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YEE SPEAKS ON ISLAM

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    FREED CHAPLAIN YEE SPEAKS ON ISLAM Rob Tucker, News Tribune, 5/30/04 http://www.tribnet.com/news/local/story/5136819p-5065896c.html Freed chaplain Yee speaks
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      FREED CHAPLAIN YEE SPEAKS ON ISLAM
      Rob Tucker, News Tribune, 5/30/04
      http://www.tribnet.com/news/local/story/5136819p-5065896c.html

      Freed chaplain Yee speaks on Islam
      ROB TUCKER; The News Tribune

      Capt. James Yee, a Muslim U.S. Army chaplain who was jailed for 76
      days by his government on suspicion of espionage before he was
      cleared, stood with his prayer cap on Saturday evening and explained
      some basics of Islam to an audience at the Washington State History
      Museum.

      "I'm here today as James Yee - your brother in humanity," he told the
      audience at a program by the The Bill of Rights Defense Committee -
      Tacoma. "Today's special for people who have a passion for justice
      and diversity. Islam is relevant and all over the news. We must
      understand each other. I'm wearing my prayer cap tonight."

      More than 75 people heard his talk on the tenets of Islam and
      expressed appreciation for his presence. They filled a hat full of
      money to help with his legal bills after being told they were
      substantial. Afterward, people came up to shake his hand, get his
      autograph, give him more money, and ask forgiveness.


      "I apologize as an American," one man said as he shook Yee's hand.
      Yee smiled and thanked the man.


      Yee told people he wasn't acting in an official capacity and didn't
      talk about his ordeal or his present situation in the military.


      Yee, 35, was arrested Sept. 10 and held in custody for 76 days after
      being suspected of espionage when he was a chaplain to detainees at
      the Guantanamo Bay detention center in Cuba.


      Authorities said he had taken secret materials to a housing unit at
      the prison. The case received heavy news coverage. Eventually the
      military charged him with mishandling classified material, failing to
      obey an order, making a false official statement, adultery and
      conduct unbecoming an officer.


      But the government failed to build a case, especially one of capital
      espionage. Yee has been cleared of all charges and now is stationed
      at Fort Lewis.


      Tim Smith of the defense committee was dressed in American colonial
      garb and called himself "Ben" - for Ben Franklin - to accentuate the
      evening's historic Bill of Rights program theme.


      He called Yee "a great American" and presented him with a plank from
      Tacoma's old Japanese Language School building, which was torn down
      this year. It symbolized a thriving Japanese American community in
      the city before World War II. The school closed when its students
      were interned with their parents in inland camps by the government.


      Some audience members also appreciated the religious talk as a good
      overview of Islam as a tolerant and diverse faith.


      "It was excellent and very relevant," said Tom Donovan, a local
      attorney. "One thing that came of 9/11 was a lot of anti-Muslim
      prejudice. It's up to those who know to debunk it."


      Many also looked to the speaker, Yee.


      "I think it's very brave of him," said Anita Beninger.

      Rob Tucker: 253-597-8374
      rob.tucker@ mail.tribnet.com


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