Fw: Marching toward an American Police State - Part II

Lutfi M. Hussein lutfi.hussein at ASU.EDU
Fri Mar 22 05:45:02 UTC 2002

Lutfi M. Hussein
Department of English
Arizona State University
Tempe, AZ 85287-0302, USA
Email address: lutfi.hussein at asu.edu
Homepage: http://www.public.asu.edu/~lutfiawa/
----- Original Message -----
From: "Mid-East Realities" <MERL at MiddleEast.Org>
To: ""MER" <"Mid-East Realities"" <MER at MiddleEast.Org>
Sent: Thursday, March 21, 2002 9:57 PM
Subject: Marching toward an American Police State - Part II

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MID-EAST REALITIES - www.MiddleEast.Org - Washington - 3/22/2002:
The above title was used to headline an article published on Wednesday, the
same day we now learn the federal government was raiding Muslim homes and
organizations in the Washington DC area.  It's the way this is being done
that should be of great concern to all Americans. Thus the importance of
this first-hand and very credible account.


        By Ayesha Ahmad and Neveen Salem,
             IOL Washington Staff

WASHINGTON, March 21 (IslamOnline) - It seemed like an
innocent delivery at first. At 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, a
deliveryman approached the home of Aysha Nudret Unus in
Herndon, Va., bearing an appliance, accompanied by another
man dressed in black.

An hour later, the man in black was banging at the door,
demanding, "Open the door!" in a very loud voice.

"All I could see was the man in a black jacket," Unus said,
speaking at a press conference on Thursday about her ordeal.
"I could see the barrel of the gun [through the peephole] of
the door."

Unus, an American citizen of Pakistani origin, yelled for her
19-year-old daughter, who was sleeping upstairs, to call 911
and "tell them someone is at the door with a gun."

Her daughter came downstairs and picked up the phone, but at
that point, the man broke down the door and entered the house,
pointing his gun at them. The two women are Muslim, and
because they were in their home, neither were wearing her
hijab - the Islamic head-covering women are required to wear
in front of non-related males.

The man ordered Unus' daughter to drop the phone, and raise
her hands. He then proceeded to handcuff them both, Unus said.
Not until they were handcuffed and seated were they told that
the man was an officer with a search warrant.

"I was actually relieved at the time," Unus said. "At least
they are government people."

The invasion of the Unus' home was part of a series of federal
raids conducted on Muslim homes and Muslim-owned businesses
and institutions on Wednesday in a search for information
based on alleged support for terrorist groups. Fourteen search
warrants were issued for the Northern Virginia region, and one
in Georgia; all the groups and individuals involved were

Publicly the Customs Agency, which helped conduct the raids
through the warrants issued by the U.S. District Court in
Alexandria, Va., was reported to have claimed that no one was
handcuffed during any of the raids.

Unus' husband, Dr. Iqbal Unus, is the dean of students at the
Graduate School of Islamic Social Sciences in Leesburg, Va.,
which was also raided on Wednesday. Both were present at the
press conference held Thursday at the Council on
American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) on Capitol Hill.

Unus also told reporters how she and her daughter were both
photographed without their head-coverings, despite asking to
be allowed to cover themselves; after one officer attempted to
put the scarves on the two women, their handcuffs were removed
and replaced in front so that they could don the scarves

When she showed her driver's license to the agents, they told
her it was fake, before they checked it out and found it to be
legitimate, she said.

"We feel the system has humiliated us," Unus said. "As
American citizens, we feel we deserved better."

The Unus's home was one of several others invaded; Laura
Jaghlit, also an American citizen and a schoolteacher in
Fairfax, Va., whose home was also raided, told reporters she
knew of at least six homes involved in the search.

Jaghlit, who came home on Wednesday afternoon to find her home
turned upside down and her 62-year-old husband speaking with
the supervisors of the federal agents who surrounded his house
earlier that day, denounced the raid on her home as
un-American and began to weep as she told her story.

"What happened to us yesterday was the most un-American thing
I have ever seen in my life," said Jaghlit, whose father
fought in World War II and whose brother died in the Vietnam

Jaghlit told reporters that federal agents targeted their home
because of her and her husband's associations with
organizations listed on the search warrant; her family's
personal trust accounts were also mentioned in the warrant.

She told IslamOnline that agents told her family they "might
even find Osama bin Laden in the basement," when they searched
her house.

Muslim leaders at the press conference denounced the raids as
serious civil rights infringements and a "fishing expedition"
targeting Muslims and Arabs. Many expressed the concern that
the "war on terrorism" has become what some Muslims have been
saying all along - a war on Muslims.

"This is a sad day," said Mohamed Omeish, the president of
Success Foundation, a non-profit humanitarian relief agency
that was raided. "This war claims to be against terrorism, but
it is against Muslims and Arabs.  The track record of this
administration does not show otherwise."

Louay Safi, director of research at the International
Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT), said that the raid
shocked his organization; federal agents entered the building
around 10 a.m. and kept the staff confined in a room for
several hours without showing them the search warrant

"My organization is a research organization," Safi said. "We
are committed to reforming Islamic thought. and working. to
integrate the Muslim community into the American system. We
are very much surprised and even shocked at agents. looking
for terrorist support [in our offices]."

Safi told IslamOnline after the press conference that the
agents treated staff members like criminals.

"They were trying to intimidate us. They tried to take
people's pictures without individual warrants. Without those
warrants you cannot treat an individual like a criminal," Safi
told IslamOnline.

"The fact of the matter is that they [the agents] do not
realize that they are dealing with people who know their
rights," he continued.

Safi told the press conference that such measures would only
serve to further remove American Muslims from their community.
"This effort to fight terrorism is heading now in the wrong
direction," he said, decrying what he called the government's
"attempt to alienate even the most moderate Muslim voices."

Shaker El-Sayed, head of the National Muslim Leadership Summit
and of the American Muslim Foundation, whose offices were also
swept because of their proximity to those of Success, also
warned about the effects of the raids on the American Muslim

"This is a blatant harassment of respected Islamic
institutions and families, and it sends a hostile and chilling
message to the American Muslim community and contradicts
President [George W.] Bush's repeated assertions that the war
against terrorism is not a conflict with Islam,"  he said.

Abdulwahab Alkebsi, executive director of the Washington-based
Islamic Institute, said that although his organization has
stood by the president in his war on terror, these raids
constitute harassment and raise serious civil rights concerns,
making American Muslims feel targeted.

"If such raids and targeting of Muslims continues, the
community will begin to feel as though they are part of the
problem when in fact they have always cooperated and vowed to
be a part of the solution," Alkebsi told IslamOnline after the

"The American Muslim community, as law abiding and patriotic
Americans are uniquely positioned to be able to help the
government, but such a blatant disregard for their civil
rights has made them victims twice over. once on September 11
and again now by our government."

Asked what the American Muslim community expects the U.S.
government's next steps should be, Alkebsi had harsh words for
U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, demanding that he assume
responsibility for the violations and put an immediate end to
the targeting of Muslims.

"Ashcroft must call for an immediate halt to the sledgehammer
approach to the 'war on terrorism'," he said.

He also called on Ashcroft to "stop the media circus," and to
explain why media officials were told about and "practically
invited" to the raids.  IIIT staff also told IslamOnline that
at least one television station was close at hand when their
offices were raided.

A CAIR representative, Jason Erb, said that the destruction of
civil liberties was not needed for the sake of security,
calling the raids "a fishing expedition by federal authorities
using McCarthy-like tactics in a search for evidence of
wrongdoing that does not exist."

Alkebsi said the Federal Bureau of Investigation
"categorically" denied any involvement with the raids;
however, witnesses said that FBI agents were present, and
media reports on Wednesday said that FBI agents were part of a
team of about 150 law enforcement authorities who carried out
the raids.

El-Sayed told reporters at the press conference that the
Muslim groups were planning to meet to discuss the next step
for both the organizations and the individuals whose civil
rights were infringed upon. But he said that the government
had so far not been responsive, turning a "blind eye and a
deaf ear to our calls."

Erb, whose organization has been working for years as a
champion of Muslim civil rights, said that the raids were the
latest in a long line of measures that target Muslims and
Arabs, including anti-immigration laws and secret evidence.

"We're tired of telling people in the government that we don't
like [what's happening] and [then] not seeing any policy
changes," he said.

Other groups that were raided included the FIQH Council of
North America, a non-political religious organization which
gave a religious ruling in October in support of Muslims
joining the U.S. anti-terror effort, the Muslim World League,
the International Islamic Relief Organization, and twenty-two
other groups, including those mentioned above, some of which
shared office space with each other.

All of the organizations subjected to the raids are well known
and respected religious organizations in the U.S., as were the
individuals whose homes were raided, and all have time and
again denounced acts of terrorism. The organizations
represented at the press conference asserted their innocence
of the allegations stated in the warrant and reaffirmed their
stance against terrorism and the killing of innocent

Muslim community leaders also stated that Friday's
congregational prayer services would focus on how to mobilize
American Muslims towards proactively seeking to ensure that
the civil rights of all persons living in the U.S. are
protected and enforced by the government.


March 21, 2002:
As the director of Al-Hewar Center I share the concerns of
Arab and Muslim Organizations over Virginia Raids yesterday.
In particular, I wish to express my deep shock and dismay over
the raid of the home and the offices of Drs. Taha Jaber
Al-Alwani and Mona Abul-Fadl on March 20, 2002.  Drs. Taha
Jaber Al-Alwani and Mona Abul-Fadl are well-known and deeply
respected throughout the community as moderate thinkers and
writers.  They have been members of the Advisory Board of
Al-Hewar Center -- an organization dedicated to better
understanding among cultures and civilizations through
dialogue -- since it began 7 years ago.

Both of them have spoken at Al-Hewar Center on many occasions,
always calling for moderation and supporting the values and
principles of the American system.  They have consistently
spoken out against extremism of all kinds.

It is unclear what the government seeks to accomplish by
treating such good American citizens and well-respected
thinkers with such disrespect.  Punishing good people hardly
seems to be the direction in which the United States should

We must not allow suspicion, ignorance, and unfounded
accusations to override our good sense or erode our

Drs. Taha Jaber Al-Alwani and Mona Abul-Fadl should be
accorded an immediate apology.

Sobhi Ghandour
Executive Director, Al-Hewar Center

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