imprisoned at all, and according to their sentence they should have been paroled over six years ago,” she insisted. “The death of Merle and Phil Africa rests directly at the feet of this government!”
Likewise, al-Libi’s son Ahmed Nazeeh al Ruqai’i railed against the U.S. government.
“We will not forget. Neither will we get over what happened at the hands of the Americans, who prevented us from visiting our father and deprived us from seeing him” he said in a statement.
A quiet death in prison, reported to be of natural causes, means that the only people who understand what happened are the person’s closest supporters – not the general public.
These deaths clearly demonstrate that torture rendition against Muslims and against African American civil rights activists is alive and well under the Obama administration.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Two Important Activists 'Died' in US Custody This Month: Abu Anas al-Libi & Phil Africa

Our America: Two major, latest, crimes of our government.

Nazih Abdul-Hamed Nabih al-Ruqai'i, popularly known as Abu Anas al-Libi, died in US custody on January 2, 2015 - just 3 months after he was kidnapped in Libya in front of his Tripoli home by a team of US military, CIA and FBI agents [video: YouTube.com/watch?v=vY_TCwWg_aA ].

First, al-Libi was taken to a Navy ship for torture. Intelligence officials interrogated him for a week after his capture aboard the USS San Antonio in the Mediterranean, according to the Guardian. He was then indicted and transferred to a prison in New York City. Reports have surfaced that the US obtained evidence against him via a plea bargain from Ali Mohamed, a former Egyptian army major who worked for the CIA and Egyptian Islamic Jihad.In 2000, Mohamed received a life sentence without parole after he pled guilty to five terrorist charges in connection with the embassy bombings.

Al-Libi pled not guilty in October 2014 to involvement in the 1998 US embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. He was supposed to go to court on January 12, 2015 to defend himself against the accusations. Instead, he was buried January 10 in Libya at a well-attended funeral.

'Adel Al-Masry, who was incarcerated alongside him in America said that our beloved father was maltreated from the moment he set foot in prison and was denied medical care, causing his health to rapidly deteriorate," stated his son, Ahmed Nazeeh al Ruqai'y .

A document filed in court by the Department of Justice said al-Libi "was taken from the Metropolitan Correctional Center to a New York hospital due to sudden complications arising out of his long-standing medical problems." Despite the care provided at the hospital, the government claimed, his condition deteriorated rapidly and he passed away Friday evening. They mention an imam was present with him at the hospital. Could this imam lend more insight into what happened at the hospital? There is no question that foul play could have been involved.

A similar though unrelated mysterious death occurred in another US prison hospital the same week. On Sunday, January 4th, 2015, Phil Africa was secretly transported from his Dallas, Pennsylvania prison to Wilkes Barre General Hospital at the same time as MOVE members were attempting to visit him. At the hospital, he was held in isolation for 5 days and not even allowed to call his wife of 44 years, Janine Africa. Due to the hospital and prison receiving hundreds of phone calls in support from around the world, Phil was finally allowed to call Janine on Thursday, January 8th. She reported that he was heavily drugged, incoherent and couldn't even hold the phone to talk to her. On Friday, January 9th Phil was sent back to the prison infirmary. On Saturday, January 10th Ramona and Carlos Africa were granted permission to visit Phil in the prison infirmary. When they reached him he was incoherent and couldn't talk or move his head to look at them. An hour after they left, they got a call that Phil passed away.

"Inmates in the infirmary and others in the prison were shocked when they heard the news. They had witnessed his vigorous health for decades in the prisons, had just seen him stretching and doing jumping jacks six days earlier," reads a statement written by the family. "When Merle Africa died in prison on March 13th, 1998 the conditions were very similar. She had been one way in the prison, but within hours of being forced to go to an outside hospital she was dead."

Phil Africa was a member of the Black revolutionary group, MOVE, whose home was bombed in Philadelphia by the US government on May 13, 1985. Two of Phil's children died in the fire.

Al-Libi also lost one of his sons in the Libyan independence struggle. (Details unknown).

Al-Libi's wife, Umm Abdul Rahman, didn't deny that her husband had been an al-Qaeda member, who fought against the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s. "My husband was affiliated with al-Qaeda a long time ago. But he was never a senior leader in al-Qaeda," she said. Later on he got involved with the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, she said. "They had a common vision, a common cause, a common enemy, which was the Gaddafi regime and they wanted to overthrow this regime."

His commitment to the ousting of Libya's longtime dictator resulted in several years of imprisonment in poor conditions in Iran after the family fled Afghanistan.

Al-Libi was given asylum by the UK but was nevertheless frequently harassed by British police. His family home was raided many times, but he was never charged with any crime. A close friend, quoted by the Associated Press, said al-Libi's family had returned to Libya around 2011 under a policy introduced by Gaddafi's son, Saif al-Islam, to promote reconciliation with regime opponents who gave up violence.

Disgracing the concept of due process, U.S. President Barack Obama asserted at a press conference in Washington DC that al-Libi was behind the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings. He "helped plan and execute plots that killed hundreds of people, a whole lot of Americans. We have strong evidence of that."US Secretary of State John Kerry boasted that "members of al-Qaeda ... literally can run but they can't hide." American lawmakers praised the military operation of the man's kidnapping.

His son Ahmed Nazeeh al Ruqai'y stated: "We will not forget. Neither will we get over what happened at the hands of the Americans, who prevented us from visiting our father and deprived us from seeing him."

Friday, January 16, 2015

Worshipping While Flawed


Editor’s Note: Karin Friedemann is a TMO columnist. The views expressed here are her own.
Alphonse Dinet painting, courtesy clipart.com.

Say: “O my Servants who have transgressed against their souls! Despair not of the Mercy of Allah: for Allah forgives all sins: for He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. (Quran 39:53)
The Quran states many times that those who repent to Allah will be forgiven and will get a second chance at life. However, repentance is usually defined as promising never to commit the sin again. But how about the multitudes, who engage in habitual sin?
Orthodoxy says these people are hypocrites and that their prayers are suspect. Do these people have the right to pray in congregation with the other Muslims? Naturally, what is regarded as a sin so obnoxious that others would not pray next to you varies from culture to culture and also according to gender and social class. Yet, for those who sins are so bad that they themselves feel embarrassed to go the mosque: should they also feel ashamed to keep salat in the privacy of their own homes?
Are sinners allowed to pray?
Seems like a silly question since the sinner is the one most in need of prayer, but this kind of black and white thinking – either your lifestyle is “Islamic” or it is not – has perhaps kept a lot of people who wanted to be saved away from God.
It can be hard for those who are trying so hard to do everything right, or even for those who refuse out of cynicism to participate in religion, to understand how close Allah remains to the sinner. As long as someone continues to err, there always remains a certain window that stays open. The benefit of recognizing one’s own shortcomings and using that as an approach to Allah sometimes works a lot better than the technique of asking God to recognize you for everything you did right.
It is very important for those people who are mired in sin, whose blood flows with toxic substances, whose ears are ringing from the abusive situation around them, whose mailboxes are filled with bills they cannot pay, whose floors are dirty, whose children are angry – to realize that the practice of prayer is beneficial to all! The practice of prayer is even more important to the sinner than it is to the devout abstainer, because once prayer is renounced, then the bad habits or addictions are all that the person has left to live for. Prayer needs to always co-exist with sin, for hope to continue.
If you have a sin that is hard for you to give up, you should ask Allah to make your true need clearer for you, the need that you are covering up with this habit. Some people eat chocolate because they are lonely. Many people eat cookies when their bodies are begging for fresh fruit. Some people smoke because they never got breastfed as a baby. Most of the stupid stuff we do is because we did not get the correct nourishment, nor the correct guidance.
That is why giving up prayer – just because one cannot live up to the “lifestyle” of shariah – is the last thing one should consider! If it’s too awkward to join the splintered parts of your life, don’t! You don’t have to. Pray in secret. This is America, so worship when and how you like. Don’t let the “good Muslim vs. bad Muslim” divide ruin your opportunity to seek peace and inner guidance.
Pray in the darkest, most secluded part of your home, when nobody is looking. Pray from the deepest parts of your heart that you would like to start using more often. Do not care what other people are doing or thinking. Do not care what the atheists are thinking, and do not allow yourself to care about what the fundamentalists are thinking about your prayer, as it is solely for Allah.
Call me an anarchist, but I think the strength and unity of Islam comes from the individual, and the freedom of each individual to have his own spiritual experience of the One God – or in some cases, various takes on the One God; in other words, the many Names.
Some may mourn the lack of a Caliphate, yet the disorganization of the Muslims is one of Islam’s great protections. There is nobody you can kill in order to get rid of Islam. There is no leader that you could imprison that would cause the path of Islam to vanish from the world.
We actually live in the most beautiful time of the world, ever. We are winning. Nearly half the people in the world are Muslims. All you have to do, if you want to know why you are alive and why you are going to die, is to ask the person next to you, who will very likely be able to give you a well thought out and detailed answer! Never before in the history of mankind has basic Islamic knowledge been so readily accessible to all people!
Oh Allah! It is better to pray alone in sin than to be with those who do not understand us, but please, Oh God, bring us to those who will not leave us alone in sin, but who will encourage us to pray with them in congregation and who will not ask us about our sins. But also, dear God, bring from among them those who will understand our unique wounds, who will know, yet overlook our shortcomings, who will push us forward into the ranks of those who do good! 
Oh Allah, let us all invite humanity to share the peace of those who are content.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

How Djamel Beghal was used : Kouachi brothers' Mentor?

How torture is used to make "terror" connections.

[Editor's note: Imam Abu Qatada was cleared of all charges when Britain deported him to Jordan. The Jordanian court found no evidence to convict him. ]

Djamel Beghal is described by media as a "terrorist connected to the notorious Finsbury Park mosque" who regularly attended "hate preacher" Imam Abu Qatada's sermons in the late 1990s, when the mosque "was Abu Hamza's base." Once "Osama bin Laden's main European recruiter," Beghal is now being said to be the Kouachi brothers' "mentor." He is even accused by media of having recruited "shoe bomber" Richard Reid and the "20th hijacker" Zacarias Moussaoui. Beghal "is also said to have met one of Osama bin Laden's key deputies at the former Al Qaeda leader's base in Afghanistan," reports the UK Daily Mail. "The terror leader spent ten years in prison in France for planning attacks. He was only released in 2010."

Except that the truth is that he seems to actually be just a random guy that got kidnapped at the airport in Abu Dhabi in July of 2001. The Algerian immigrant to France, married to a Frenchwoman and father of four had made the decision in November of 2000 to move his family to Jalalabad, Afghanistan because they wanted to live in a Muslim country. In July 2001, Beghal was accompanying an ailing friend's family from Pakistan to Morocco, when he was inexplicably taken into custody and held for four years in pre-trial detention, during which time he was brutally tortured into falsely confessing to attacking the US Embassy in Paris. A team of doctors kept an eye on his vital signs to advise the torturers how much pain he could tolerate. They told him crazy stories over and over again.

"They wanted me to accuse Abu Qatada at any cost. They wanted me to accuse him of a military plot (bombing plan) or at least to make him responsible for the ideological and financial management of terrorist networks linking London to Kabul but also many other capitals in Europe, Africa and Asia," Beghal told Arnaud Mafille in a 2011 report by CagePrisoners entitled, "Djamel Beghal: British and French complicity in torture."

"He would insist with brutality to reveal the link between Abu Qatada and Osama bin Laden, whom they all called Abu Abdallah. He would also question me about Abu Hamza, the Egyptian Imam of Finsbury Park mosque in London... He was also interested in Sheikh Abdul Wahid. He presented him as the spiritual trainer for suicide bombers and the indoctrinator under the commandment of Osama bin Laden...

"Geographically, he interrogated me on what I knew about the projects of Muslims living mainly in London, Luton, Manchester and Leicester."

French intelligence officials had been tracking Beghal for almost a decade. He was a known activist with Takfir wal Hijra, which they defined as a splinter group from the Muslim Brotherhood.

Beghal continues, "I was offered a scenario of an attack in France without specifying the place but by citing the names of friends living in France I had never mentioned to them before... It was disturbing to hear those names from the mouth of Emirati and CIA agents. France was behind the scenes."

French Judge Brugui�re then offered a bargain to Beghal.

"He grabbed some documents, showing them to me from far, then, full of confidence, he proposed to recognize their contents, to sign them and hence to be saved immediately, as well as my wife and three children. He assured me that instead of being sentenced from 10 to 20 years, I would be sentenced to 5 years at most, and that later I would be released after two and a half years of detention.

"I asked him the content of those documents. I was shocked when he said that it acknowledged the preparation of an attack against the United States Embassy in Paris, adding that Osama bin Laden was the sponsor. It was also proclaiming my repentance and my acknowledgement that I had been misled by Al Qaeda, which would have, by the way, "sold" me to foreign secret services!"

Sylvie Beghal, wife of Djamel Beghal, insisting on his innocence, told UK human rights organization, CAGE that her husband "is being punished for something he didn't do."

"This isn't the first time Mr Beghal has been wrongfully accused. In 2005 an appeal court threw out an earlier conviction for his alleged involvement in a plot to bomb the US embassy in Paris as it had been reliant on a confession extracted under torture," reported CAGE.

"He has been placed in solitary confinement after all the false media coverage. He has nothing to do with the attack against Charlie Hebdo," said Mrs. Beghal. "The media is repeating false allegations which have been made against him for 14 years now."

Amandla Thomas-Johnson of CAGE, stated: "Djamel Beghal has never encouraged or carried out any act of violence and there is absolutely nothing that can link him to the attack. The narrative that Djamel Beghal is a 'radicalizer' is an old rumor without basis, its endless repetition causing endless problems to him and his family."

Monday, January 5, 2015

Lessons from the Boston Massacre

A trial says as much about the people holding it as it does about the person who is on trial. What will this trial say about Boston? Will Boston’s noble heritage be disgraced or upheld? As jury selection begins this week in Dzhokhar’ Tsarnaev's trial, let us ask ourselves: what would John Adams do? Put simply, he would defend the accused Boston Marathon bomber.

John Adams, an attorney and revolutionary, insisted upon representing the British soldiers that gunned down rioters in the spring of 1770, so that they would not be lynched by a mob but rather, receive a fair trial. It is the historical tradition of Boston, to uphold the Constitution and Bill of Rights no matter how severe the crime. Indeed, Adams gave such an impassioned speech at the trial that the jury, rather than execute the unpopular defendants, was moved to acquit 6 of the 8 soldiers and reduce the charges of the remaining two to manslaughter. The strong defense of even one’s political enemies not only demonstrated the future US President’s moral character but forms the basis of Constitutional law.

The most basic concept of the fair trial is that the defendant shall be presumed innocent until proven guilty. I have been in attendance at nearly every pre-trial hearing for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, and I can assure the public that no meaningful evidence has been revealed. Most everything remains in sealed documents that have not yet been discussed. Therefore, any opinion that any person claims to have about the case, if not obtained from court documents, has been obtained illegitimately via made-for-TV movies that never claimed to be more than fiction. The amount of arrogant, willful ignorance amongst the jury pool is sickening.

Many tweets are circulating that demonstrate extreme prejudice: 

“I’m just gonna say this… I hope #Tsarnaev gets shanked tonight so we don’t have to go through this trial.. #sorrynotsorry”

“Jury duty coming up. Really hoping for the Tsarnaev case so someone can deliver him a fair chance at the electric chair.”

“So Pamela has to report for federal jury duty on Monday. 1st day of the Boston bomber trial voir dire. Can’t believe it. Yeah, we’re prejudiced!”

Harvey Silvergate argues in the Boston Globe that due to the prevalence of such extreme sentiments among the locals who were personally affected by the bombings, Judge O’Toole ought to have moved Tsarnaev’s trial out of Boston, “out of an abundance of caution, erring on the side of a fair trial that is supposed to be the norm especially when the death penalty hangs in the balance.” He further states: “O’Toole instead is erring on the side of expedition. Efficiency can be overrated when justice, and our own adherence to civilized and constitutional norms, hang in the balance.”

I can think of no greater stupidity than to allow “blind faith” in a man’s guilt sway a trial of this importance to our nation. This is a huge test of what the Founding Fathers stood for. We must insist on clear evidence, not hearsay, not doctored photos, not unsubstantiated news reports, no secret evidence - Bostonians deserve to watch not only a fair trial but proceedings that seek to “unravel the mystery” of the bombings. All we know for sure right now is that we don’t know anything. No bomb making materials were found in either brother’s apartment. The FBI claims they “don’t know” where the bombs were made. Does the prosecution even have a case? This is a valuable question, based in our Bill of Rights.

Even if the Tsarnaev brothers are guilty of some or all of the charges, it's still important to ask deeper questions, like who put them up to it. The truth could be rather complex. MLFA attorney Charles Swift opined: “Just because the government is lying doesn’t mean the defendant is innocent.” I fear that this rush to declare the kid guilty and then execute him is covering up a much bigger story. Even if the bigger story is just that law enforcement failed miserably and then tried to cover its mistakes by exaggerating the “Islamic threat,” embellishing and inflating the story into mythical proportions in order to explain their inability to protect the public from harm.

The Massachusetts Constitution, Article XIII states that “In criminal prosecutions, the verification of facts in the vicinity where they happen, is one of the greatest securities of the life, liberty, and property of the citizen.”

Unfortunately, the government has worked overtime to remove the evidence from the scene. The mailbox, the tree that were hit with shards of shrapnel have been removed so that we cannot determine the direction of the blast. Officer Collier's car has been refurbished and put back into use, the boat where Tsarnaev was captured has been removed from the property and replaced with a new boat, witnesses have been deported and jailed, intimidated or killed/died mysteriously; including law enforcement witnesses! Will the truth ever come out? If so, how?

Boston should stand strong and insist that the government follow the laws of our land and actually demonstrate the veracity of its accusations with hard evidence. If we allow murderous hysteria to take over Boston, then we are acting in the tradition of Salem.

Boston Gears Up for Bombing Trial


The past couple weeks have been strange, with the defense for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev filing a motion to keep protesters who were supporting their client away from the courthouse! (?) Tsarnaev’s attorneys oddly argued that the presence of demonstrators, whose arguments vary, would rob Tsarnaev of his right to a fair trial. The defense again frantically requested for a third time a change of venue the late afternoon of New Year’s Eve,arguing that “every member of the jury pool is, in effect, an actual victim of the charged offenses.”

Judge O’Toole routinely denied the defense request at the advice of the prosecution, who insisted that the trial should be conducted in the community most affected by the bombing. "Moving the trial out of the Eastern Division would create an enormous hardship for those victims and their families, depriving many, if not most of them, of any ability to see the trial."

Harvey Silvergate writes in the Boston Globe, “The Oklahoma City bombing prosecution furnishes an instructive precedent that strongly suggests that Tsarnaev should not be tried in Massachusetts. It is a precedent that O’Toole has recklessly misread and misrepresented in denying a venue change… O’Toole ignores yet another precedent, this one right in his own back yard.”

Boston Judge Wolf decided to postpone the sentencing trial of Gary Lee Sampson, who was convicted in 2003 of the carjack killings of three men, Silvergate continues, “out of an abundance of caution, erring on the side of a fair trial that is supposed to be the norm especially when the death penalty hangs in the balance. O’Toole instead is erring on the side of expedition. Efficiency can be overrated when justice, and our own adherence to civilized and constitutional norms, hang in the balance.”

After being found guilty, Sampson was sent to New Hampshire for execution, since Massachusetts does not allow the death penalty. If a Bostonian can be found guilty in Massachusetts and executed in New Hampshire, why can’t a Bostonian get his trial moved to New Hampshire, where the libertarian population is more likely to question the FBI’s story?

Bostonians are largely debating the death penalty vs. life in prison rather than innocence vs. guilt. A 2013 Boston Globe poll found that 57% of Bostonians favored life without parole for Tsarnaev, while 33% favored death.

Jury selection is expected to begin on Monday, January 5, 2014.

Attorney Judy Clarke has made overtures to prosecutors about a plea bargain, according to a lawyer close to the case. But so far she has been rebuffed, reports the NY Times. Imprisoned friend Stephen Silva is expected to confess to selling or giving a gun with an obliterated serial number to the Tsarnaevs in February 2013, due to FBI evidence against him obtained by the wiretapping of an informant, two months before the April events. Media insinuates, but court documents do not clearly link the gun to the killing of MIT officer Sean Collier.

The official prosecution narrative centers on the story that Tsarnaev, angry about the killing of Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan, scrawled incriminating messages (“Stop killing our innocent people and we will stop”) on the inside of the boat where he was captured. This message appeared about three weeks after his arrest, just in time for the grand jury hearing, and is therefore rather suspect as evidence. I think it is baloney that Jahar just happened to have a Sharpie and suddenly began to compose a manifesto after having been shot multiple times.

What is important to acknowledge though, is that Bostonians, and the American people in general, are desperate to execute Tsarnaev as a terrorist rather than to pity him as a wayward teen - BECAUSE of the erroneous belief that he was retaliating against America for propagating massacres overseas. BECAUSE of the deep dark guilt inside the American conscience. The hysteria that this kind of propaganda arouses points to a dark side of American ignorance and exceptionalism. The idea that a Muslim kid might say that retaliation is justified makes this a high profile case. He might even end up publicly hanged on TV like Saddam Hussein (God forbid)! But what about the random jerk off his meds who guns down a classroom? Not news. The United States is treating Tsarnaev like a scapegoat that they can just load up with all their baggage and send him out to the desert to “take away the sins of the world.”

Indeed if Tsarnaev had committed bombings in the name of Islam, in retaliation for Muslim deaths overseas, he would be protected by international law. The United Nations could recognize him as a political prisoner and he would enjoy certain rights enforceable by the international community. If Tsarnaev is truly an Islamic jihad terrorist, where is his legal support? Where is his army? There is none because he never was a jihadi despite some general interest in Islamic causes such as sympathy for Gaza and Syria. He also has no background of crime or any issue that would consider him to be a disturbed youth. He was a lifeguard, who volunteered to help handicapped kids. He was a well adjusted and very popular kid. 

Is that what this trial is going to boil down to? The right of a well-adjusted American kid to openly care about Muslim suffering?

Journey to ICNA-MAS Conference, Chicago

On December 24, 2014, a charter bus left from the Roxbury mosque (ISBCC) in Boston, taking a full load of passengers to Chicago for the ICNA-MAS convention. Regardless of my opinion about ICNA-MAS, I decided to go to this convention for social reasons. The journey there turned out to be a beautiful experience. 

While slightly less Arab than the ISNA crowd, the ICNA culture is also promoting and living a sort of Islam-lite that is embodied by the average Coke-drinking, designer fashion label-wearing, corporate employee type of Muslim. I have to admit harboring quiet outrage regarding the cowardice of the MAS Boston in 2013 after the police killed Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev and nobody would accept his body for burial. Even if he were a criminal, what Islamic law forbids burial of a criminal? Only Allah knows if he is destined for heaven or hell. Who are we to refuse to bury a Muslim brother who prayed five times a day. Finally, after many days of Muslims refusing responsibility, a Christian church in another state had to step in to accept Tamerlan’s dead body.

Nevertheless, I kept quiet and swallowed my shock at the sight of women in hijab buying their kids McDonald’s burgers and joined 54 other Muslims on this grueling, 21 hour journey. 

About half the bus was filled with high school boys from the Islamic school in Malden, Massachusetts plus their teacher. About a third were university students both male and female, and the rest were families or older adults traveling alone. 

The trip began with a dua and Quran recitation by a blind sheikh, Yusuf Al-Arabi from Morocco, who had a beautiful voice. This was followed by a lecture about how life itself is a journey to Allah. After that, the group organizer and director of MAS Boston, Dr. Loay Assaf passed a microphone around so that each passenger could introduce themselves. There were so many different nationalities of passengers - Egyptian, Palestinian, Syrian, Yemeni, Sudanese, Somali, Ethiopian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Vietnamese, Swiss - it was almost like a mini-Hajj.

Imam Walid, who works as a prison chaplain in Rhode Island, spoke about Malcolm X’s life, and how the Nation of Islam emerged as a movement to empower black people against racism. He described how the movement made a natural progression into Islam. It’s not that the mosques such as Masjid al-Quran in Boston, which used to represent NOI and is now promoting Sunni Islam, were trying to create a separate Black Islam. The youth were encouraged to read the autobiography of Malcolm X in order to understand the struggles of the early US Muslims.

There were a few more short inspirational speeches and Mahmoud Elhashash sang some Nasheed with an exquisite voice. 

When it was time to pray, the group assembled inside a New York food service rest stop for salat. That was something I had never seen before! An non-Muslim father was seen pointing and explaining to his son what the Muslims were doing (not sure if his explanation was positive or negative). 
Sleep was next to impossible in the full-to-capacity, overheated bus, but everyone did the best they could. In the morning, there was another Quranic recitation, which was very moving, especially with the sun coming up over the beautiful Ohio farmland. 

I had some interesting conversation with a couple sisters that made me feel comforted and understood. One of them had gone to school with Tarek Mehanna, and we discussed political prisoner issues. All in all, it was a healing experience overall to be in an Islamic group atmosphere. It helped me to re-center myself and my intentions.

The ICNA-MAS convention began Friday, December 26. The opening speaker was Dr. Tariq Ramadan. 

Ramadan had refused to speak at the ISNA convention last August, stating that many Muslim leaders “are obsessed with being accepted, at sitting at the table of power in order to talk (or rather to listen) and to be tolerated.” I am not sure why he believes that ICNA is better, but he agreed to speak at ICNA-MAS over the weekend. 

Mauri Saalakhan, Sister Aafia's most vocal supporter in the US, told New Trend:

"In brief, while none of the national organizations have done what they're capable of doing for Aafia, ICNA has the best track record for doing something, while ISNA has the worst track record for doing NOTHING. I expect, and hope, that Dr. Ramadan will feel free to speak his conscience at the ICNA-MAS Convention, inshallah.

Ramadan’s first lecture began by imploring the Muslims to “resist consumer society” and “come back to a deep way of dealing with yourself.” He said that American Muslims have a great responsibility towards their country and their world.

“People don’t want to discuss sensitive issues. But you can’t only apologize for what is done in the name of Islam. You must do things for Islam. You have to be struggling against racism. If only black people are demonstrating and you are not joining them to speak about what is right, then maybe prison is better for you. The Prophet Yusuf spent time in jail. There are people in the US in prison, who are innocent. On the Day of Judgement, they will be experiencing the greatest freedom but maybe you will be in the jail of hell.” 

“Most of you,” he dared us, “are not courageous enough to do what Musa did with Pharaoh.” 

Ramadan said, “I am fed up with people coming up to me after the speech telling me it was so ‘powerful.’ There is no reform without freedom, and there is no freedom without courage.”
He ended his speech by saying, “Don’t be little Obamas.”  

Inspiring Women Discuss Their Motivation at ICNA-MAS Convention


Rashida Tlaib

Chicago, IL – ICNA-MAS held its annual national convention from December 26 to 28. Michigan Representative Rashida Tlaib was featured in a panel discussion at ICNA-MAS’ annual national convention. Her panel, titled “Strong Faith Has No Gender: Empowering Women,” also featured Ibtihaj Muhammad, an athlete on the women’s US fencing team.
Muhammad, a team gold-medal winner at the Pan-American Games, spoke about participating in sports growing up as a hijabi wearing modest dress. “Hijab brought me to fencing,” she stated, because the fencing outfit covers the body, unlike other sports costumes. She said that by succeeding in her sport, she was able to open the door for other hijab-wearing women.
Although Muhammad experienced racial discrimination and religious bigotry, she did not let this crush her self-esteem. She advised Muslim women athletes to strive to be successful regardless of what anyone says. “Being different has its obstacles, but it’s not something you can’t overcome,” she said.
Muhammad also spoke of the importance of humility. “Don’t think you are the best. There is always someone running faster, jumping higher. Champions train hard. If you want to win, you have to work harder than the next person.
“You hurt yourself when you think you are the best and you know everything.”
Following Muhammad was Rashida Tlaib, the first Muslim woman to be elected to Michigan’s state legislature and the second ever in the United States overall. Tlaib spoke about the importance of Muslim women engaging with institutions to serve the community.
Tlaib said that she does not consider herself to be a politician but an activist and public servant. She explained that political activism does not have to revolve around a candidate but can focus on an issue, and not necessarily an “Islamic issue.” Like Muhammad, Tlaib also believes that acceptance comes after achievement.  “Once people know who you are, they won’t care that you are Muslim,” she said.
Tlaib recalled the time she was going to campaign at a black Baptist church. She was the only non-black person there, and she could feel the tension. But then an old lady stood up, pointed her cane at Tlaib and said, “That’s the lady that saved my home from tax foreclosure!” Immediately it was like a light came on in the room.
Tlaib told TMO that she does not wear hijab because she doesn’t want the burden of representing Islam, but she said it is not impossible to get elected with hijab. However, wearing hijab does make getting elected more difficult. “You will have to answer questions about Islam every time you knock on a door, before you can even talk about your campaign platform,” she explained.
As a Muslim woman asserting yourself in the community, you are going to get “pushback,” she said. But it is very important to be in the room. The majority of Americans have never met a Muslim. 80% of the legislature has never met a Muslim. When they start saying ignorant things about Islam or Muslims, it’s important for you to be there, to correct them.
Tlaib was able to defeat a proposed anti-Shariah law by joining forces with Jewish and Catholic groups in the name of religious freedom.
When she heard that all the Michigan legislators except for her were invited by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee to go on a free trip to Israel, she advised her colleagues to “pay attention to Us vs. Them thinking.” When they came back, they told her, “You were right!”
She tells the other legislators, “now you have met a Muslim that cares about her community and her country. So when you make decisions that impact people of my faith, think of me, not the TV stereotypes.”
“Do not wait for permission,” she advised Muslim women interested in getting into politics. Her own father told her, “No one is going to vote for an Arab,” while her mother asked if running for office meant she wasn’t having another baby. Yet, through an aggressive door-to-door campaign and by addressing general community concerns such as environmental pollution and stopping scrap metal thieves, Tlaib was elected by a constituency where Arabs are only 2% of the population.
The questions from the audience revealed a hunger to understand how these Muslim women do it.
“My family keeps me grounded,” Tlaib explained. “When I go home I’m not a legislator, I’m a Muslim and Philistina, rooted in my culture and my faith … I always remember the verse from the Quran, ‘With hardship comes ease.’”
Tlaib told TMO that she gained her strength from growing up in Southwest Detroit. Primarily Latino and African American, this inner city community is known for pushing barriers away and making succeeding no matter what. When they fail, they get up and fight again. She said the spirit of Detroiters is “invincible.” She told TMO that if America ever had to fight a ground war, the people of Detroit would be on the front line.
Tlaib said being the eldest child in her family “presented challenges that gave me the strength and courage to represent my district. This urge to fight for the weak, the disadvantaged comes from those experiences I lived through,” Tlaib told TMO.