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Dr. Aafia Siddiqui Addresses The Court: The Embodiment Of Faith And Grace - Thank You Sister Aafia

30 September 2010

By El-Hajj Mauri’ Saalakhan

Assalaamu Alaikum (Greetings of Peace): 

A few closing thoughts of a personal nature


I left that federal courthouse in New York feeling like I had witnessed something truly amazing. Despite the anticipated outcome, I felt inspired, and that a tremendous weight had been lifted off of me. It had just recently come to my attention earlier that same week how much anger I had been carrying around inside of me because of this case (and many others like it).


That same week, following a reception with Iranian President Ahmedinejad in New York City, I verbally lashed out at a Muslim leader for his attempt at defending the indefensible. In that moment I felt nothing but contempt for him and others like him. (“Leaders” and “Major Muslim Organizations” who failed to issue even ONE press release, or community alert, in defense and support of a sister like Aafia Siddiqui!)


In those moments, outside of that New York City hotel, all of the disappointments and indignities that I had been forced to endure over the past two years (over this one case) came flooding over me; the doors that were slammed in my face; the back-biting emanating from “leaders” within my own community; the very personal assaults that were made through my family; the sleepless nights; the moments of isolation; the counterproductive efforts that were sometimes made to prevent much needed material resource from coming our way – all of this came flooding over me as this brother attempted to make me feel as if I was wrong for putting undo pressure on him and his fellow play it safe procrastinators.


I was so angry that I felt like I could hit this brother; and then after we left each other I felt ill (I felt physically ill) for a while. As I calmed down, I remembered something that President Ahmedinejad had said in his closing remarks to all of the Muslim leaders assembled before him: “They want to make us angry…Don’t let them make you angry.”


It was then, in that moment, that I realized it wasn’t just Aafia Siddiqui. The anger I felt, the anger that had reached a boiling point with this particular case (involving this sister), is an anger that had been building up for years! It was a volcanic accumulation of all of the pain, tears, anger and frustration that I had been exposed to (and often-times experienced) going back many years. Aafia Siddiqui’s case was simply the one that brought it all to a head.


Later that night, I pleaded with Almighty ALLAH (The Beneficent, The Merciful) to help me deal with that internalized rage…and a few days later, ALLAH answered my prayer.


Aafia addresses the court


Aafia began by insisting she was not concerned with her own welfare – she is content with the qadr (or will of God), and that she is not being tortured. She did not say she was never tortured; she said she was not being tortured at present.


(This is an important distinction for those of us who have followed this case closely. Who are aware that Aafia was tortured when she was secretly held; and are equally aware that, at minimum, Aafia has been imprisoned in the U.S., for the past two plus years, under conditions that clearly violate our nation’s constitutional guarantee against “cruel and unusual punishment.”)


Aafia accused someone by the name of Mr. Desmond (I believe) of plotting against the United States. (This may have been a sign of mental unbalance. ALLAH knows best.)


She again referenced the “secret prison(s)” that she had previously been held within; a secret imprisonment that the U.S. government adamantly refuses to acknowledge.


Aafia spoke about terrorists who were masquerading as Hispanics to do America harm, and of how DNA testing can be done to determine the “pedigree” of a person. She also spoke about not being against all Israelis, but that there is an element among them that are blameworthy.


She noted at one point, in a rather light-hearted way, that most of the teeth in her mouth were not her own, because of the beatings she endured while she was secretly held. She also noted how one of her doctors had initially diagnosed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), but how she was then pressured into saying otherwise – i.e. that Aafia was schizophrenic.


Aafia testified to how – before being brought to the U.S. - she would regurgitate to the FBI the things that she thought they wanted to hear (a mind “game” she called it), in the belief that by doing so she would be able to get her children back. She passionately emphasized that she is against all wars!


She spoke about a dream she had involving Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him), and she advised the Taliban to put mercy in their hearts. She referenced [British journalist] Yvonne Ridley’s capture and subsequent voluntary conversion. She said in her dream she saw the Prophet enter a room with American soldiers who were captives of war. The Prophet (pbuh) spoke consoling words to them. Her advice to Muslims was to not hate American soldiers.


She also (curiously for this writer) spoke about Israeli-Americans who had her daughter for years and never raped her. When she said this I wondered if this was something she had been told, or was this a conclusion that she had come to as a sort of psychological coping mechanism? (Surely ALLAH know best.)


Moments later Aafia’s voice broke – and I know that many within the main and overflow courtrooms choked up – when she touched briefly upon the anguish experienced by a mother who doesn’t know where her children are.


Judge Berman Rules (or so he thinks)


Berman proceeded to outline the reasoning behind the barbaric sentence he was about to impose on Dr. Aafia Siddiqui. At the heart of his thinking was his stated belief that rehabilitation for Aafia was virtually impossible, as he proceeded to impose “enhancements” that would significantly magnify her sentence.


1.      He found that the “hate crime enhancement” applied due to the national origin of Aafia’s alleged victims (U.S. personnel).

2.       He found that the “official victim enhancement” applied because the alleged intended victims were government officials.

3.      He found that the “terrorism enhancement” applied because the alleged offense was intended to influence or punish the government. (Keep in mind, Aafia was not officially charged with even one terrorism count in the indictment; and yet she received a terrorism enhancement! Berman feebly argued that the defendant’s purpose or intent factors into the equation.)

4.      He also found that a “criminal history enhancement” applied in the case. (I’m still trying to figure out his twisted rationalization behind that one.)

5.      He also found that an “obstruction of justice enhancement” applied, because Aafia gave (in his view) false testimony during the trial.

6.      Berman also found Aafia guilty of “premeditation,” based on the claim that when Aafia allegedly fired the M4 rifle at the agents and soldiers in 2008, she screamed, ‘I want to kill Americans,’ and ‘Death to America!’


Later, in an attempt to make it appear that he was truly wrestling with what would constitute the appropriate sentence for Aafia Siddiqui, he rhetorically asked: Do we sentence concurrently or consecutively?


In truth, Judge Berman exemplified nothing more than soft-spoken, anti-Muslim, pro-prosecution bigotry; bringing to mind (for this observer) one of the caustic assessments that the late NY State Supreme Court Justice Bruce Wright made about some of his fellow jurists on the bench. (As he termed it, Black Robes, White Justice)


At one point there was a rather embarrassing moment for Judge Berman, when in response to his deliberation over the issue of whether or not Aafia fired the M4 rifle, one of the prosecutors stood up to say the jury did not find that Aafia fired a weapon. The judge than clumsily remarked that he found that she did.


After being hit with what constitutes a mandatory life sentence (86 years), Dr. Aafia Siddiqui was the embodiment of faith and grace. She again partially turned toward the witnesses in the courtroom seated behind her, and counseled the Muslims to not become “emotional.”


At one point Aafia addressed the judge’s bias at the conclusion of the trial (when he charged, or instructed the empanelled jury before their deliberations). She reminded him of how he had emphasized to the jury that if they found that there was a gun in the room that Aafia potentially had access to, that they had to find her guilty on that particular gun related count.


What came next – from a mindset of forgiveness and mercy – would contrast sharply with the poor excuse for a “judge,” who presumed to preside over her fate. Aafia was clearly in a much better place, mentally and spiritually, than were Judge Richard Berman and his fellow persecutors, in that regrettable process euphemistically called a court of law.


After Berman pronounced his sentence a woman in the main courtroom, whose voice sounded familiar, hollered SHAME! SHAME! SHAME ON THIS COURT! (I was in an overflow courtroom observing the proceedings over a video monitor) I later learned that the voice – which was then threatened with removal from the court – belonged to a committed friend, Sara Flounders, of the International Action Center.


Judge Berman than expressed his concern about the absence of any psychological road map to assist Aafia in her mental health challenges; while already having expressed his belief that: (a) she really wasn’t that mentally unbalanced; and (b) even if she was, therapy “would be to no avail” anyway, because she had not been cooperative in the past. (As noted earlier, Judge Berman alternately accepted or rejected the prospect of mental illness whenever it suited his argument of the moment.)


What then followed became a lesson in faith and spiritual perseverance. Aafia counseled those present, and those who would get the news later, not to be angry at anyone involved in this case – not even the judge!


“This will shock the Muslims: I love America too…I love the whole world...”


“I am one person, and the Prophet Mohammed, peace be upon him, forgave all of his personal enemies. Forgive everybody in my case, please…the world is full of injustices…and also forgive Judge Berman.”


“I don’t want any bloodshed…I want peace and to end all wars.”


This was some of the nasiha (sincerely-given advice/counsel) offered by this incredible, long suffering, 38 year old Muslim woman. Berman feebly expressed his gratitude for Aafia’s good wishes, and said he wished all defendants were like her. (Can you believe this?)


When Judge Berman informed the defendant of her right to appeal his verdict, Aafia’s response was: “I appeal to God…and he hears me.” 


Thank you Aafia.  

Permission is given to re-publish as is, and with the appropriate attribution 

I've been informed that an estimated one million supporters came out for the demonstration below (in Karachi), and not one person was injured or killed! Al-hamdullilah (All praise belongs to ALLAH)! - MS


El-Hajj Mauri’ Saalakhan, director of THE PEACE Thru JUSTICE FOUNDATION, 11006 Veirs Mill Rd, STE L-15, PMB 298, Silver Spring, MD. 20902




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