YEE SPEAKS ON ISLAM
- FREED CHAPLAIN YEE SPEAKS ON ISLAM
Rob Tucker, News Tribune, 5/30/04
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
"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
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