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The Precedent-Setting Vote In Albany Resolution (Preceded By Press Release)

09 April 2010

By El-Hajj Mauri' Saalakhan

In the name of ALLAH, The Beneficent, The Merciful

Good evening ladies and gentlemen. My name is Mauri’ Saalakhan. I serve as director of operations for a grassroots human rights advocacy organization known as The Peace And Justice Foundation, based in Metropolitan Washington, DC. I am here in support of the Resolution before you now.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said the following many years ago: “The ultimate measure of a man [or woman] is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. The true neighbor will risk his position, his prestige, and even his life for the welfare of others. In dangerous valleys and hazardous pathways he will lift some bruised and beaten brother to a higher and more noble life.”

There is an old saying, “Blessed are those who forge first, to lead the way for others.” The concerned citizens who have packed this chamber tonight are an example of the “true neighbor.” You [the Council] are the other part of tonight’s equation, with the potential to be the same.

As this evening’s session opened with the Pledge of Allegiance, I was reminded of the Constitutional Convention of 1789, when one of the “founding fathers,” Benjamin Franklin, was asked at the convention’s conclusion (by one of the reporters of the time): “What have you wrought?” Franklin’s response was: “A Republic, if you can keep it!”

The business before you this evening represents a continuation of that ever present challenge, passed on from one generation to the next - i.e. the ongoing quest for the establishment of a “Republic,” predicated on “liberty and justice for all.” (Still an illusive dream.)

I am also reminded of the words of two prominent figures of history. The first is one of the classical scholars from the Islamic tradition. Sheikh ibn Taymeeyah wrote many generations ago: “Civilization is based on justice, and the consequences of oppression is devastating. Therefore it is said, ALLAH aids the just state even if it is non-Muslim; yet withholds his help from the oppressive state, even if it is Muslim.”

And then we have the words of American founding father, Thomas Jefferson, who wrote (and this can be found on the wall of his monument in Washington, DC): “I tremble for my country when I reflect: God is Just; His justice cannot sleep forever.”

In my work I have traveled throughout a large part of America, and I have witnessed, up close and personal, the profound and ever expanding trauma produced by the so-called ‘war on terrorism.’ I have seen the “collateral damage” done to mothers and fathers, wives and children, entire families and communities, when innocents are targeted for preemptive operations.

You have an opportunity with your vote on tonight’s Resolution, to help move this potentially great, but deeply disturbed nation called America, from where it is, to where it’s supposed to be.

Thank you for listening.

This is a brief summary of the five minute address I delivered last night to the Albany Common Council in Albany, New York (drawn from an outline I put together minuets before I was called upon to share a few thoughts).

I was privileged to be a witness for - and to make a minor contribution to - a truly precedent-setting vote undertaken by the city council of New York State’s capitol city at about 10:40 last night.

The most powerful highlight of the proceedings were the FAMILIES who were present (representing a number of tragic cases) who provided sometimes emotional victim impact statements to the Council. Local activists and concerned citizens (the majority non-Muslim) supported the families with their own statements urging passage of the Resolution.

The day’s initiative began with a short rally at the Armory, followed by a roughly 15 minute march to Albany's City Hall. The Council’s proceedings began about 7PM to a packed chamber. A number of people had to sit outside in the hall and listen to the proceedings over a speaker. The Resolution in question is titled:

RESOLUTION URGING THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE TO REVIEW THE CONVICTION OF MUSLIMS WHO WERE "PREEMPTIVELY PROSECUTED," TO ENSURE THEIR FAIR TREATMENT UNDER THE U.S. CONSTITUTION AND BILL OF RIGHTS

Al-hamdullilah! After a little drama necessitating a five minute recess in the proceedings (and a slight re-working of some of the language contained in the Resolution), the Resolution passed by a vote of 10 voting “Yes” and 4 voting “Present.”

To my knowledge, this is the first Resolution of this nature passed by a government jurisdiction anywhere in the nation!  (Blessed are those who forge first to lead the way for others.) 

A special note of thanks is due the Muslim Solidarity Committee & Project SALAM. Honorable mention is also accorded to Prof. Shamshad Ahmad, for being an “immigrant Muslim” who is not afraid to stand up for his brothers, their families, and his community; and so doing, demonstrating what true faith-based leadership is all about! 

To be continued….

 

 

 

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