Forthcoming

"Freeing yourself was one thing; claiming ownership of that freed self was another." author Toni Morrison (1931- 05.08.2019)

“If I tell the story, I control the version. Because if I tell the story, I can make you laugh, and I would rather have you laugh at me than feel sorry for me”; Nora Ephron, author/comedian

"Make your story count". Michelle Obama

"Social pain is understood through the lens of racial animus". Researcher/author Sean McElwee writing in Salon, 2016

"We are citizens, not subjects. We have the right to criticize government without fear."  Chelsea Manning; activist/whisleblower

“My father was a slave and my people died to build this country, and I’m going to stay right here and have a part of it, just like you, And no fascist minded people, like you, will drive me from it. Is that clear?” Paul Robeson; activist/singer

“We have a system of justice in this country that treats you much better if you're rich and guilty than if you're poor and innocent”. from civil rights attorney Bryan Stevenson

“This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony. Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak today?” Frederick Douglass, WHAT TO THE SLAVE IS 4TH JULY? 07.05.1852 (full text in blog)

Senator Elizabeth Warren "We're a country that is built on our differences; that is our strength, not our weakness"

 

"We are more alike than we are different"v  Maya Angelou

As a Black writer, I was expected to accept the role of victim. That made it difficult in the beginning to be a writer.      James Baldwin

I often feel that there must have been something that I should’ve done that I didn’t do. But I can’t identify what it is that I didn’t do. That’s the first difficulty. And the second is, what makes you think you’re it?   

         Harry Belafonte, activist and singer at 89

 

It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble; It's what you know for sure that just ainst so.

Mark Twain

 

You can't be brave if you've only had wonderful things happen to you.

Mary Tyler Moore

 

 You can’t defend Christianity by being against refugees and other religions

Pope Francis:

 

"I don't have to be what you want me to be". Muhammad Ali

"The Secret of Living Well and Longer: eat half, walk double, laugh triple, and love without measure"  attributed to Tibetan sources

Recent audio posts include interviews with Rumi interpreter Shahram Shiva, London-based author Aamer Hussein, South African Muslim scholar, professor Farid Esack, and Iraqi journalist Nermeen Al-Mufti's brief account of Kirkuk City history. Your comments on our blogs are always welcome.

 

Deportation as a Solution to Injustice?

2015-02-12

by Barbara Nimri Aziz

What are we to take away from the disappearance of Sami Al-Arian? I mean his disappearance-- by deportation-- from the struggle for civil rights in the USA. For more than 15 years, Al-Arian has been a symbol of resistance to intimidation from the daunting and deadly alliance of Israel and the US government to deny Palestinian aspirations, to quell support for Palestinian rights, to smother Arab American and Muslim American leadership, to strengthen anti-terror legislation and to erode the civil rights of all Americans.

Few men and women from our community have been able to sustain the kind of resistance the Al-Arians have waged for justice. Sami Al-Arian confronted a succession of obstacles that would have broken most of us. First was his support for his Mazen Al-Najjar (his brother-in-law) related to their Florida-based think tank, WISE  (World and Islamic Studies Enterprise http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sami_Al-Arian  ) when Al-Najjar was targeted by well known pro-Israeli agents. (We’re return to Al-Najjar’s persecution later).

After charges against Al-Najjar were dropped, although continued harassment eventually ended in his deportation, the anti-Palestinian campaign turned to Al-Arian. First it targeted Al-Arian’s professorship with the University of South Florida. (He was dismissed in October 2001 but put up a vigorous fight and in the process drew wide attention to his unjust treatment.) Al-Arian pressed ahead with challenges to human rights abuses, especially government use of secret evidence, co-founding the National Association to Protect Political Freedom (NAPPF) and a Tampa Bay civil rights group. NAPPF’s chief goal was to call attention to the government’s use of secret evidence following the passage of the Antiterrorism Act of 1996.

Then came a charge against Al-Arian as a Palestinian rights advocate of supporting terrorism. His successful defense in that case and subsequent government denials of his freedom are reviewed in a recent Firstlook article.

Throughout his ordeal Al-Arian stood firm, rallied a vigorous defense team and emerged as a major Muslim and Arab civil rights leader in the US. In the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr., he consistently asserted his faith in the US judicial system democracy. The price he paid was high. Years in prison included months in solitary confinement and government surveillance of his family. Even under house arrest after his 2006 plea deal, his freedom to write and speak was restricted.

Al-Arian and his family have shown immense energy and stamina during this period. Their dignity and clarity over the issues doubtless accounted for sustain legal and moral support over the years.

While at the outset of his dilemma, few Muslim and Arab Americans recognized Al-Arian’s leadership quality, in time many conceded that this man tackled head-on the injustices and threats they themselves faced. If one of the aims of the government’s persecution of Al-Arian was to intimidate other leaders in our community, they succeeded. Where countless others gave up the challenge, “co-operated”, were jailed or were deported, Al-Arian pressed ahead, supported by national civil rights groups and a fine team of attorneys. The success in 2007 of the LA8, also persecuted for their Palestinian association, surely encouraged  them.

Like the LA8, Al-Najjar was an early target of Palestinian foe Steven Emerson who waged a tireless fraudulent campaign against him. In my 2000 interview with Al-Najjar from a Florida prison, this Palestinian intellectual summarizes his experience. Al-Arian and others including Muslims represented by attorney Lynne Stewart successfully fought the US government’s illegal use of secret evidence against Al-Najjar and others, and Al-Najjar was among those released in December 2000.

After 9/11, everything changed. Secret evidence was again permitted, terror laws were reinforced with the Patriot Act, Al-Najjar was re-imprisoned and, although never charged with a crime, deported in 2002.

In Al-Arian’s statement to the press at his deportation a few days ago, he no longer makes any reference to American principles of justice. But advocates here are turning their energy to a relatively new Palestinian target of the same forces that drove out the Al-Arians: Rasmea Odeh.

Barbara Nimri Aziz is a New York based anthropologist and journalist. Find her work at www.RadioTahrir.org. She was a longtime producer at Pacifica-WBAI Radio in NY.

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