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I Was One of the Radicals at the Mosque

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  • Romi Elnagar
    In Defense of Radicalism I Was One of the Radicals at the Mosque by KATHY MANLEY After the Boston Marathon bombing some media outlets have suggested that the
    Message 1 of 1 , May 3, 2013
      In Defense of Radicalism
      I Was One of the Radicals at the Mosque
      After the Boston Marathon bombing some media outlets have
      suggested that the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center (ISBCC) was an incubator of radicalism because the Tsarnaev brothers occasionally
      worshipped there, and because they had permitted “radicals” who
      “defended terrorism suspects” to speak there. See, i.e. ( http://www.usatoday.com/)  I have spoken there and defended the rights of “terrorism suspects.” I
      was one of those radicals: I spoke at the ISBCC, along with several
      others, in September 2011 at an event called “Reclaiming Power and
      Defending Our Communities: How You Can Protect Yourself from Profiling
      and Preemptive Prosecution.” The event was sponsored by the National
      Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms (NCPCF), a civil rights coalition
      composed of 20 Muslim and non-Muslim organizations, and was co-sponsored by many other groups, including the Bill of Rights Defense Committee
      (BORDC) and the ACLU’s Massachusetts chapter.
      I spoke about the preemptive prosecution of Muslims in FBI sting
      operations, and particularly about the case of my client Yassin Aref, a
      Kurdish Iraqi imam whom the government had confused with someone they
      believed was involved with Al Qaeda (who was later killed by a missile). Yassin was tricked by a criminal con artist FBI provocateur into
      witnessing a loan he believed was perfectly legal, but which the
      government claimed constituted material support to the terrorist
      organization the provocateur said he worked with. Despite Yassin’s
      repeated statements that he did not support any terrorist group
      anywhere, the post-9/11 climate of fear, coupled with the judge telling
      the jury that the FBI had “good and valid reasons” to target him, made
      the jury afraid to acquit him. This innocent man is serving a 15-year
      There are all too many similar cases, including many where the FBI
      targeted young vulnerable Muslim men, sometimes with mental health
      issues, and convinced them to participate in a phony “attack.” NCPCF has compiled a database of Muslim “terrorism” cases based on the Department of Justice’s list of 386 cases prosecuted in federal court––and has
      found that 94% contain elements of preemptive prosecution, meaning those cases were either sting operations led by informants or involved
      targeting defendants who weren’t engaging in or planning any violent
      acts.  Journalist Trevor Aaronson’s recent book, The Terror Factory, emphasizes that if the FBI weren’t so caught up in manufacturing fake cases, it would be more focused on preventing real ones.
      We speak about this anywhere that will have us. Often mosques won’t – out of fear that they will be attacked in the very way they were in the USA Today article. We try to educate people about preemptive prosecution, and how to avoid being entrapped in these fake plots.
       Interestingly, the FBI was present at the mosque in Boston the day we
      were there, meeting with Muslim youth. We were concerned about that,
      because we know they are there to find informants and provocateurs, and
      to find out who they can target for a sting operation.
      An excellent NYT op-ed by ISBCC imam Suhaib Webb and Scott Korb, called “No Room for Radicals”, pointed out that it is not the young men who receive their religious training
      in the mosques who become interested in violent attacks – instead it’s
      those who are alienated and ignorant about Islam, and who search out
      extremists on the internet. In all cultures young men who are forming
      their identities and exploring many different paths are in desperate
      need of older male mentors to help them channel their energy in positive directions. If mosques are intimidated into kicking out these young men in need of such counsel, they’ll become more alienated and will search
      for advice elsewhere––with potentially deadly results.
      That’s why I don’t accept the word “radical” as a pejorative term. I
      have always thought of myself as a radical, in the sense that my beliefs are very different from those of the people in power. And the work
      “radical,” after all, means “root,” i.e. getting to the root of a
      problem, which seems anathema in this age of sound bites and fact-free
      For example, what does it mean that opposition to the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is seen as a dangerous sign? This has often been
      pointed to in the Boston case and others – the suspects were “angry
      about the wars.” Well, I am also extremely angry about these wars and
      the thousands of needless civilian deaths, and so are many other
      non-Muslims. But it is often not safe for Muslims to speak against these wars, even if (and maybe especially if) their families come from the
      countries under attack. If it is not safe to talk about this, then what
      Again, you have many angry young men who can’t go to their mosques
      and community centers and talk about how legitimately heartbroken and
      angry they are about the devastation wrought upon the lands of their
      birth. Wouldn’t it be better if they could voice their anguish openly,
      and could learn to see that if killing civilians is wrong in one place,
      it is wrong everywhere? In fact, Islam teaches that it is wrong to kill
      civilians, that suicide bombings are wrong, and that, similar to the
      Christian “just war” theory, war may only be fought defensively. They
      could then become involved in legitimate activism aimed at changing US
      policy. But the government would rather isolate them and target them in
      sting operations.
      It is unfortunate that USA Today and other media outlets
      have encouraged shallow irresponsible comments about the mosque, and the Muslim community in Boston and falsely implied that they encouraged
      terrorism.  Nothing could be further from the truth. Instead of false
      stereotypes we need more radicalsim – radical understanding, radical
      tolerance and radical peace – that is to say understanding, tolerance
      and peace that gets to the root of the problem, rather than inflaming
      Kathy Manley is a criminal defense attorney and legal director of the National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms.


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