Combating Islamophobia at the Islamic House of Wisdom

By Adil James, TMO

Attendees at the Combating Islamophobia event in Dearborn Heights.  Third from right, Congressman John Conyers.    Photo by Laura Fawaz

Dearborn Heights, MI–June 8–”Strengthening Our Communities–Stand Up Against Islamophobia” was the title and theme of an event held Friday at the Islamic House of Wisdom.

The event was coordinated by the National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms and the Arab American Civil Rights League and hosted famous people including most prominently Rep. John Conyers and Captain James Yee, the chaplain who was spirited into detention and months of solitary confinement after complaining of prisoner abuses at Guantanamo Bay.

Steve Downs of the NCPCF spoke at length and dominated the agenda of the meeting, arguing against preemptive prosecution which has resulted in the internment of hundreds of people since 9/11.

Rashid Baydoun, the director of the ACRL, spoke at length about the genesis of his organization designed to protect the civil rights of Arabs and Muslims, and to reach out to various communities.  “The US is a nation of immigrants,” he said, before noting the nation has however been known for sometimes harsh treatment of immigrants.

Imam Elahi welcomed the visitors to his mosque, especially “our beloved congressman John Conyers, James Yee, and Steve Downs.” “This Islamophobia,” he said, “is harmful to everyone, not just Muslims–it’s harmful to the country, and to society in general.”

He emphasized that every faith group has its extremists and crazy people, and emphasized that Muslims suffer more from the violence of our own extremists than any other community that they have targeted.

Attorney Steve Downs, a prominent attorney who graduated from Cornell and once served on a board that disciplined bad judges, spoke at length about the American policy, post 9/11, of preemptive prosecution.

The theme of his speech was the outrageousness of the prosecution of people not convicted of having actually hurt anyone, on the basis of their stated beliefs.  Downs argued that they were prosecuted in a systematic way designed to forestall terrorist attacks by detaining terrorists before they actually commit terrorism.  Downs travels with a list of names that includes John Walker, Tarek Mehanna, and many others, some of whom it could be argued are not completely innocent.

However his speech did touch on a vitally important issue, which is that sometimes the FBI unilaterally provokes vulnerable Muslims to get involved with crimes they would absolutely not have concocted themselves, and then viciously prosecutes them as dangerous terrorists after soliciting their involvement.

Many of those who spoke had stirring stories of the harm they suffered under preemptive prosecution.  Captain James Yee, the former Guantanamo chaplain, described his having experienced many of the pressures of imprisonment and interrogation despite his innocence and eventual exoneration.

Captain Yee spoke of the direct assault on the religious beliefs of the prisoners at Guantanamo, where interrogators trapped prisoners in stress positions inside satanic symbols and told them to worship satan.

Another powerful speech showed the emotional devastation of preemptive prosecution on the families of those prosecuted.  Hedaya Jayyousi, the wife of a prisoner named Kifeh Jayyousi, imprisoned apparently for his speech, remains imprisoned until today and is housed in a Muslim prison and is not allowed to kiss or hug his family members.  He has been moved from prison to prison apparently to frustrate family visits, and has told his wife stories of confrontations with a prison official who spoke repeatedly to argue against the most basic beliefs of Islam, denying that Allah is God.
Many of those who spoke touched on the existence of these internment prisons especially designed for Muslims (CMUs), where Muslims are apparently limited from fully practicing their religion despite their being the vast majority of the inmates, and subjected to unconstitutional attempts to wean them from their religion.


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