The Islamic Society of Greater Lowell (ISGL) held a forum last Friday night (December 1, 2006) ostensibly about New Immigration Laws and Civil Rights in America. This comes hot on the heels of the arrest and subsequent release on bail of two Boston area imams on charges of religious visa fraud. One imam was from the ISGL located in Chelmsford, MA, the second imam was from the Sharon, MA mosque of the Islamic Center of New England (ICNE). As indicated on the MAS Freedom Foundation announcement, there were lots of speakers:
- Hossam AlJabri - President, Boston MAS Chapter
- Carl Takei - Member, Board of Directors, American Civil Liberties Union
- Jerry Friedman - Immigration Lawyer, attorney for Imam Hannan
- Rajad Abu Bakar - Board Member, ICNE, Sharon, MA
- Tariq Rahman - Board Member, ISGL, Chelmsford, MA, and
- Imam Abdul Hannan - Imam at ISGL, originally from Pakistan, arrested earlier this month on religious visa fraud charges.
The Muslim organizations in eastern Massachusetts are well-coordinated, n'est-ce pas?
Miss Kelly attended the forum, and here are the main messages given by the ACLU and MAS: "Don't trust the government, don't talk to the FBI, get a lawyer" and "Muslims are being picked on, this could happen to you, you could be picked up for no reason and hauled off to jail." (Which is nonsense, unless everybody at the ISGL came to the U.S. via convicted felon Muhammed Khalil, as did Imam Hannan.) Carl Takei from the ACLU stated that his grandfather had been sent to an internment camp after the Pearl Harbor attack. (That was not a great event in American history, but no one is putting Muslims in internment camps now.) These are very frightening things to say to a largely working-class immigrant community. This is not the sort of talk that creates trust and confidence in their new communities. AlJabri of the MAS said that MAS meets monthly with different law enforcement agencies, including ICE. Do these agencies know what MAS is saying to Muslims about them? That the federal agencies are targeting and setting up Muslims?
Friedman provided information on immigration law and regulations, including advice about applying for American citizenship and what to do if what to do if you don't hear back within 120 days (request a hearing in federal court). As a good lawyer, he recommended that people not wait until they need a lawyer, but seek a lawyer beforehand. He repeated the advice from the ACLU rep to be exceedingly polite to FBI and ICE officials, but say "I can speak with you only when my lawyer is present."
Imam Hannan admitted that he had worked for Muhammed Khalil for three and a half years, but said that he didn't do anything wrong, so why was he arrested? Hannan said that "I came to know that something was going on" (at Khalil's Brooklyn mosque, where Hannan worked). But, "we are all human beings, shortcomings can be made." The imam claimed that his papers were "crystal clear" and the federal officials arrested him without any reason.
Imam Hannan was visibly agitated about his arrest, his several days in jail, and he said that he treated disrespectfully by the prison employees. The imam said that "any butcher has more mercy for animals" than the prison staff had for the arrested men. He said that his jailers "don't know who they are dealing with." Imam Hannan also spoke about conducting "dawah" (missionary work) from the minute he got to jail, "the dawah was going around all the corners!" In fact, Hannan claimed that he converted two people in jail to Islam, which very much pleased and excited the crowd. (Note to Feds and prison officials, try solitary from the get-go with these guys, they want nothing more than to convert marginalized poor people in jail.)
The MAS rep tried valiantly to raise funds at the event ("Which brother will donate $10,000 to the cause, inshallah? $5,000, do I hear $5,000? Do I hear $1,000?" $500??"). The fund-raising was not entirely successful, although some $6K was pledged. There was a strong religious inducement to pledge money to MAS: "Think of your life hereafter." The MAS fellow reminded the mosque members that any donation to MAS would help their case in the hereafter, when they were judged on how much money they donated to Muslims in need.