Friday, February 18, 2005

Accusing Muslim Intellectuals of Apostasy

By Aluma Dankowitz*


Marking the 16th anniversary of the Fatwa calling for author Salman Rushdie's death issued by Ayatollah Khomeini, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards announced: "The day will finally come when the apostate Salman Rushdie will receive his due punishment for his disgraceful and slanderous move against the Qur'an and the Prophet [Muhammad]." Iran's Leader Ali Khamenei stressed that the death sentence following the publication of Rushdie's 'The Satanic Verses' "is irrevocable."(1)

The accusation against Muslims - particularly intellectuals, artists, and writers - of "unbelief" (an accusation known as "takfir") recurs in the Muslim world. The traditional punishment for an apostate (murtadd) set in early Islam was capital punishment. This punishment was implemented on a large scale in the period following the death of the Prophet Muhammad, when Muhammad's successor Abu Bakr fought the ridda wars against the tribes that abandoned Islam. In modern Muslim history too, there are several cases of charges of apostasy against intellectuals who deviated from the dictates of Islamist circles.

Section 228 of Iran's Islamic Penal Code states that a "criminal" should be exonerated "if it is proven to the court that the blood of the victim was permitted." An example of the implementation of this law is the cash prize of over $2 million set for the murder of Salman Rushdie, who was accused of apostasy. Other prominent examples include the 1985 execution of Sudanese Sufi philosopher Muhammad Mahmoud Taha on charges of ridda and the 1992 assassination by Islamists, following similar accusations, of secular Egyptian intellectual Faraj Foda. When Muslim Brotherhood leader Sheikh Muhammad Al-Ghazali was asked for his view on this assassination, he simply said that "the sentence for ridda that the [country's] ruler refrained from carrying out has now been implemented." In 1994, Islamists made an attempt on the life of Egyptian Nobel Prize laureate Nagib Mahfouz.(2)

In other cases, conservative Muslim activists exploited the Hisbah law enabling anyone to file suit in a court of law against anyone else in the name of society. Thus, the charge of ridda was filed against several intellectuals; if found guilty, the court could force them to divorce their spouses [tafriq], because if one party to an Islamic marriage became an apostate, the marriage was nullified. Thus, in 1995 an Egyptian court forced Dr. Nasser Hamed Abu Zayd, an intellectual who had published critical research on the Koran, to separate from his wife. In 2001, a similar suit was filed against feminist Egyptian author Nawal Al-Sa'dawi; however, the prosecutor-general, who, according to a 1996 amendment, was the only one who could decide whether such a suit was warranted, rejected the claims against her.

Sheikh Al-Qaradhawi Advocates Implementing the Ridda Death Penalty

In an interview with the Egyptian weekly Al-Ahram Al-Arabi, Sheikh Yousef Al-Qaradhawi, one of the most prominent clerics in Sunni Islam and among Islamist circles and a spiritual leader for the Muslim Brotherhood movement, discussed the view of modern religious law on carrying out the punishment for ridda, and permitted the murder of free Muslim intellectuals whose views differ from those of Islamist clerics.

Asked, "In Muslim society, has an individual the right to change his religion as he wishes?" Al-Qaradhawi drew a distinction between two types of ridda: "One of the freedoms that Islam does not accept is the freedom of ridda that expands [from the realm of the individual to that of the group] and threatens the social fabric and its foundations. [On the one hand,] there is limited ridda, and [on the other,] there is ridda that expands [from the individual to the group].

"Limited ridda is the ridda of the individual who switches religion and is not interested in others. According to Islam, the punishment for this individual is [Hell] in the world to come...

"But [the other] ridda, which expands [from the individual to the group], is a ridda in which the individual who abandons Islam calls [upon others] to do likewise, [thus creating] a group whose path is not the path of society and whose goal is not the goal of the [Muslim] nation, and whose allegiance is not to the Islamic nation. Such [individuals] endanger the social fabric, and they are like the murtaddoon [apostates], who were fought by [the first Caliph] Abu Bakr together with the Companions of the Prophet [the Sahaba]. Those murtaddoon falsely claimed that they were prophets with the same inspiration as was given to the Prophet Muhammad..."

Asked what the view of the modern Muslim sage should be about the danger of ridda, Al-Qaradhawi replied: "The gravest danger facing the Muslim is the one that threatens his spiritual existence - i.e., that threatens his belief. Therefore, apostasy, or unbelief after having been Muslim, is the gravest danger to society...

"In our generation, Muslim society has been subject to violent invasions and severe attacks aimed at uprooting it, and these were manifested by the invasion of Christian missionaries that began with Western colonialism and is continuing in the Islamic world and among the Islamic communities and minorities [outside the Muslim world] ... [and by] the Communist invasion that destroyed entire Muslim countries in Asia and Europe and made every effort to eliminate Islam and remove it ultimately from people's lives ... and by the third and worst invasion, the secular invasion that is continuing to this day in the heart of the Islamic world, sometimes openly and sometimes covertly, and which persecutes the true Islam...

"For Muslim society to preserve its existence, it must struggle against ridda from every source and in all forms, and it must not let it spread like wildfire in a field of thorns. This is what Abu Bakr and the companions did when they fought the people of ridda who followed the false prophets... There is no escape from struggling against and restricting the individual ridda so that it will not worsen and its sparks scatter, becoming group ridda... Thus, the Muslim sages agreed that the punishment for the murtadd [who commits ridda] ... is execution..."(3)

In his book 'Islam and Secularism,' Al-Qaradhawi explains: "The Muslim sages agreed unanimously that anyone who denies something that is known in the religion ... is an apostate who abandons his religion. The Imam must demand of him to repent, and recant his deviation from the righteous path, or the laws regarding the murtadd will apply to him."

The progressive Egyptian intellectual Sayyed Al-Qimni, who cited the above quote in an article in the Egyptian weekly Roz Al-Yousef, explained what it meant: "According to Al-Qaradhawi, [the ridda] punishment does not apply only to someone who decides freely to leave Islam for what satisfies his heart and his conscience - whether this be another religion or nothing at all. It applies in principle [also] to the Muslim who clings to the laws of his religion ... but disagrees with those who have appointed themselves the priests of Islam and who call themselves religious sages ... especially when the disputes concern the understanding of a particular matter in Islam ... because [the priests of the religion] have determined that their understanding of the holy scriptures is the only [permitted] understanding and the absolute truth, and anything else is absolute falsehood... Any attempt at new thinking in reading the scriptures is thrust away [on the pretext] of [accusations of] abandoning the religion ... and the punishment for new thought or expressing a different opinion is death."(4)

The issues of ridda, takfir, and tafriq are a constant concern in the Muslim world. To view the full Inquiry & Analysis, visit .

*Aluma Dankowitz is Director of MEMRI's Reform Project.

(1) IRNA (Iran), February 12, 2005.
(2) See article by liberal Tunisian intellectual Al-Afif Al-Akhdhar,, July 1, 2003.
(3) Al-Ahram Al-Arabi (Egypt), July 3, 2004.
(4) Roz Al-Yusouf (Egypt), September 17, 2004.

The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) is an independent, non-profit organization that translates and analyzes the media of the Middle East. Copies of articles and documents cited, as well as background information, are available on request.

MEMRI holds copyrights on all translations. Materials may only be used with proper attribution.

Informant describes bin Laden conversations in testimony for defense at Brooklyn terror money trial

Associated Press Writer
New York Sun

NEW YORK -- Three months after he set himself ablaze outside the White House, an FBI informant charged from the witness stand Thursday that a Yemeni sheik accused of funding terrorism boasted of supplying arms, money and fighters to Osama bin Laden.

Called as a hostile witness for the defense, informant Mohamed Alanssi said Sheik Mohammed Ali Hassan al-Moayad described his support for terrorism in a series of private conversations. Jurors heard those conversations described for the first time Thursday.

"He told me he gave bin Laden more than $20 million" before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Alanssi said. "He told me he helps al-Qaida with money and arms and he send mujahedeen to Chechnya and Afghanistan."

Alanssi also charged that al-Moayad said he had given $3.5 million to Hamas.

Defense lawyers hoped to portray Alanssi as unstable, greedy and untruthful by introducing the White House incident, allegations of financial wrongdoing and inconsistencies in his story.

Alanssi was to have been the government's star witness until he set himself on fire in front of the White House last November to protest what he called the FBI's failure to make good on promises of wealth and U.S. citizenship. The government dropped him from its witness list.

On Thursday, he refused to give yes or no answers to many of defense attorney Howard Jacobs' questions, instead providing long explanations that portrayed al-Moayad as dedicated to violent struggle. Alanssi speaks English but used an Arabic interpreter, saying the testimony was so important he wanted to use his native tongue.

Jacobs asked whether al-Moayad, who runs religious charities in Yemen, explicitly stated he funneled money to Islamist fighters.

Alanssi, who wore a glove on his burned right hand, replied that it wasn't necessary.

"The charitable work of Sheik Moayad is a front, and the money he gets is for mujahedeen," Alanssi said.

Jacobs asked to strike the response from the record.

"No," Judge Sterling Johnson Jr. replied. "You asked it."

Alanssi said he had asked the FBI for $5 million, American citizenship and his family's relocation to the United States.

"I deserve that," Alanssi said. "After I chase the terrorist and I bring him here to America I deserve even $10 million."

Alanssi, 53, said he moved to the United States in 2000 and briefly worked at a Brooklyn travel agency before losing his job. He described his horror at the 2001 terrorist attacks as his motivation for helping the FBI.

"It was my duty to cooperate with the American government against the terrorists that I know," Alanssi said. "That's my duty."

He became the linchpin of the government's case against al-Moayad, traveling between the United States and Yemen before he lured the sheik and his assistant to Germany for a sting operation.

Posing as the fixer for an American Muslim who wanted to donate $2.5 million to Hamas and al-Qaida, Alanssi arranged four days of secretly recorded meetings in a Frankfurt hotel. The American was another government informant.

Al-Moayad and his assistant, Mohammed Mohsen Yahya Zayed, were arrested and extradited to the United States, where they are charged with conspiring to fund and attempting to fund Hamas and al-Qaida. Al-Moayad also is charged with supporting the terror groups.

Without Alanssi, who was burned over a third of his body, the case had centered almost entirely on the Hamas allegations and the recordings, which show al-Moayad and Zayed apparently promising to help the informants donate the money, with a 10 percent commission for their charities.

Al-Moayad could receive a 60-year prison sentence if convicted. Zayed could serve three decades behind bars.

FBI foils plot to kill Pak diplomat

from India Times

WASHINGTON: The Federal Bureau of Investigation has claimed that it had foiled a "possible terrorist plot" to kill a Pakistani diplomat in New York, by arresting a suspected al-Qaeda activist and busting a terrorist network in America.

"In New York, Yassin Muhiddin Aref was arrested on money laundering charges connected to a possible terrorist plot to kill a Pakistani diplomat," Robert S Mueller, Director of the FBI, told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on Wednesday.

In 2004, the FBI learned that al-Qaeda and related terrorist groups had conducted detailed surveillance of financial targets in New York, Washington DC and New Jersey.

In response to this threat, in coordination with the Department of Homeland Security, the threat level was raised for the cities referenced in the threat and "we mobilised a large contingent of analysts and agents to review the massive amount of information connected with the attack planning, and to uncover any additional information that would give the FBI insight into the plot," Mueller said.

Previously, in the Spring of 2004, Britain had arrested a group of terrorists, who were plotting an imminent attack inside the UK. In response, the FBI immediately formed a task force of analysts and agents to determine if there was a US nexus to the plot or if any of the British subjects had links to individuals in the US.

Later in the year, the FBI received information suggesting that there was an attack being planned possibly timed to coincide with the 2004 Presidential Election, Mueller said.

To counter the threat, the FBI created the 2004 Threat Task Force in May. With thousands of FBI personnel, supported by individuals from outside agencies, it was the largest task force created since 9/11. The task force was up and running for seven months.

The FBI has identified, he said, various extremists located throughout the US and is monitoring their activities.

In Virginia, Mohammed Ali al-Timimi, the spiritual leader of the Virginia Jihad training group, disrupted last year, was indicted for his involvement in the recruitment of US citizens for extremist training and jihad preparation.

Al-Timimi, the primary lecturer at a Northern Virginia Islamic centre, preached jihad to a small group of followers, provided them paramilitary training and facilitated their travel to Pakistan in the days after September 11 to attend a Lashkar-e-Taiba training camp in preparation to fight the United States in Afghanistan.

In Minneapolis, the FBI arrested Mohamad Kamal El-Zahabi, a Lebanese citizen, who admitted to serving in Afghanistan and Chechnya as a sniper and to providing sniper training at Khalden camp in Afghanistan and in Lebanon in the 1990s.

The FBI learned of El-Zahabi during its investigation of Boston-based extremists Ra'ed Hijazi and Bassam Kanj, who was killed in a plot to overthrow the Lebanese Government in 2000.

Unfortunately, said Mueller, "Inspite of these accomplishments, al-Qaeda continues to adapt and move forward with its desire to attack the US, using any means at its disposal. Their intent to attack us at home remains and their resolve to destroy America has never faltered."

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Intelligence Officials Cite Wide Terror Threats


From teh New York TImes

WASHINGTON, Feb. 16 - New intelligence information strongly suggests that Al Qaeda has considered infiltrating the United States through the Mexican border, top government officials told Congress on Wednesday.

In a wide-ranging assessment of threats to American security, including those posed by Iran and North Korea, the officials also said intelligence indicated that terrorist organizations remained intent on obtaining and using devastating weapons against the United States.

"It may only be a matter of time before Al Qaeda or another group attempts to use chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons," Porter J. Goss, the new director of central intelligence, told the Senate Intelligence Committee.

The warnings from Mr. Goss and other top officials came as part of a stark presentation that described terrorism as the top threat to the United States despite what they described as successes in the last year. Mr. Goss said that the war in Iraq had served as a useful recruiting tool for Islamic extremists, and that both the low Sunni Muslim turnout in elections there and the violence that followed demonstrated that the insurgency remained a serious threat.

He warned that anti-American extremists who survive the war were likely to emerge with a high level of skills and experience, and could move on to build new terrorist cells in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and other countries.

Intelligence that "strongly suggests" that Al Qaeda operatives have considered using the Mexican border as an entry point was cited in written testimony by Adm. James M. Loy, the deputy secretary of homeland security. But he wrote that there was "currently no conclusive evidence" that this had succeeded.

In the past, law enforcement officials have said Al Qaeda might try to use the Mexican border, but the testimony on Wednesday seemed to suggest increasing concern. In response to questions from the senators, Admiral Loy described it as a "very serious situation," while Robert S. Mueller, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, listed first among his current concerns what he said might already be "the threat from covert Al Qaeda operatives inside the United States."

"Finding them is the top priority for the F.B.I., but it is also one of the most difficult challenges," Mr. Mueller said. He said covert operatives could include "a true sleeper operative who has been in place for years," or someone who entered the country recently.

In his written testimony, Admiral Loy cited recent information from investigations and detentions as the basis for his concern about the Mexican border. He added, "Several Al Qaeda leaders believe operatives can pay their way into the country through Mexico and also believe illegal entry is more advantageous than legal entry for operational security reasons."

The appearance by Mr. Goss was his first in public since he took over as intelligence chief more than four months ago. In response to a deadline set by the White House, he also sent a classified memorandum to President Bush on Wednesday with recommendations about how to improve the C.I.A.'s abilities, particularly in terms of clandestine intelligence gathering.

Among related recommendations, aides to Mr. Goss said, is the view that the C.I.A. should retain its ability to conduct paramilitary operations, despite a recommendation last summer from the Sept. 11 commission that such roles be transferred to the Department of Defense. A joint review by the C.I.A. and the Pentagon concluded that both agencies should have paramilitary abilities, officials said.

In questioning Mr. Goss about the possibility that terrorists might use nuclear weapons, Senator John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia, the top Democrat on the intelligence committee, called attention to a report sent to Congress in November by the National Intelligence Council that addressed the safety and security of Russian nuclear facilities and military forces.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

When Muslims Convert

Daveed Gartenstein-Ross

Commentary Magazine 2005

Daveed Gartenstein-Ross is a senior analyst at Steve Emerson’s Investigative Project, a terrorism research center in Washington, D.C.

In the bustling religious marketplace of modern America, conversions out of one faith and into another are not exactly news. They happen every day, across the full spectrum of belief. But some conversions resonate more than others, especially at a time when the U.S. finds itself at war with terrorists who draw their inspiration from one of the world’s great religions.

Consider the case of Jean-Michelle Ajon, the subject of a 2002 article in the women’s fashion magazine Marie Claire. Raised a Catholic in New York City, Ajon had been thinking about converting to Islam during the summer before 9/11. After the attacks, a remark that she overheard while working in Manhattan—“We should bomb everyone, the whole Arab world”—strengthened her resolve, and she soon made her shahadah (declaration of faith), thus entering the fold of Islam. Her new faith, Ajon explained to Marie Claire, had improved her life. “I used to be very aggressive,” she said. “Now, I am more patient—and spiritually fulfilled.”

Ajon’s story—no doubt seen by her editors as an inspiring antidote to widespread anti-Muslim bigotry in the United States—has been multiplied by many other, similar stories over the past several years. But far less attention has been paid to voyages in the opposite direction, that is, outward from Islam. In fact, thousands of Muslims in the West embrace Christianity each year, and the courage they must muster to do so is of an entirely different order from the bravado of someone protesting against supposedly pervasive social prejudice. These converts stand accused, rather, of apostasy, a transgression against Islam whose consequences, even in the sheltering confines of the West, are always serious—and sometimes deadly.

In the Islamic world, there is a broad consensus, both popular and scholarly, that apostates deserve to be killed. A rich theological and intellectual tradition, stretching as far back as Muhammad and his companions, supports this position. Though official proceedings against those who reject Islam are fairly rare—in part, no doubt, because most keep their conversion a closely held secret—apostasy is punishable by death in Afghanistan, Comoros, Iran, Mauritania, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Yemen.1 It is also illegal in Jordan, Kuwait, Malaysia, the Maldives, Oman, and Qatar.

The greatest threat to apostates in the Muslim world derives not from the state, however, but from private individuals who take punishment into their own hands. In Bangladesh, for example, a native-born Muslim-turned-Christian evangelist was stabbed to death in the spring of 2003 while returning home from a film version of the Gospel of Luke. As another Bangladeshi apostate told the U.S. Newswire, “If a Muslim converts to Christianity, now he cannot live in this country. It is not safe. The fundamentalism is increasing more and more.”

Because of this ideological environment, every apostate in the Muslim world must live in constant fear of death. And unfortunately, as harsh recent experience has taught us, Islamist ideology is hardly confined to the Muslim world alone. Advocates of jihad, to say nothing of actual terrorists, can be found in every corner of the West. More disturbing, because of what it says about our own ideological self-defenses, is the respectability that has been granted to spokesmen for Islamic fundamentalism who have learned to promote their agenda in our own idiom, even as they argue that mere conversion out of Islam should be considered a crime.

A prime example in this connection is Syed Mumtaz Ali, the president of the Canadian Society of Muslims. The Indian-born Mumtaz Ali was the first South Asian lawyer in Ontario when he set up practice more than 40 years ago, and has been the intellectual force behind the Islamic Institute of Civil Justice, a group dedicated to applying shari’a (Islamic law) to certain civil disputes in the province. Ontario’s Arbitration Act, passed in 1991, paved the way for this campaign—and for Mumtaz Ali’s emergence as a respected public figure—by granting religious authorities the power to arbitrate in family and property matters so long as the parties involved gave their consent (and with the proviso that the decisions can be appealed to Canadian courts).

Instituting even so restricted a version of shari’a has been controversial in Canada, especially among feminists rightly worried about its effects on Muslim women. But for Mumtaz Ali, this first, modest concession to the claims of Islam has been just the beginning. As he declared in defending the shari’a tribunal, “freedom of religion as guaranteed under Canada’s constitution means not only freedom to practice and propagate religion but also to be able to be governed by one’s religious laws in all aspects of one’s life—spiritual as well as temporal.”

What Mumtaz Ali meant by this portentous remark is made clear in an astonishing essay under his name that can be found on the website of the Canadian Society of Muslims.2 Not only does he affirm there the traditional proposition that apostates must “choose between Islam and the sword,” but he argues that, if Canada is to be true to its own Charter of Rights and Freedoms, it must allow the country’s Muslim community to punish those of its members who renounce or traduce their faith.

[W]hat such a large segment of the Canadian minority believes as a precept of their faith/religion ought to be fully recognized if the Charter’s provision respecting freedom of religion are [sic] to have any real meaning. . . . Failing [to incorporate Islamic law concerning apostasy and blasphemy into the laws of Canada] will be a flagrant breach of equality rights. . . . Failing to interpret the guaranteed rights and freedoms of Muslims in accordance with the true spirit of multiculturalism results in the effective denial of this fundamental philosophy of the Canadian constitution. This is a tragic departure from that cherished “tolerance” (the real tolerance) which is the distinguishing quality of a cultured people.

Mumtaz Ali allows that recognizing Islamic law in this context “does not necessarily entail any obligation to enforce the Islamic punishment for blasphemy/apostasy within the Canadian jurisdiction” (emphasis added). Apostates, that is, will not have to be stoned or beheaded. But plainly some punishment by the community itself is in order, and Canada, as Mumtaz Ali would have it, has no right to stand in the way.

A still more original apologist for the harsh treatment of apostates who reside in the West is Ali Khan, a law professor at Washburn University in Kansas. In a recent issue of the Cumberland Law Review, Khan suggested that Islam can be seen as a form of intellectual property, and Muslims as “trustees” who have vowed to protect their faith’s “knowledge-based assets.”

These assertions, on their face, seem innocuous enough, if a bit absurd. But Khan’s argument quickly takes an ominous turn. If Islam is understood as intellectual property, he contends, the faith should enjoy what he calls “the right to integrity”—that is, its trustees should be able to safeguard “the protected knowledge from innovations, repudiation, internal disrespect, and external assaults.” Thus, Khan continues, apostasy should be punished because it

is aimed at dishonoring the protected knowledge of Islam. The murtad (apostate) is akin to a corporate insider who discloses the secrets he has undertaken to protect; he is akin to a state official who turns traitor and joins the ranks of the enemy; he is akin to a custodian who destroys the very monument he was safeguarding on behalf of the community. All legal systems punish insiders who breach their trusts; Islam punishes murtaddun [apostasy] too, sometimes severely.

Khan does not specify what punishment should be meted out to those Muslims in the West who compromise the “intellectual property” of Islam, and perhaps he has something in mind for them that falls short of capital punishment. After all, as he surely knows, American law generally does not countenance the execution of corporate spies and inside traders. The key point, however, is not the outlandish substance of Khan’s argument. Rather, it is the fact that he was able to use an American law review as a soapbox from which to advocate the licensed punishment of apostates—and that his grossly illiberal views were never rebutted in its pages.

The ugly rationalizations of propagandists like Syed Mumtaz Ali and Ali Khan do not emerge from nowhere; they are attempts to legitimate the harsh social reality already faced by the thousands of Muslim apostates in the West who must constantly worry about their personal safety. For most of them, this means maintaining an extremely low profile in religious contexts.

Converts from Islam, especially those who become involved in Christian ministries, often use assumed names, or only their first names, in order to protect themselves and their families.3 Thus, Abdullah, whose family hails from Saudi Arabia, kept his new faith secret for many years after converting to Christianity in 1980 while living in London. When asked about his religion, he would describe himself only as a “believer.” Even after he became a churchgoer, Abdullah hesitated to talk to fellow congregants about his spiritual journey. His new faith, as he recognized from the start, has placed him directly in harm’s way.

The most common dangers faced by Muslim apostates come from their own families. At a recent evangelical convention in Falls Church, Virginia, a couple of female converts from Islam told a reporter about their fears as new Christians. One woman said that when her family finds out, “I know they’re going to disown me if they don’t kill me.” The second woman had similar fears. “My brothers haven’t spoken to me in the last couple of years, and that was only because I married an American,” she said. “Can you imagine what they would do if they found out I was a Christian?”

Roy Oksnevad, a missionary with the Evangelical Free Church in Minneapolis, tells of a Turkish convert whose brother, an ultra-conservative imam who also owns a lucrative carpet and jewelry business, threatened to have him killed if he ever returned to Turkey. Kris Tedford, a Farsi-speaking pastor in Oakton, Virginia, told the Washington Times, “I’ve seen some people who’ve come from Iran to the United States to persecute, if not kill, in order to bring back their relatives to Islam.”

Even when apostates do not face physical danger from their families, they are often ostracized. This experience is not unique to Muslims, of course; it is a fact of life for many people who convert out of the faith into which they were born. But for Muslim apostates, the loss of family and community support can carry a heavy price, especially if they are immigrants. If they lose their livelihoods or the means to maintain themselves financially, they can be forced to return to their home countries—and that can amount to a death sentence.

Apostates living in the West also face pressure from Islamist radicals. Consider the case of Khaled, an Iraqi who converted to Christianity in 1990 while still living in the Middle East. Having immigrated to the Netherlands so that he could practice his new faith openly, he was surprised by the ferocity of the country’s Islamic fundamentalists, from whom he received regular death threats. Paul, an Egyptian convert to Christianity, reports similar experiences in Chicago. Once his apostasy was known, he was menaced by radical Muslims who frequented the restaurant at which he worked and became the object of a sustained campaign of threats and intimidation.

Responding to opponents of Syed Mumtaz Ali’s effort to bring Islamic law to Canada, an op-ed writer in the Calgary Herald recently chided his countrymen: “The barbarians are not at the gates, and liberalism is not under siege.” Stated so broadly, this benign assessment sounds compelling. Imams will not soon preside over the courtrooms of Canada or any other Western country, and anyone physically attacking a lapsed Muslim will not be able to avoid criminal prosecution simply by pleading religious freedom.

But barbarism takes many forms in our day, and one of them, surely, is the exploitation of the West’s traditions of tolerance (and, of late, multiculturalism) in the service of deeply anti-Western ends. It is a sad irony—and one that casts a harsh light on the limits of our own principles—that so many former Muslims who have come to the West seeking religious freedom have instead found, couched in the language of “equality rights,” a grotesque and insidious form of the very tyranny they have fled. The danger in which they live is quite real, a rebuke to the indulgent culture of their new societies and a disgrace to conscience.

Daveed Gartenstein-Ross is a senior analyst at the Investigative Project, a terrorism research center in Washington, D.C.

1 All of these countries either have explicit anti-apostasy laws or decree capital punishment for the broader offense of blasphemy.

2 The essay is at

3 The same concern for security makes it difficult to gather information on this topic, which has been scantily covered in the press and elsewhere. Research for this article was largely conducted through personal interviews.


This from Janet Lehr
Herbert H.Lehman (1878-1963) was a distinguished New York Senator and Governor, as well as a successful businessman, philanthropist and defender of Israel. Jewish New Yorkers took pride in his accomplishments, and Jewish intellectual life held a special place in Lehman's philanthropic concerns. He donated money to many educational and cultural institutions, including the Jewish Theological Seminary and Columbia University. He was a trustee of the Seminary, and its Institute For Talmudic Ethics is named for him. Lehman also supported Columbia during the period of time when it opened the doors of the college and its faculty to the brightest of New York's Jews. Thus it is not surprising to learn of an endowed faculty position, The Herbert Lehman Professor of Government.
Columbia alumni recently received notice of a lecture to be given by the current occupant of that chair, Mahmood Mamdani. The lecture is titled: Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, the Cold War and the Roots of Terror. (following-reprinted in full) It shouldn't be too hard to guess the thrust of the lecture from its title: America is to blame for Islamic rage and terrorism. Ronald Reagan's cold war created terrorism, blah, blah, blah. Islamic jihad has nothing to do with 9-11. Besides, America was built on crimes against Indians and blacks, thus suggesting we got what we deserved. Mamdani offers a more sophisticated PoMo version of Wade Churchill's argument that America brought 9-11 on itself. The text of Prof.Mamdani's lecture is full of the tropes and tics of "Post-colonial" studies, the intent of which is to inculpate America and Israel, and to explain 9-11 as the inevitable consequence of American Middle East policies. In Professor Mamdani's view, the anti-semitic hate fest sponsored by the UN at Durban was a noble enterprise and the U.S. refusal to join in the denunciations of Zionism and Israel was evidence of our irresponsibility. He puts it this way: "Official America has a habit of not taking responsibility for its own actions. Instead, it habitually looks for a high moral pretext for inaction. I was in Durban at the World Congress Against Racism (WCAR) when the US walked out of it. The Durban conference was about major crimes of the past, about racism, and xenophobia, and related crimes. I returned from Durban to listen to Condoleeza Rice talk about the need to forget slavery because, she said, the pursuit of civilized life requires that we forget the past.
It is true that, unless we learn to forget, life will turn into revenge-seeking. Each of us will have nothing but a catalogue of wrongs done to a long line of ancestors. But civilization cannot be built on just forgetting. We must not only learn to forget, we must also not forget to learn. We must also memorialize, particularly monumental crimes. America was built on two monumental crimes: the genocide of the Native American and the enslavement of the African American. The tendency of official America is to memorialize other peoples crimes and to forget its own to seek a high moral ground as a pretext to ignore real issues..."
All this and more from the holder of the Herbert Lehman professorship. What a posthumous outrage! Could Columbia have made a more dreadful choice for the Lehman professorship than an intellectual fraud who devotes himself to apologetics for our enemies? If Goebbels were alive would he be courted by Columbia to occupy a chair in Jewish studies? The anti-American, anti-semitic sickness afflicting Columbia is not restricted to the dept.of Middle Eastern Languages and Culture. It has spread through the liberal arts faculty and if not excised quickly will utterly destroy a once great university. President Bollinger, hurry up please, it's time.

Mahmood Mamdani, Herbert Lehman Professor of Government and Anthropology, Columbia University

Ever since September 11, there has been a growing media interest in Islam. What is the link, many seem to ask, between Islam and terrorism? The Spectator, a British weekly, carried a lead article a few weeks ago that argued that the link was not with all of Islam, but with a very literal interpretation of it. This version, Wahhabi Islam, it warned, was dominant in Saudi Arabia, from where it had been exported both to Afghanistan and the US. This argument was echoed widely in many circles, more recently in the New York Times. This article is born of dissatisfaction with the new wisdom that we must tell apart the Good Muslim from the Bad Muslim.

Culture Talk

Is our world really divided into two, so that one part makes culture and the other is a prisoner of culture? Are there really two meanings of culture? Does culture stand for creativity, for what being human is all about, in one part of the world? But in the other part of the world, it stands for habit, for some kind of instinctive activity, whose rules are inscribed in early founding texts, usually religious, and museumized in early artifacts?

When I read of Islam in the papers these days, I often feel I am reading of museumized peoples. I feel I am reading of people who are said not to make culture, except at the beginning of creation, as some extraordinary, prophetic, act. After that, it seems they just conform to culture. Their culture seems to have no history, no politics, and no debates. It seems just to have petrified into a lifeless custom.

Even more, these people seem incapable of transforming their culture, the way they seem incapable of growing their own food. The implication is that their only salvation lies, as always, in philanthropy, in being saved from the outside.

When I read this, or something like this, I wonder if this world of ours is after all divided into two: on the one hand, savages who must be saved before they destroy us all and, on the other, the civilized whose burden it is to save all?

We are now told to give serious attention to culture. It is said that culture is now a matter of life and death.

But is it really true that people’s public behavior, specifically their political behavior, can be read from their religion? Could it be that a person who takes his or her religion literally is a potential terrorist? And only someone who thinks of the text as not literal, but as metaphorical or figurative, is better suited to civic life and the tolerance it calls for?

How, one may ask, does the literal reading of religious texts translate into hijacking, murder, and terrorism?

Some may object that I am presenting a caricature of what we read in the press. After all, is there not less and less talk of the clash of civilizations, and more and more talk of the clash inside civilizations? Is that not the point of the articles I referred to earlier, those in The Spectator and The New York Times? After all, we are now told to distinguish between good Muslims and bad Muslims. Mind you, not between good and bad persons, nor between criminals and civic citizens, who both happen to be Muslims, but between good Muslims and bad Muslims.

We are told that there is a fault line running through Islam, a line that divides moderate Islam, called genuine Islam, and extremist political Islam. The terrorists of September 11, we are told, did not just hijack planes; it is said that they also hijacked Islam, meaning genuine Islam!

Here is one version of the argument that the clash is inside – and not between – civilizations. It is my own construction, but it is not a fabrication. I think of it as an enlightened version, because it does not just speak of the other, but also of self. It has little trace of ethnocentrism. This is how it goes.

Islam and Christianity have one thing in common. Both share a deeply messianic orientation. Each has a conviction that it possesses the truth. Both have a sense of mission to civilize the world. Both consider the world beyond a sea of ignorance, one that needs to be redeemed. Think, for example, of the Arabic word al-Jahaliya, which I have always known to mean the domain of ignorance.

This conviction is so deep-seated that it is even found in its secular version, as in the old colonial notion of “a civilizing mission,” or in its more racialized version, “the White Man’s Burden.” Or simply, in the 19th century American conviction of a “manifest destiny.”

In both cultures, Christian and Muslim, these notions have been the subject of prolonged debates. Even if you should claim to know what is good for humanity, how do you proceed? By persuasion or force? Do you convince others of the validity of your truth or do you proceed by imposing it on them? The first alternative gives you reason and evangelism; the second gives you the Crusades.

Take the example of Islam, and the notion of Jihad, which roughly translated means struggle. A student of mine gave me a series of articles written by the Pakistani academic and journalist, Eqbal Ahmed, in the Karachi-based newspaper, Dawn. In one of these articles, Eqbal distinguished between two broad traditions in the understanding of Jihad. The first, called “little Jihad,” thinks of Jihad as a struggle against external enemies of Islam. It is an Islamic version of the Christian notion of “just war”. The second, called “big Jihad,” thinks of Jihad as more of a spiritual struggle against the self in a contaminated world.

All of this is true, but I don’t think it explains terrorism. I remain deeply skeptical that we can read people’s political behavior from their religion, or from their culture. Remember, it was not so long ago that some claimed that the behavior of others could be read from their genes. Could it be true that an orthodox Muslim is a potential terrorist? Or, the same thing, that an Orthodox Jew is a potential terrorist and only a Reform Jew is capable of being tolerant of those who do not share his convictions?

I am aware that this does not exhaust the question of culture and politics. How do you make sense of politics that consciously wears the mantle of religion? Take, for example the politics of Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida, both of whom claim to be waging a Jihad, a just war against the enemies of Islam? How do we make sense of this?

I want to suggest that we turn the cultural theory of politics on its head. Rather than see this politics as the outcome of an archaic culture, I suggest we see neither the culture not the politics as archaic, but both as very contemporary outcomes of equally contemporary conditions, relations and conflicts. Instead of dismissing history and politics as does culture talk, I suggest we place cultural debates in historical and political contexts. Terrorism is not a cultural residue in modern politics. Rather, terrorism is a modern construction. Even when it tries to harness one or another aspect of tradition and culture, it puts this at the service of a modern project.

In what follows, I would like to offer you a perspective on contemporary terrorism from an African vantage point.

An African Perspective on Contemporary Terrorism

Eqbal Ahmed writes of a television image from 1985, of Ronald Reagan meeting a group of turbaned men, all Afghani, all leaders of the Mujaheddin. After the meeting, Reagan brought them out into the White House lawn, and introduced them to the media in these words: “These gentlemen are the moral equivalents of America’s founding fathers.”

This was the moment when official America tried to harness one version of Islam in a struggle against the Soviet Union. Before exploring the politics of it, let me clarify the historical moment.

1975 was the year of American defeat in Indochina. 1975 was also the year the Portuguese empire collapsed in Africa. It was the year the center of gravity of the Cold War shifted from Southeast Asia to Southern Africa. The question was: who would pick up the pieces of the Portuguese empire, the US or the Soviet Union?

As the center of gravity of the Cold War shifted, from Southeast Asia to Southern Africa, there was also a shift in US strategy. The Nixon Doctrine had been forged towards the closing years of the Vietnam War but could not be implemented at that late stage – the doctrine that “Asian boys must fight Asian wars” – was really put into practice in Southern Africa. In practice, it translated into a US decision to harness, or even to cultivate, terrorism in the struggle against regimes it considered pro-Soviet. In Southern Africa, the immediate result was a partnership between the US and apartheid South Africa, accused by the UN of perpetrating “a crime against humanity.” Reagan termed this new partnership “constructive engagement.”

South Africa became both conduit and partner of the US in the hot war against those governments in the region considered pro-Soviet. This partnership bolstered a number of terrorist movements: Renamo in Mozambique, and Unita in Angola. Their terrorism was of a type Africa had never seen before. It was not simply that they were willing to tolerate a higher level of civilian casualties in military confrontations – what official America nowadays calls collateral damage. The new thing was that these terrorist movements specifically targeted civilians. It sought specifically to kill and maim civilians, but not all of them. Always, the idea was to leave a few to go and tell the story, to spread fear. The object of spreading fear was to paralyze government.

In another decade, the center of gravity of the Cold War shifted to Central America, to Nicaragua and El Salvador. And so did the center of gravity of US-sponsored terrorism. The Contras were not only tolerated and shielded by official America; they were actively nurtured and directly assisted, as in the mining of harbors.

The shifting center of gravity of the Cold War was the major context in which Afghanistan policy was framed. But it was not the only context. The minor context was the Iranian Revolution of 1979. Ayatullah Khomeini anointed official America as the “Great Satan,” and official Islam as “American Islam.” But instead of also addressing the issues – the sources of resentment against official America – the Reagan administration hoped to create a pro-American Islamic lobby.

The grand plan of the Reagan administration was two-pronged. First, it drooled at the prospect of uniting a billion Muslims around a holy war, a Crusade, against the evil empire. I use the word Crusade, not Jihad, because only the notion of Crusade can accurately convey the frame of mind in which this initiative was taken. Second, the Reagan administration hoped to turn a religious schism inside Islam, between minority Shia and majority Sunni, into a political schism. Thereby, it hoped to contain the influence of the Iranian Revolution as a minority Shia affair.

This is the context in which an American/Saudi/Pakistani alliance was forged, and religious madresas turned into political schools for training cadres. The Islamic world had not seen an armed Jihad for centuries. But now the CIA was determined to create one. It was determined to put a version of tradition at the service of politics. We are told that the CIA looked for a Saudi Prince to lead this Crusade. It could not find a Prince. But it settled for the next best, the son of an illustrious family closely connected to the royal family. This was not a backwater family steeped in pre-modernity, but a cosmopolitan family. The Bin Laden family is a patron of scholarship. It endows programs at universities like Harvard and Yale.

The CIA created the Mujaheddin and Bin Laden as alternatives to secular nationalism. Just as, in another context, the Israeli intelligence created Hamas as an alternative to the secular PLO.

Contemporary “fundamentalism” is a modern project, not a traditional leftover. When the Soviet Union was defeated in Afghanistan, this terror was unleashed on Afghanistan in the name of liberation. As different factions fought over the liberated country – the Northern Alliance against the Taliban – they shelled and destroyed their own cities with artillery.

The Question of Responsibility

To understand the question of who bears responsibility for the present situation, it will help to contrast two situations, that after the Second World War and that after the Cold War, and compare how the question of responsibility was understood and addressed in two different contexts.

In spite of Pearl Harbor, World War Two was fought in Europe and Asia, not in the US. It was not the US which faced physical and civic destruction at the end of the war. The question of responsibility for postwar reconstruction did not just arise as a moral question; it arose as a political question. In Europe, its urgency was underlined by the changing political situation in Yugoslavia, Albania, and particularly, Greece. This is the context in which the US accepted responsibility for restoring conditions for decent life in noncommunist Europe. That initiative was called the Marshall Plan.

The Cold War was not fought in Europe, but in Southeast Asia, in Southern Africa, and in Central America. Should we, ordinary humanity, hold official America responsible for its actions during the Cold War? Should official America be held responsible for napalm bombing and spraying Agent Orange in Vietnam? Should it be held responsible for cultivating terrorist movements in Southern Africa and Central America?

Perhaps no other society paid a higher price for the defeat of the Soviet Union than did Afghanistan. Out of a population of roughly 15 million, a million died, another million and a half were maimed, and another five million became refugees. Afghanistan was a brutalized society even before the present war began.

After the Cold War and right up to September 10 of this year, the US and Britain compelled African countries to reconcile with terrorist movements. The demand was that governments must share power with terrorist organizations in the name of reconciliation – as in Mozambique, in Sierra Leone, and in Angola.

If terrorism was an official American Cold War brew, it was turned into a local Sierra Leonean or Angolan or Mozambican or Afghani brew after the Cold War. Whose responsibility is it? Like Afghanistan, are these countries hosting terrorism, or are they also hostage to terrorism? I think both.

Official America has a habit of not taking responsibility for its own actions. Instead, it habitually looks for a high moral pretext for inaction. I was in Durban at the World Congress Against Racism (WCAR) when the US walked out of it. The Durban conference was about major crimes of the past, about racism, and xenophobia, and related crimes. I returned from Durban to listen to Condoleeza Rice talk about the need to forget slavery because, she said, the pursuit of civilized life requires that we forget the past.

It is true that, unless we learn to forget, life will turn into revenge-seeking. Each of us will have nothing but a catalogue of wrongs done to a long line of ancestors. But civilization cannot be built on just forgetting. We must not only learn to forget, we must also not forget to learn. We must also memorialize, particularly monumental crimes. America was built on two monumental crimes: the genocide of the Native American and the enslavement of the African American. The tendency of official America is to memorialize other peoples’ crimes and to forget its own – to seek a high moral ground as a pretext to ignore real issues.


I would like to conclude with the question of responsibility. It is a human tendency to look for others in times of adversity. We seek friends and allies in times of danger. But in times of prosperity, the short-sighted tend to walk away from others. This is why prosperity, and not adversity, is the real litmus test of how we define community. The contemporary history of Southern Africa, Central America, and Afghanistan testifies to this tendency.

Modernity in politics is about moving from exclusion to inclusion, from repression to incorporation. By including those previously excluded, we give those previously alienated a stake in things. By doing so, we broaden the bounds of lived community, and of lived humanity. That perhaps is the real challenge today. It is the recognition that the good life cannot be lived in isolation.

I think of civilization as a constant creation whereby we gradually expand the boundaries of community, the boundaries of those with whom we share the world – this is why it is so grotesque to see bombs and food parcels raining on the defenseless people of Afghanistan from the same source.

Review finds effective post-Sept. 11 tactics

Though some South Florida immigrants are worried by what they perceive as new enforcement tactics, a Herald review suggests a more systematic use of older methods.


Miami Herald

Anxiety has been on the rise in South Florida immigrant communities over the past few months about what many immigrants and their advocates perceive as more aggressive government tactics against those in the U.S. illegally.

According to some, law enforcement officers have started stopping people at random and arresting them if they have no immigration papers -- on buses, trains and roads. But immigration officials insist they are not doing anything significantly different than they have been doing since the 9/11 terrorism attacks, when scrutiny of foreigners increased.

A Herald review shows no significant new enforcement in the past few months. But tactics that went into effect after the attacks -- between late 2001 and throughout 2002 and 2003 -- have become systematic and more effective, making them more evident:

• U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents are more systematically tracking down foreign nationals who allegedly have gone into hiding after immigration judges order their deportation.

• Border Patrol officers have arrested more undocumented migrants in periodic operations on interstate buses and trains and airport terminals -- though overall fewer migrants have been arrested by Border Patrol agents in the Miami sector in recent years.

• Local police officers are more frequently summoning immigration agents when a driver's name pops up on a computer list of foreign nationals wanted by immigration for evading deportation orders -- the so-called absconders.

Merline Michel said her husband, Rony Francois, was on his way to church this past Christmas Eve in Miami when he was taken into immigration custody after police stopped him for allegedly driving with illegal tinted windows.

''He was deported to Haiti on Thursday with no warning,'' said Michel, who finally heard from Francois on Saturday when he called asking her to send him clothes and money. ``I think anybody can be stopped, whether you are walking or standing at a bus stop. I understand people come here illegally to have a better life but the way they are doing things is wrong.''

Michel, who is a legal U.S. resident, said she doesn't know if her husband, who drove interstate buses, had a final deportation order against him.

Far from being new, the use of routine traffic stops to detect deportable migrants who allegedly have gone underground after being advised of an expulsion order is the oldest post-9/11 tactic being employed.

There are no figures to quantify whether immigration-related police arrests during traffic stops are higher now than before, but immigration officials say there has been a 200 percent increase from 2003 to 2004 in the number of alleged foreign absconders located since absconder names were added to the computerized wanted list.

The list is part of the National Crime Information Center, a database police officers often check when they verify a driver's name and background in a traffic stop.

In all, officials plan to add more than 400,000 names of absconders. So far, 159,480 names have been added since the initiative began in late 2001, according to Manny Van Pelt, an ICE spokesman in Washington.

Absconders are a prime target of federal agents under a National Fugitive Operations Program, an initiative launched by ICE on Feb. 25, 2002.

The search for absconders is fueling perceptions by some Haitian Americans and activists that the community is being targeted, as local Creole-language radio hosts field calls from worried listeners.

Jeanine Jolicoeur, a naturalized U.S. citizen, said she was awaiting a Miami-Dade bus at 8 a.m. one December morning on Northwest 47th Avenue and 183rd Street in northwest Miami-Dade County when she was approached by three immigration agents in regular clothing, demanding to see her immigration papers.

''They asked me if I am Haitian. I said `Yes I am Haitian,'' said Jolicoeur, who noted she was asked to show her immigration papers. ``They said if I didn't show my ID, they would arrest me and put me in Krome.

She eventually showed them her voter registration card and her driver's license, she said.

'They made a call on the telepone and then they said, `You are free to go,' '' said Jolicoeur, who believes she was singled out because she is Haitian. ``That is discrimination. They don't want to see Haitians.''

But drawing even more attention than the fugitive initiative or the traffic stops is the Border Patrol's boardings of long distance buses and trains to check papers of traveling foreign nationals.

The so-called ''transportation hub'' operations are perhaps the most visible activity.

In these operations, Border Patrol officers board Greyhound buses and Amtrak trains and ask foreign travelers to produce papers.

A video of one of the bus operations shows uniformed Border Patrol officers leafing through the passports of passengers.

Victor Colón, assistant chief patrol agent for the U.S. Border Patrol Miami Sector, would not release specific figures on arrests in bus and train operations. But he said ''transportation checks'' arrests have increased between between fiscal years 2003 and 2004.

However, Colón pointed out that overall the total number of arrests of undocumented migrants by the Border Patrol in the Miami sector had decreased between the same fiscal years -- dropping about 25 percent to about 4,000. One chief reason, Colón said, is improved coordination among Homeland Security agencies, which has deterred more migrants from attempting illegal trips.

Beyond these operations, there is no evidence of widespread targeting of illegal migrants.

Police officials from Homestead to Palm Beach county said it is their policy not to bother migrant workers unless they commit a crime.

Migrants themselves who gather in clusters to await employers at certain street corners in Homestead or Pompano Beach say they have not been approached by immigration officers.

One recent police action involving migrant workers occurred in January in Lake Worth, Palm Beach County.

Police officers handed out letters warning drivers who stopped on certain downtown streets to pick up migrant workers that they could be fined up to $500 for hiring people not authorized to work.

Sgt. Dan Boland, a Lake Worth police spokesman, said his department was not targeting migrant workers but drivers who blocked traffic and created a hazard.

Boland said that since the letters were handed out in late January the traffic problem vanished -- and the migrant workers are still there.

Monday, February 14, 2005

With Allies Like These -----

Pakistani urged al-Qaida to obtain nuclear weapons, authorities say

By Frank Davies

Knight Ridder Newspapers

WASHINGTON - A wealthy Pakistani businessman who's being held at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, prison camp for suspected terrorist ties urged al-Qaida operatives to acquire nuclear weapons for use against U.S. troops and said he knew where to get them, according to American investigators.

The allegation, contained in documents filed recently in U.S. District Court in Washington, also identifies Saifullah Paracha, 57, who has an import business in New York, as a participant in a plot to smuggle explosives into the United States and to help al-Qaida hide "large amounts of money."

There are few details about the smuggling plot and little additional information about what the businessman, a permanent U.S. resident who's been held 19 months without charges, may have known about how to obtain nuclear weapons.

Paracha, during a review tribunal of his case in November at the U.S. naval base in Cuba, vigorously denied any ties to al-Qaida and scoffed at the nuclear allegation.

"Is a nuclear weapon something I could buy off the shelf? Can you buy it from Tony Blair?" he told a panel of military officers, referring to the British prime minister.

Top American officials have warned that al-Qaida has sought nuclear materials and that a network of Pakistani scientists sold nuclear technology and expertise to Libya, Iran and North Korea.

Paracha, who's fluent in English, has split his time between the United States and Pakistan for more than 30 years. Two brothers are American citizens, his lawyer said. Paracha operates a TV production company along with International Merchandise, which imports clothing in New York.

The saga of his arrest and detention for two years reveals that he was a high-interest target of U.S. investigators. His son Uzair, 25, was arrested in New York in 2003 and faces trial March 21 on charges of trying to help an al-Qaida agent get into the United States and deal with immigration officials.

At the time, Attorney General John Ashcroft said the case demonstrated al-Qaida's determination to penetrate U.S. borders two years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Investigators charged that father and son met with top al-Qaida leaders in Pakistan, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, a mastermind of those attacks who was later captured.

Three months after his son's arrest, Paracha took a commercial flight from Pakistan to Thailand in July 2003 to meet with Kmart buyers. He was turned over to U.S. forces, who took him to Bagram air base in Afghanistan, where he was interrogated for more than a year, then shipped to Guantanamo last September.

The International Committee of the Red Cross told his wife, Farhat, that he was being held in Guantanamo as an enemy combatant, but the Defense Department refused to acknowledge it until his lawyer, Gaillard Hunt, filed a petition on Paracha's behalf in U.S. court.

Paracha is one of the most recent of 74 Guantanamo detainees who've filed petitions challenging their captivity. Two judges have issued opposing rulings on their rights, and a federal appeals court will decide whether judges can examine the merits of each case.

Hunt said Thursday that Paracha was "a businessman getting ready to meet Kmart buyers, the farthest thing from an enemy combatant."

The lawyer noted the difference in the way father and son are being treated: "They have held Saifullah for 17 months. Why didn't they indict him if they have evidence?"

In court papers, Hunt said any discussion of nuclear weapons by Paracha was general, "something many people have done over the past 60 years in our more anxious moments."

A Justice Department spokesman wouldn't discuss the Parachas' cases or why father and son are being treated differently. A spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in New York, Herbert Hadad, said prosecutors were ready to go to trial in the Uzair Paracha case.

The nuclear reference about Saifullah Paracha was one of 11 allegations from an unclassified summary of evidence that was used against him during a tribunal to review his status, a process that all 500-plus detainees in Guantanamo went through last year.

In a single passage, investigators told the tribunal that Paracha "recommended to an al Qaida operative that nuclear weapons should be used against U.S. troops and suggested where these weapons might be obtained."

Other allegations: Paracha met twice with Osama bin Laden and held "large amounts" of money for al-Qaida and discussed ways of getting chemicals and explosives into countries allied with the United States.

Paracha told the tribunal he met with bin Laden in 1999 to discuss a TV project on the Quran, and that the other meeting was with a business delegation that visited Afghanistan in 2000. He said his extensive business and charitable work might have brought him into contact with al-Qaida supporters.

"Sir, how could anybody know who al Qaida is?" he told the officers on the tribunal panel. "I believe in the Quran: that killing one innocent person is equal to killing all humanity."

Paracha's family has said he's pro-American. They released an e-mail from a business partner, Charles Anteby, who's Jewish: "We had friendly talks on religion ... he spoke very highly of America."

The Defense Department determined that Paracha, like the vast majority of detainees, was properly held as an enemy combatant who fought for or supported al-Qaida or the hard-line Taliban regime in Afghanistan, which harbored bin Laden. Its decision was based on classified information that officials didn't disclose to Paracha.

When Paracha, who has a heart condition, told the panel he wanted nothing to do with violence and couldn't be classified a combatant, one officer said the designation had a broader reach.

"You could be in Thailand, holding $20 million for the purchase of weapons, and this could be more damaging than if you were just one person holding a rifle," the tribunal member told him. The Defense Department withholds the names of tribunal members.


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