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News :: Politics
UMass Amherst meeting in support of Ayyub Abdul-Alim
by Peace Walks
17 Mar 2014
After being frisked in public and placed in a police car with no weapon, a man is searched again and police claimed he had a weapon.
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MORE THAN 100 people came out on March 6 to take part in a panel discussion titled "Islamophobia, Racism, Surveillance and Empire."
The talk was organized by the UMass Amherst branch of the International Socialist Organization, but boasted an impressive group of student co-sponsors, including the Graduate Employee Organization; Graduate Student Senate; Black Student Union; Latinos Unidos; Center for Multicultural Advancement and Student Success; Social Thought and Political Economy; the Middle Eastern Studies Program; the W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies; and the recently founded chapter of Students for Justice with Palestine.
The event was the first in a series of two discussions led by renowned authors and scholars Deepa Kumar and Arun Kundnani held at UMass and Hampshire College to further the discussion of Islamophobia and surveillance, and to spread awareness and gain support in the campaign for freedom for local organizer Ayyub Abdul-Alim.
For over two years, Ayyub has sat in Hampden County jail awaiting trial for the crime of refusing to become an informant on the local Muslim community.
Facing trumped-up gun charges that carry a sentence of up to 15 years, Ayyub is awaiting justice. He recently learned that his spouse is currently working as an informant with the local FBI and has received between $12,000 and $100,000.
In late 2013, a group came together under the banner "Justice for Ayyub" to organize around his case and call for his release. The group has organized vigils in front of the courthouse for each of Ayyub's trials, raised funds, and is planning to observe and support Ayyub at the beginning of his trial, which is set for April 10.
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DEEPA KUMAR, associate professor of Media Studies and Middle Eastern Studies at Rutgers University and author of the book Islamophobia and the Politics of Empire started off the talk with a short reflection on the state we are now living in, recalling Orwell's dystopian classic 1984 that describes a future of constant surveillance, obedience and endless war.
"We are now in a state much further than what Orwell could have even imagined."
Kumar's talk gave context to the idea of terrorism and how instead of a political designation, it became a cultural one. She cited the beginning of this transformation following the hostage situation at the 1972 Munich Olympics where the labeling of rogue militants changed from simply, "hijackers" or "rebels" into the blanket term of "terrorists."
She shared powerful statistics. "In America, you are twice as likely to be struck dead by lightning than killed in a terrorist attack." She continued, "45,000 people a year die from lack of access to health care in this country."
New York University professor and author Arun Kundnani spoke next on more individual cases of how the war on terror and classification of "terrorist" have affected communities.
For his recently published book, The Muslims are Coming! Islamophobia, Extremism and the Domestic War on Terror, Arun interviewed dozens of activists, organizers, FBI agents and police officers to understand better the effects of the global war on terror.
One striking story Arun shared was the story of Abdullah Luqman, a veteran and Black imam from Detroit.
Abdullah Luqman converted to Islam while he was in prison, influenced by the work of Jamil Al-Amin (otherwise known as H. Rap Brown, chairman of the Student Non-Violence Coordinating Committee and Black Panther organizer in the late '60s).
On October 28, 2009, following a prolonged investigation and the use of informants, Imam Luqman was shot and killed. Autopsies reveal that he was shot more than 21 times.
Both speakers had insightful and moving analyses on the current surveillance state and very clearly broke down this myth of the "terrorist threat."
When the United States government is spending over $700 billion on the military every year and people in this country are starving, there is a problem.
Rather than spending millions on "national security," the infiltration of communities and drone attacks on innocent children and civilians in Pakistan, the U.S. government should focus its energies on opening schools, creating better access to health care and housing, and bringing jobs into this country.
Here in Massachusetts, defense contractor Raytheon is the largest employer. Why are we paying people to fund and funnel endless war? And when are we going to stop it? As Deepa reminded us, "We are the 99 Percent. They are the 1 Percent. We are the many, and they are the few."
We know what's happening. Now the question is, what are we going to do about it?
SPRINGFIELD - Hampden Superior Court Judge John S. Ferrara has ruled police had the right to stop and frisk Ayyub Abdul-Alim on Dec. 9, 2011.
Abdul-Alim, 35, is facing charges of illegal possession of a ammunition and a firearm and illegal possession of a loaded firearm.
It was the gun police said they found on Abdul-Alim his lawyer Thomas E. Robinson was seeking to have thrown out of the case, saying police had no right to stop and frisk his client. Each time Abdul-Alim’s case has a court date, dozens of supporters are present and have held vigil’s outside the courthouse.
Organized under the name “Justice For Ayyub”; the group’s website said Springfield police and the FBI framed Ayyub in their attempt to get him to become an informant on the Muslim community. Ferrara, in a ruling issued Thursday, said Springfield police officers William Berrios and Anthony Sowers stop and search of Abdul-Alim, as ordered by city police officer Ronald Sheehan, met the legal criteria.
In a hearing on the motion to suppress the police stop Siham Nafi Stewart, Abdul-Alim’s wife, testified she called Sheehan Dec. 9, 2011, and told him her husband just left their 683 State St. apartment with a gun.
She said she had had previous contact with Sheehan when she went to the police station and told him her husband - with whom she and their small child lived - was involved in drug dealing and had a gun. Ferrara wrote Sheehan was a 25 year veteran of the city police and also serves on a joint federal and state terrorism task force.
Stewart testified she was watching out the window as Sowers conducted a pat frisk of her husband and did not feel a firearm and put Abdul-Alim in the cruiser. She said she then called Sheehan, who was nearby, on his cell phone and told him Abdul-Alim had the gun in his underwear. Berrios then conducted a pat frisk and felt the gun, which was removed.
Members of Justice For Ayyub contend the gun was planted on Abdul-Alim after no gun was found in the first pat frisk. Sheehan testified in the hearing after Abdul-Alim was arrested he continued to get information from Stewart, but not about Abdul-Alim’s arrest.
Sheehan said she received a total of $11,929 in five or six payments from law enforcement. He said he gave her some of the cash payments, and he was present when federal law enforcement personnel gave her payments. Berrios testified Sowers did not do a thorough pat frisk and did not feel the gun.
He said he took Abdul-Alim out of the cruiser and did a more thorough pat frisk and found a lump in the groin area. He said they then put Abdul-Alim back in the cruiser, unzipped his pants and got the gun.
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