The US government: torturers with impunity

December 10, 2014

Governments never do anything without its cabinet or congress thinking about it carefully first. There is no acting upon impulse, and everything is done very strategically. This leaves me wondering why the United States would release a report tarnishing the reputation of one of its own institutions – and a major one at that.

One Tuesday December 10, the US government released a report detailing all the human rights abuses committed against “terror suspects” by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

Now that the truth is out, what happens next? Is this going to cause another Twitter frenzy for the next few days and then be forgotten about? This is usually what happens. When South Africa’s public protector, Thuli Madonsela, found in a report that President Jacob Zuma spent public money on upgrading his private home, everyone was outraged. The same happened when Zuma’s “very ill” friends, Schabir Shaik and Jackie Selebi, were saved from their prison sentences by being released on medical parole. These incidents angered the public and the media were having a field day. But nothing came of it.

It’s not impossible to hold government officials to account, though not very likely. Some instances may call for a collective stand. Majority of the people in a country need to be prepared to take part in protest action, coupled with brilliant lawyers willing to take up the fight on behalf of the people.

Human rights organisations are often headed by attorneys. The release of the “torture report” has raised the ire of these organisations, upon which I am hoping they would act. Not only do they now have to keep a watchful eye over how the US deals with its terror suspects but they need to all stand together and fight hard to get the US to shut down its detention camps where mostly innocent people are accused of terrorism. It wouldn’t be surprising if they are all actually innocent.

Human rights organisations putting pressure on the US would be holding President Barack Obama to a promise he made when he was still running for the presidency in 2007. He promised to shut down Guantanamo Bay, a statement that probably got him many votes.

After his inauguration in January 2009 he promised it would close within one year. It’s still standing today and innocent people are still being tortured. Presidential candidates and political parties will say and do anything to get votes, and hardly ever do they stick the promises they make.

Sporadically there will be media reports about detainees being held without charge and being tortured for several years. Now and then a human rights watchdog would issue a statement about it. But these random actions will not yield any positive results. The organisations need the backing of the masses, and perhaps it’s by time they work on this strategically.

For how much longer will the US detain and torture people just because they have a Muslim name? Why should the US get away with wrongfully detaining Mamdouh Habib? He was arrested in Parkistan in 2001, taken to Egypt and tortured, and was then transferred to Guantanamo Bay. He was released without charge in 2005.

Abdel Malik Wahab al Rahabi was accused of being the bodyguard of Osama bin Laden and has a long list of alleged terror activities against his name. He was seen as a high risk and major threat to the US, and was among the first men to be held at Guantanamo Bay in 2002. He is now eligible for release after his case came before the Periodic Review Board, which is conducting parole-style hearings for detainees. It goes without saying that he, too, is being tortured while being held at Guantanamo Bay. If he is eligible for release he can’t possibly be guilty of all the terror activities the US government accused him of.

As individuals or small groups, we are powerless against governments. They can do what they want with us and there is nothing that can be done about it. However, it is us that politicians and political parties need. Without our votes they wouldn’t be up there calling the shots. They tell us what we want to hear, it sounds good and we fall for it blindly. We vote for them and once they come into power they wreak havoc. What can we do about it single-handedly? Nothing.

It is time people realise that they have the power. They need to use it wisely to hold politicians to account for a better society.

Originally published on Voices.


9/11: The day Islam became the scapegoat

September 11, 2012

11 September 2001 was a turning point in world history. But it was mainly the day that Islam became a victim of the media. I was a teenager when I got home from school one day and saw the footage of the aeroplane flying directing into the World Trade Centre in New York City. Immediately the demonisation of Islam started.

I remember watching CNN. However, I don’t remember what exactly was being said, but I do recall sitting on the couch watching intently, horrified not only at the situation unfolding, but also that the media was mentioning terrorism and Islam in the same breath. I remember thinking that every bad thing they were saying about Islam was not what I was taught being raised in a Muslim household. It was not what I was being taught in madrassah (Islamic classes). It was not in the Quran. It just was not true – none of it.

One of the first things you are taught at journalism school is that you have the power to shape public opinion. And slowly but surely over the years since 9/11 people have allowed Western media to infiltrate their minds and their logic.

When we read the newspaper, listen to the radio or watch the news on television, we sub-consciously formulate our perceptions. For example, yesterday a story on the attacks in Iraq on Al Jazeera’s website started with “Suspected Al-Qaeda fighters”, yet the accompanying video clip clearly stated that nobody claimed responsibility for the attacks and it wasn’t known who was behind it. But as soon as the public reads those three words the (inaccurate?) picture has already been painted.

Since 9/11 the term Islamaphobia was popularised, a term I strongly believe has no meaning whatsoever. People aren’t SCARED of Muslims, they’re just ignorant. “Islamaphobes” are always spewing hate speech as if they’re the experts on religion when, in fact, they haven’t even touched a Bible or Quran. They’re like all other racists out there.

Since 9/11 Islam was blamed for extremism displayed by non-Muslims such as Norwegian Anders Breivik. It seemed ok to the world out there that Breivik’s excuse for killing 77 people in Oslo last year was that he wanted to “free Europe from the clutches of Islam”. He was sentenced to 21 years in jail for his act of terrorism, which had absolutely nothing to do with Islam. Many suspected – most likely innocent – Muslim terrorist suspects are being held at Guantanamo Bay detention camp without trial and without even being charged, brutally tortured year in and year out. Dr Aafia Siddiqui was also targeted by US authorities.

Since 9/11 terms such as “Islamist” and “Islamification” were also popularised and overused, words so loosely used and always with a negative connotation to it and in a negative context. When a white American starts shooting innocent people at a college or cinema, it just happens to be a sad case of affairs. But if it’s a Muslim American the media goes out of its way to emphasise the shooter’s ethnicity and religion, and with the word “Islamist” attached to the headline, what is the automatic sub-conscious perception being created in the mind of the person who believes everything and questions nothing?

Since 9/11 everyone became an “expert” on Islam, especially those who never opened a Quran, interacted with Muslims or made an effort to learn from a Muslim scholar what Islam teaches. All opinions derived from biased Western media and internet discussion forums.

Since 9/11 Islam has grown tremendously in the US and globally. The inquisitive minds are determined to have their questions answered. And once answered, they see the beauty of the religion. So thank you, American media, for strengthening the ummah (Muslim populace).

This article was originally published here.

Ever wonder why…?

January 26, 2010

Ever wonder why…?

…a Jew can grow his beard in order to practice his faith but when Muslim does the same, he is an extremist and a terrorist.

…a nun can be covered from head to toe in order to devote herself to God but when a Muslimah does the same she is oppressed.

…when a western woman stays at home to look after her house and kids she is respected, because she is protecting her household. But when a Muslim woman does so by her will, they say, “she needs to be liberated”!

…any girl can go to university wearing what she wants and has her freedom and rights in full but when a Muslimah wears a Hijab they prevent her from entering the university.

…when a child dedicates himself to a subject he has potential, but when he dedicates himself to Islam he is hopeless.

…when a Christian or a Jew kills someone religion is not mentioned, but when a Muslim is charged with a crime, it is Islam that goes to trial.

…when someone sacrfices himself to keep others alive, he is noble and all respect him. But when a Palestinian does that to save his son from being killed, his brother’s arm from being broken, his mother from being raped, his home being from destroyed, and his mosque from being violated – he is called a terrorist! Why? Because he is a Muslim!

…when there is trouble we accept any solution. If the solution lies in Islam, we refuse to take a look at it.

…when someone drives a perfect car in a bad way no one blames the car. But when any Muslim makes a mistake or treats people in a bad manner – people say “Islam is the reason”!

Without looking to the tradition of Islam, people believe what the newspapers say but question what the Quran says!

May Allah guide and protect us all insha-Allah.

There’s no link between Islam and terrorism

November 15, 2009

There is one thing in life that pees me off way more than what children throwing tantrums in shopping malls does. And that is when people associate Islam with terrorism.

Two Thursdays ago on 6 November United States army Major Nidal Malik Hasan shot dead 12 people at the Texas military base. Since 911, whenever a Muslim commits a crime it becomes an act of terror. Because Hasan was a devout Muslim and made his salaah (prayers) regularly he is being looked at as an “extremist” and “terrorist”. Officials are even investigating a Mosque that he attended.

Why is that whenever it is a Muslim European or especially an American commits a crime the media feels the need to mention that the suspect is “of Arab decent” or “a devout Muslim” or “raised with strong Islamic beliefs”? Their criminal acts does not have anything to do with their faith. But the instant the media makes reference to Islam or being Muslim the situation automatically becomes one of religion and terrorism in the same breath. Look at the introduction of this story about Hasan. Was it really necessary to mention that he is an “American Muslim of Palestinian origin”. If a non-Muslim commits criminal acts they wouldn’t even consider their religious background. Terrorism will never be considered. Just because they are not Muslim. Here is an article making the whole situation about Islam.

Sky News got straight to the point called Hasan a  “Palestinian terrorist”. I can’t believe how far news agencies will go to for sensationalist crap. And it is disgusting to see how many people believe it.

Does anyone remember Timothy McVeigh? The guy responsible for the Oklahoma bombing. Would you not call that an act of terrorism? But nobody ever mentioned his ethinicity or religous background. It was kind of “okay” for him to do what he did because he was not Muslim. Therefore what he did was never as big a thing as when a Muslim person was involved.

After 911 and George Bush’s ignorance and paranoia, a fear of Islam and Muslims started increasing. It really is sad to see how ignorant people are and how easily they can be indoctrinated with lies by their media. Whenever an American Muslim commits a crime the media uses the situation to promote propaganda. I suppose it’s what sells these days too.

When people start realising that Islam has nothing to do with terrorism? I just hope and pray that peoples’ eyes will start opening up and they will realise what is the truth and what is just propaganda.