A report by Peggy Boyd of The Dr. Dhafir Support Committee:

The Conference was held in Earl Hall at Columbia University in New York City on Saturday, 4/1/08. The event was hosted by the Muslim Student Association. It started with an exhibit relating to individual victims of America’s unjust persecution of Muslims. Dr. Dhafir was represented by myself.

Guest Speakers:

Michael Ratner (Head of the Center for Constitutional Rights)

Dr. Agha Saeed (Chairman of the American Muslim Alliance)

Sean Maher (Renowned defense Lawyer)

Abu Yousuf (Renowned Islamic Lecturer)

Aziz Huq (Assistant Director of NYU Brennan Center for Justice)

Mauri Saalakhan (author/political activist)

Peter Erlinder (President National lawyers Guild 1993-97)

I was greeted by two lovely students who couldn’t be more welcoming. I also spoke with Mr. Hashmi whose brother Fahad is a prisoner. More information about Fahad is available at www.freefahad.com. May Saffar, of the Muslim Solidarity Committee, and I set up our information table. Thankfully, Katherine Hughes had provided me with hand outs , pictures and so on. People were interested in Dr. Dhafir and many were surprised about the extent of the persecution of Muslim Americans.

Dr. Saeed began the program talking about how the information about the unjust incarcerations gives us not only a chance but an obligation that transcends Hashmi’s family and involves the entire community because we are America under siege. He talked about a war of terrorism and the collateral damage that has resulted. We are reminded of our History and the two Americas that have been present since the beginning. One America represents the people and the Bill of Rights. The other America represents greed and the striving for power and control of the “masses”. We were reminded of Benjamin Franklin. When asked about what he wanted for America, he said, “A republic if you can keep it?” America’s challenge is to advance the better part in spite of the propaganda building a case against Muslims, the Koran etc. They have also poisoned our judicial system using lies and fear that permeates the courtroom and the consciousness of the people.

Abu Yousef spoke passionately about his friend Fahad. He reminded us that Muslims stand against oppression no matter who is being oppressed. He talked about his best friend in solitary confinement 23-24 hrs a day for almost a year.

Sean Maher, who is defending a young man who is in the Metropolitan correctional institute in a cage. This young man was not indicted in England but was extradited to America where he is charged as a terrorist. Mr. Maher related his attempts to defend his clients to the lessons of George Orwell in “1984” that we are living today. Consider surveillance, National security letters, Control orders etc. leaving victims of “Big Brother” no recourse. If we think of Bail Hearings, we know that bail is not supposed to be punishment. It is to insure appearance but we know from Dr. Dhafir’s case and others that bail is not an option. Mr. Maher explored the lack of due process, the use of “classified information” to keep evidence and information from the defense and the judge. These things make his job very difficult and he deserves our respect and admiration.

Michael Ratner, who has worked with people in Guantanamo and the black sites talked about Muslims picked up right after 9/11. Anti Muslim animus led to special registration of Muslim men. 93,000 were questioned. None were charged. We can put that in the context of Muslims today and the fabricated charges. Remember James Yee the Muslin Chaplin? He was charged with espionage and endured similar conditions as Maher Arez. The Government is preaching violent radicalism and home grown terrorism, it says radical views lead to violent acts. Isn’t that a thought crime?

Peter Erlinder stated that it was ordinary people who fought for the Bill of Rights, not the elite, we have a history of resistance to the abuse of power. He says that Muslims are the canaries in the coal mine. and reminded us of Pastor Martin Niemoller, in Nazi Germany, and his famous quote, “First they came for the Communists…. ”

The conference seemed too short because there was still so much to say. We left with the goal of joining forces and increasing our support of each other as we go forward in our fight against injustice while we champion truth and reject fear.