By Karin Friedemann, TMO
Letter writing has become a lost art. In todayâ€™s world of texting and emailing, a letter received by postal mail, written on paper with pen, is something really special. Fewer and fewer children these days even know how to write in cursive, and thus have trouble reading the sometimes very personal script of their grandparents and great-grandparents.
Practicing our penmanship is only one of many reasons why we should encourage our family members to keep in touch with loved ones this Ramadan, and also to initiate contact with those Muslims who are isolated in US prisons.
National Coalition To Protect Civil Freedoms (NCPCF) has initiated a letter writing campaign for the second year in a row for Ramadan. Part of the mission of the National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms is to educate the public about the erosion of civil and political freedoms in our society, and the abuses of prisoners within the U.S. criminal justice system especially after 9/11. Many individuals have been the victims of government prosecutorial overreach and pre-emptive prosecutions based on thought crimes, entrapment, and manufactured charges.
Last year was a big success with even more letters being requested from the community. â€œAs a result of your letters, many prisoners received communication with the outside world for the first time. Letâ€™s write a short note to tell someone you care, to tell them that they matter, and that they are not forgotten. Let them know they will always be part of our Community and that they are in our prayers. Itâ€™s an easy process that takes only a few minutes, but would mean so much to the prisoners and their loved ones.â€
NCPCF also organized a Ramadan gift program, sending $100 to the poorest prisonersâ€™ commissaries, enabling them to buy things for Ramadan like dates, honey, books, and things they need. Those who wish to donate or to participate in the letter writing program should contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Since there are hundreds of Muslim prisoners on the list, greeting them all is more work than one person can reasonably promise to do. Writing to the prisoners needs to be a community activity. Why is this so important?
Sharmin Sadequee of NCPCF explains: â€œBelieving the media and government, the larger Muslim American community isolates and ostracizes Muslim political prisoners and their families and treats them as â€œotherâ€. Different sections of the Muslim community in US have internalized the meta-narratives of our government about their own community, faith and religion, and abandoned the prisoners and their families. But, Muslims have a duty to help prisoners according to traditions of our prophet (pbuh). â€ She states:
â€œWe have received many letters from prisoners saying they did not know that there were people and organizations in the US that care about Muslim prisoners, although many Muslims from Europe have been writing to prisoners in the US.â€
NCPCF is looking for volunteers from around the country to organize letter writing activities and events in their own community, which would be done as a group. The volunteers will receive pre-addressed envelopes as many as they want. Some people request 100 others request 200 or 50 or 75.
The paintball man, Ismail Royer wrote to NCPCF: â€œGreetings…I am very grateful for the money your organization sent last Ramadan. It was the first time Iâ€™d had that much money in my account for many years and it made Ramadan that much more special.â€
TMO asked Ghaliyaa Haq of freedetainees.com why a similar campaign does not exist for the detainees at Guantanamo, who are on hunger strike for freedom or death. She explains that â€œthe reason no one has a specific to Guantanamo letter writing campaign is because the prisoners almost never get the mail. I have never heard of a single prisoner getting mail from anyone but their lawyers and very rarely a wife or mother. I donâ€™t really ask people to send to Guantanamo because they simply donâ€™t give it to them.â€
The current update is â€œthey just decided that despite an attempted lawsuit they will go ahead and force feed during Ramadan – albeit at night instead of daytime.â€
There are many things going on that are worse than the lack of mail.
â€œThere are some seriously needy prisoners here in the US though. I mean young people who have no one at all. There are women too like that. Sr. Fatima (Colleen LaRose) has no one. Jamie Ramirez is the other one… I am sure you are aware of the fact that once a prisoner is convicted CAIR and places like that vanish as quickly as possible. The prisoner is almost always left to his own devices then,â€ concludes Haq.
In May 2013, the female relatives of political prisoners organized a demonstration at the Department of Justice in DC to protest how the DOJ turned their relatives into political prisoners and buried them alive in federal prisons. It was the first time women relatives from around the country, whose loved ones have been snatched away from them in preemptive prosecution cases, came together to demand justice for their loved ones.
â€œIt was historic and beginning of a movement like the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo in Argentina,â€ Sadequee told TMO.
â€œUnfortunately people do not know enough about what is going on in their own country. People are being imprisoned for crimes that they did not doâ€¦. They are basically being framed. Theyâ€™re being put into prison for feeding hungry children,â€ said a prisonerâ€™s daughter during the rally,â€ reported PressTV.
Attorney Steve Downs told TMO: â€œNCPCF has a data base of over 800 cases that includes all of the preemptive prosecution cases which we are following. We have determined that about 90% of the cases which the government has listed as â€œterrorismâ€ cases are either preemptive prosecutions or have â€œelementsâ€ of preemptive prosecution (in which the government prosecuted on fake or manufactured charges individuals who seemed suspicious but who had not committed any crime).
Downs continues: â€œMany innocent prisoners were abandoned by their Mosque or Community or family following conviction, and are living in isolated conditions that amount to torture. Just the human contact of a letter can make all the difference. This Ramadan, we should do what we can to keep up their spirits and hope until a solution to our civil rights crisis can be found and the prisoners can be freed.â€