March 6, 2016
Saturday February 27, the ISBCC in Roxbury (Boston) held a well-attended event called "Mercy and Justice" which welcomed a rally led by Veterans for Peace and included Quakers and other peace activist groups in a statement of solidarity with their Muslim neighbors. Imam Talib Mandee, who is a veteran, and Rev James Todd gave a convocation. Many veterans spoke, including a very old WWII veteran, some emphasizing Muslim veterans and others saying war is bad and we are not enemies.
The event was attended by Boston police commissioner Bob Evans who spoke on behalf of the Mayor saying "We love Muslims."
VFP Statement of Solidarity
"We, as veterans of the United States military, stand against the targeting, hatred, bigotry, and Islamophobia currently being directed towards the Muslim community.
Muslims are not the enemy. There are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world and only a very small percentage support ISIS or other terrorist organizations. Many Muslims are U.S. citizens and are as loyal, hardworking and patriotic as all other Americans. Muslims serve in every branch of the United States Military. Today within the United States, many Muslims are afraid in their own homes and neighborhoods. They often live in fear that other Americans may target them for harassment, threats, and in some cases physical harm, because of who they are and where they worship.
As veterans who have served this country both in war and peace-time, we declare that this hatred, verbal abuse, and physical hostility being directed towards our Muslim friends, neighbors and co-workers is not in keeping with the American values of fostering brotherhood and sisterhood with our fellow Americans. This type of bigotry in 2016 is simply unacceptable, Un-American and we call for its immediate end."
Also addressing the crowd included Dr. John Robbins, representing CAIR. He thanked the vets for fighting for our freedom and for their service to our country.
After the speeches, everyone was invited inside for lunch while they had a question and answer session about the Islamic religion. During this time I handed out the flyer for the Aafia mobilization and told her story to everyone who would listen, both Muslim and non-Muslims. Many of the VFP and other activists knew of Aafia while many people, including Muslims, did not know anything about Aafia's story. Everyone was polite and some became downright emotional when they heard of this travesty of justice. Everyone I spoke to promised to find out more, come to the demo, and/or spread the word.
After speaking with me, one brother enthusiastically approached the CAIR representative for his support. I noticed him giving Dr. Robbins my flyer so I walked over to them. The brother asked him if he knew about Aafia's case. Dr. Robbins said, "Yes we know about her" sort of curtly. I said, "I realize CAIR doesn't usually deal with political prisoners." Robbins became very stiff and tall, reminded me of an FBI agent. "We are satisfied with the decision of our nation," he stated and would not say anything more, even though I insisted that this issue is important to our nation first of all because of Constitutional protections - if you can be kidnapped and put into prison without any charges, that is unacceptable. And furthermore, this issue is very important to the Pakistani people and therefore plays a huge role in international relations. Seeing that I wasn't getting anywhere with him I wandered off to VFP president Barry Ladendorf and others who were extremely supportive.
All in all it was a nice experience. It was great to see all my favorite kind of people in one place together. I hope to see more and more of us working together. Since then CAIR seems to be toning down the anti-Aafia rhetoric. Hopefully they will join us in the struggle.