I submitted the following letter to the Post-Standard last Thursday (10/28). Published 11/03/05

To the Editor:

Thursday’s sentencing of Dr. Rafil Dhafir came after a lengthy trial in which he was found guilty of white collar crimes, but treated like a terrorist. Dr. Dhafir, a Muslim American citizen, was given a much harsher sentence than others accused of the same crimes. He was charged with violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, as other non-Muslims have been previously, but it is virtually unknown that persons so accused must serve jail time for their alleged offenses.

This raises the question of whether it is still possible for a Muslim to receive a fair trial in the United States. As a Jew who was born in Germany, I saw that it was not possible for Jews to receive a fair trial there well before Nazi persecution turned more deadly. In Germany, this was accomplished by imposing special laws for Jews and other “undesirables”. In the United States, it seems, the same effect is accomplished, not by writing selective laws, but by enforcing existing laws selectively, — increasingly against Muslims since 9/11. This has created a stifling climate of fear among our Muslim neighbors.

The climate of fear that existed in Nazi Germany ensured that few individuals protested these selective laws. One who did so was the Protestant Pastor Martin Niemoeller, who spent eight years in concentration camps for his opposition to Hitler. Upon his arrest by the Gestapo he famously stated: “First they came for the Communists, but I was not a Communist so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Socialists and the Trade Unionists, but I was neither, so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew so I did not speak out. And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me.”

We must remain vigilant and speak out whenever we see injustice in our society. Injustices perpetrated selectively against others must always concerns us, not only because we, too, may become the “others”, but because the erosion of freedom for some signals the loss of freedom for all.


H. Richard Levy
Professor Emeritus, Syracuse University

Katherine: This letter was taken from a comment below and published in this post with permission.