On the second day of his inauguration, President Obama signed executive orders calling for the closure of Guantanamo Bay within a year. Three years later and as his first term approaches an end, the notorious detention facility, illegal by international standards, remains open with no signs of a closure.

Guantanamo Bay violates every possible standard laid out for an imprisonment facility; hence the rationale for building it on a naval base in Cuba. It denies prisoners protections guaranteed by the Geneva conventions, holds them indefinitely without laying charges and effectively bars them from having any chances at a fair trial.

Injustice and lies are the foundational pillars that hold up Guntanamo Bay. Prisoners at the facility are subjected to unprecedented forms of torture. This includes solitary confinement, forced feedings, sexual abuse, waterboarding and beatings. Many inmates have tried to commit suicide; six have so far have succeeded. Lakhdar Boumedine, who went on a hunger strike and was held for seven years without explanation, recalled: “Twice each day my captors would shove a tube up my nose, down my throat and into my stomach so they could pour food into me”.

Murat Kurnaz of Germany was captured while in Pakstian studying the religious sciences and wrongly detained for five years. He explained: ‘There were more beatings, endless solitary confinement, freezing temperatures and extreme heat, days of forced sleeplessness”. An FBI agent once observed that, “On a couple of occasions, I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food or water. Most times they had urinated or defecated on themselves and had been left there for 18, 24 hours or more”. What is sickening is that abuse at other U.S. detention facilities, such as Abu Ghraib and Bagram, is far worse.

Many of the ‘war combatants’ at the facility have been innocent civilians with no evidence of terrorist activities. They were simply at the wrong place at the wrong time and were caught while fleeing the invasion of Afghanistan. The Tipton Three and many others fall in this category. Some were simply handed over to the Americans based on shady evidence in return for thousands of dollars. Kurnaz was an example of this.

Since most of the inmates at the facility are Muslims, religious persecution has been a complaint as well. There have been horror stories of Qurans being defaced and flushed down toilets. Prisoners have been reprimanded for praying in congregation. Some even reported attempts by guards to get them to renounce their religion.

Civil liberty groups rejoiced as Obama came into office, but his efforts to actually shut down Gitmo are laughable. The President has since signed executive orders that formalize the indefinite detention of prisoners at the facility. To top up the Patriot Act, he also added new provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act that codify the indefinite detention of American citizens suspected of terrorism. The NDAA also forbids the government from using money to build a new prison or to bring detainees to the U.S., even to face trial. This virtually ends any possibility of shutting down the prison and effectively builds on the detention scheme laid out by the Bush administration.

This establishment creates a two tiered justice system; one for the bad and one for the worst. The irony is, many times the evidence against the latter is so poor that it is insufficient to lay charges or bring them to trial. Guantanamo Bay is an apparatus that gives Americans satisfaction that the perpetrators of terrorism are being punished and their country is secure. This comes at the high cost of sacrifices in human rights, civil liberties and rule of law,not to mention the millions of tax dollars spent on it.

Once the beacon of freedom, liberty and justice; America is slowly losing her status as the bastion of democracy. Illegal wars, extra judicial killings, arrests of innocent civilians, opportunist and hypocritical foreign policies all add to the abuses going on at Guantanamo Bay. Ten years past 9/11 and after the killing of Osama Bin Laden, there are no signs of an end to this disgraceful institution.

Action Item:
Amnesty Internatinal Petition : End Detention at Gitmo

More information:

Guantanamo: By the Numbers
Notes From a Guantánamo Survivor


The killing of Osama bin Laden dominated the headlines as I browsed through the daily news. I was a bit surprised I guess as I didn’t know people were still looking for him and there had been much conjecture that he was already dead. As I read through the details of the raid on Bin Laden I was bewildered by some of the information; especially that which pertained to his ‘Islamic’ burial.

First off, watching images of people dancing in the streets and partying to celebrate the killing of a human, regardless how evil, did not sit well with me. What do you even chant when you celebrate, “Wohoo! We killed Osama!”? How does this make you any better than these very terrorists who, I presume, rejoice similarly when they kill? I understand being relieved and feeling jubilant about the death of an evil person, but partying to it seems inhuman. But then again, human nature is a funny thing and had I too lost someone during 9/11, I might have felt the need to do the victory dance.

The second thing that surprised me was that no video or pictorial evidence of Osama bin Laden’s death was presented. To top that, his body had already been disposed off into the sea! How is that you capture the world’s most wanted man and then don’t even bother taking a picture? Perhaps the circumstances didn’t allow it, but then you get rid of the body only hours after killing him too! If we know anything about the Americans, it’s that they like putting on a show. Videos and pictures emerged almost immediately when Saddam Hussein was captured; I would have thought they’d like to show off what they hunted.

What is even more shocking is the lame and inaccurate excuse given to dispose off the body. A US official said, ‘We are ensuring that it is handled in accordance with Islamic practice and tradition’ and other news outlets reported that the early disposal was done to keep inline with the Islamic tradition of burial within 24hrs. Another reason given was that it was done in order to prevent the grave site from becoming a shrine for extremists.

The reasoning is quite laughable. Burying at sea is generally disallowed in Islam and the norm is to bury on land, so I don’t see how they are trying to follow Islamic practices. Also, while generally the dead are to be buried as soon as possible, there isn’t a set time limit of 24 hrs that one has to adhere to. And finally, since when did the US military become so cognisant about the religious rites of dead terrorists!? They go on abusing rights of the living in prisons like Guntanomobay but when it comes to the dead body of Osama bin Laden they dispose it quickly to honour his religious rights? Something is fishy. Also, Abbottabad is a city over a thousand kilometers away from the sea, why would they go all the way out to throw him there?

This event comes right in time for the 2012 elections; Obama’s ratings no doubt will sky rocket and he will most likely return for a second term. In his address last night, Obama made sure to emphasize the personal pronoun ‘I’ as he described his heroic leadership in the capture of Bin Laden; his heroism was further reiterated by White House officials explaining how he followed and lead the raid in real time. Well played Sir.

I am no conspiracy theorist but I am just asking some very obvious questions about the mysteries of this incident. It’s still too early and perhaps more information will be revealed regarding these big questions; until then I am sure theorists will be busy working on what could possibly become the greatest conspiracy theory of all time.

I hope that Osama’s death gives some closure to the hundreds of families that lost loved ones during the dreadful attacks on 9/11. I also hope that it doesn’t result in series of revenge attacks and that it gives Western powers the impetus to withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan in order to end the War of Terror. We aught not to worry that bin Laden wasn’t tried in a court, for right about now, he’s answering to God.

In recent weeks there has been a series of attacks on Iraq’s historic Christian community. Almost 60 people died when militants attacked Our Lady of Salvation church in Baghdad. In addition there was string of isolated attacks in various Christian neighbourhoods around the country. These attacks have been attributed to Al-Qaeda militants. Discrimination and violence against Christians has grown significantly since the Iraqi Invasion in 2003. It is estimated that this has forced nearly half the population to flee the country.

Local Iraqi Imams have condemned these attacks and have offered moral and physical support to fellow Christians. Muslims who have lost friends in these attacks visited the church to pay their respects. It is clear that these attacks are orchestrated in order to incite tensions between the Muslim and Christian communities in Iraq. It is therefore of utmost importance that these attacks not be allowed to become a source of resentment and animosity between the two religious groups around the globe.

It is easy to quickly label this as an example of Muslim subjugation of Christians. Just like some Muslims hold anti-Semitic views due to the Israeli occupation of Palestine, some Christians would be inclined to hold anti-Muslim views due to these attacks. However, when subscribing to such views, people fail to recognize that Muslims are at a greater threat of being attacked by these Islamic militants than non-Muslims.

With bombings taking place almost daily in the Muslim world, in places like Karachi, Peshawar and Kabul, it is evident that terrorists don’t care much for the faith of their victims. These attacks are often made on heavily populated mosques as well. It must be recognized that these so-called Islamic militants aren’t Islamic, rather they are anarchists who simply use Islam as a means to justify their desire for power, to gain validity for those that sympathize with them and to seek young, new recruits.

It is also interesting to notice that ethnic and religious tensions are directly related to socio-economic conditions of a nation. During times of prosperity and economic stability we notice that religious tensions are almost non-existent. However, during troubled times with resources scarce, people have to fight for their needs and this involves overpowering and denying rights to the other. People naturally seek moral justification for such actions and this is where they cleverly use religion as grounds for committing such acts, even though the religion itself might not allow it. Also to notice is that when there is socio-economic uproar in a society, the collective conscience of people is troubled with insecurity and fear. This causes them to naturally lash out on specific groups and this is something evident in the recent wave of anti-Islamic rhetoric in the United States.

I, as a Muslim, offer my deepest sympathies to the families of those who lost their lives, and hope that people are able to look past these woeful attempts of creating divisions amongst religious people. Religion is not the source of our division but it is underlying human problems that divide us. Forming the two most practiced religions in the world, it is essential that Muslims and Christians work hand in hand to solve the issues facing our community. They have lived peacefully together in Iraq for over a millennium and there is no reason this can’t continue.

Originally written for The Silhouette

Here’s an excerpt from an article I found. It comes to me with no surprise that I never saw this on the news. Source :  The Huffington Post

Nine members of a Christian militia group, Hutaree, were charged Monday with plotting to kill a police officer and slaughter scores more with homemade bombs. According to the indictment, the actions were done in hopes of igniting an uprising against the U.S. government.

News of this terror plot is likely to spark a great deal of discussion around the idea of domestic terrorism. But there are some things that are not likely to be part of that discourse. For example, we’re not likely to hear experts discussing whether or not Christian doctrine teaches its followers to overthrow governments and kill people. And, although the Hutaree website quotes scripture passages that allude to battle and sacrificing lives for the greater cause, the Bible is not likely to become condemned for inspiring acts of terror.

Hutaree means “Christian Warrior,” yet the American public is not likely to blame Christianity. And Homeland Security probably isn’t going to single out all people with Christian names in the airport security line. The FBI most likely isn’t going to start wire-tapping Churches and Christian homes, and it’s unlikely that the whole world will be expecting every peace-loving Christian to apologize for actions they had nothing to do with — just because it was done in their name.

Unfortunately, these rules do not apply to Muslims. When a Muslim commits a crime, the Quran goes on trial. For example, after the failed “Christmas bombing,” a January Wall Street Journal piece highlighted the fact that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab had studied at the San’a Institute for Arabic Language. “He knew how to read and write in Arabic because he had learned to read the Quran being a Muslim, but his speaking abilities were very limited,” recalls Mohammed Al-Anisi, the institute’s director. Abdulmutallab may have also studied French poetry as a student, but that probably wouldn’t have been considered relevant to his crime. The study of the Quran and Arabic, on the other hand, seems to be.

If there’s news of a Muslim terrorist, Islam becomes complicit in the crime. Yet few people are going to accuse Christianity of motivating the terrorism of the Hutaree militia. These Christian terrorists are considered violent criminals who’ve perverted a peaceful religion.

Muslim terrorists, on the other hand, are just following a violent, perverted religion. A Christian terrorist is considered violent in spite of his or her faith, whereas a Muslim is violent because of it. Are we now going to create a new brand of crime called “Christian terrorism”? Is the entire Christian community going to be put on the defensive, while media pundits begin the mantra: “Why aren’t Christians condemning acts of terrorism?” Probably not. The question is: why should someone named Christopher need to condemn the acts of the Hutaree militia any more than someone named Mohammad does? And why should Mohammed be expected to condemn the acts of the “Christmas bomber” any more than Christopher?

As FBI agent Andrew Arena said, Hutaree is just “an example of radical and extremist fringe groups which can be found throughout our society.” Their crimes are committed in spite of their religious affiliations — not because of them.