The US is presently engaged in an intensive witch-hunt against Islamic movement activists all over the world, on the grounds that they are part of an ‘international terror network’ controlled by Osama bin Ladin and responsible for the bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and numerous other ‘terrorist acts’ against US installations and interests around the world. Most of this witch-hunt is seen only in the small print of newspapers. Over the last year, numerous single-paragraph stories have told of Muslims being arrested in various countries and extradited for trial in the US. In some western countries, the UK for example, some semblance of standard extradition procedures is followed, although it is doubtful whether the arrested persons are given the sort of consideration being afforded to former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, or even whether normal standards of evidence are followed. It is far more likely that the fact that the US wants them is considered evidence enough by courts in other western countries. In many other countries, including most pro-western Muslim ones, legal procedures are regarded as an unnecessary inconvenience. The wanted men can simply be arrested and handed over to the US authorities without further ado.
The fate awaiting these men in the US is not promising. Courts and juries are perfectly willing to be manipulated by government prosecuters who have no qualms about inventing evidence and testimony to suit their purpose. The case of Shaikh Omar Abdul Rahman, imprisoned in the US for the last six years, after being convicted on evidence which amounted to no more than that a man accused of bombing the World Trade Centre in 1992 attended his mosque, is proof enough of that. The sad truth is that once these Muslims are arrested and pass into the US judicial system, it is pretty much over for them. High-faluting liberal principles such as ‘innocent until proven guilty’ or ‘it is better to let 100 guilty men walk free than to jail one innocent man’ have no meaning here.
This international witch-hunt is, of course, just one facet of a concerted international strategy for fighting the Islamic movement. Other facets include the legislation being introduced or recently enacted in the US, Britain, France and other western countries to control the political activities of resident or citizen Muslims. In the US, Muslims are campaigning against the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, under which people can be arrested and punished on ‘secret evidence’, without any opportunity to defend themselves. In Britain, the first case under new legislation outlawing ‘conspiring to commit terrorist acts abroad’ - which is loose enough to cover any unwelcome political activity - is presently being heard. France has long had stringent legislation which it has used against Algerians suspected of supporting the Islamic movement in Algeria.
Legal mechanisms are tools of convenience, of course. They simply make it easier for governments to do what they can already do in any case if they want to. It has long been known that western governments can find grounds to arrest and imprison people if and when it suits them. The holding of Algerian activist Anouar Haddam and the Palestinian Abu Marzouk in the US are cases in point. A Muslim arrested in the US last year, interrogated and then deported on a legal technicality, was told by FBI agents that “if you do not co-operate, we can do to you what we have done to Abu Marzook.” Nor do western governments have any qualms about returning people for interrogation, torture and execution at the hands of Muslim regimes such as Algeria and Egypt, when it suits them.
The west has built a carefully-cultivated image of liberal principles and the ‘rule of law’. Even in warfare, it claims to follow ‘the rules of war’ agreed by the UN and other international bodies and conventions. But we have repeatedly seen that the US is perfectly willing to break those rules whenever it suits them: in Iraq, Sudan, Afghanistan, for example. What Muslims - particularly Muslims in the west - must realize is that there is no rule of law for individuals either, if those individuals are identified as enemies of the west. The west has identified Islam and Muslims as enemies to be fought and destroyed. Until Muslims realize this simple fact, we will not be able to take effective action against this western war on Islam and Muslims.
Muslimedia: September 1-15, 1999