AMV know your rights forum at Woodland Mosque
By Nosheen Khan
The American Muslim Voice, American Civil Liberties Union and Woodland Mosque held “Know Your Rights” forum at the Woodland, CA mosque on July 10 2005. The forum was held in the backdrop of high profile arrests in Lodi, CA, where an American Pakistani, Hamid Hayat, 22, and his father, Umer Hayat, 47 were arrested in a terrorist probe while in the court, the FBI changed the affidavit and charged them only with lying to the FBI. Since then three other Pakistanis, two respected Imams and son of one of the Imams have also been arrested in Lodi for alleged immigration violations while the Pakistani community in Lodi reported harassment by the FBI, which questioned many people.
This forum was very inspiring, informative and an eye opener. “Not to speak to the police, FBI and any other law enforcement agencies without the presence of an attorney’s” was the main topic covered by each one of the speakers. There were several excellent speakers at this event.
Attorney Dean Johanson, Vice President of The ACLU Sacramento Chapter, made a power point presentation. He talked about the events that have been happening in Lodi and how the FBI 24/7 is monitoring the Lodi mosque. There are several FBI agents and a Cessna 182 that monitors the activities in and around the mosque, observing occupants, and every movement that they make. Mr. Johanson has been Criminal Defense Attorney for 11 years.
Mr. Johanson started his presentation with George Santayana’s illuminative quotation: “Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.” He reminded the audience that the fourth amendment is the most important amendment when it comes to speaking to the police. In order for police to enter your home, the police/FBI needs a “probable cause” and “signed consent from the court of law”. He insisted about three things:
1- You have the right to say no and right for an attorney
2- The Police will have to get a subpoena to question you
3- You have the right to say no to a search unless they have a Search Warrant Maya Jones
ACLU was first to address people in Lodi regarding their rights that they have the right to not speak to the Police/FBI and to ask for an attorney. He talked about Jose Padilla who is an American being held without a due process for years.
Attorney, Mahir T. Sharif also agreed with Mr. Johanson.
Mr. Sharif flew from San Diego to speak at this event. He came to United States in 1981 and has been practicing Law since 1987. Recently, he has been representing Muslims who were targeted by the law enforcement authorities. He is the only attorney in Southern California to have taken two "terrorism" trials to a jury and both times have won a not guilty verdict for his clients.
He emphasized that it is American to work for your family and it is American to say No to the Police when come to talk to you. He insisted that it is extremely important to understand that “words are what kill you in the court of law” so do not speak to the police without an attorney’s presence because “at least they won’t have your words to use against you”.
He also emphasized the importance of a united community. “A division will hurt your community”. United you will be strong and divided you will be hurt”. In this context, he Norbie Kumagai
talked about how the Somali community came together to support one of them who had been accused of lying regarding his association with terror links. He believes that the Somalis coming together for their community leader made a difference. By being there, the Somali community made statements like we love this man and he is important to the community. He talked about how prior to 9/11; the FBI did not’t have Anti-Terrorism training. They were trained in drugs. Since drugs are run by families and FBI is using the same logic here in terror cases. They are using “Guilt by Association” logic in terror cases. So if you have links with terrorism then your mother, father, brothers, sisters and uncles do too.
Attorney Sharif also talked about how we are all “ambassadors from our communities” and we should always show the good side and be humble. He said the pattern in all these cases has been that “Terrorism has been there but these people are not charged with terrorism”. “It is our Job to Defend our people” by supporting these people.
Mr. Norbie Kumagai, Japanese community leader/ ACLU Sacramento Chapter shared his community’s history during the World War II. He said, “Being patriotic means exercising your constitutional rights”. Since September 11, he has been speaking about Japanese American Experiences more then he is done during his whole life, he said.
Jeff Paterson, Max Diorio and Maya Jones from Not In Our Name talked about the organization and 3 points of unity. 1: No war on the world, End the occupation 2: No Detentions and roundups of the immigrants, Stop attacks on immigrants. 3: No police State Restrictions, Defend Civil Liberties. Not in Our Name is the oldest organization to come out in support of American Muslims since September 11. She said, “It is empowering to be at a gathering like this one. What’s happening is so wrong and blatant and Not In Our Name does not support it.” We have been working with AMV since past two years and want to continue supporting AMV and Muslim community.
Mr. Khalid Saeed, American Muslim Voice Director for Northern California and ACLU’s member, also agreed with the forum speakers that people should know their rights and the need for the community to come together and support its members. He said this is the time to stand by each other and show support by attending the court hearing of the detained. We need to remember that by the law of our great nation" A man is innocent until proven guilty.
Ms. Samina Faheem Sundas, Founder and Executive Director of the American Muslim Voice, spoke about the importance of unity especially during the times of trouble. She said, “Good things happen only when people come together and stand by each other to speak against injustice and to create a culture of peace and harmony. We can change the system when we support one another and resist the oppressing and unjust policies. Norbie Kumagai with Mahir Sharif
That is the only way we can make a difference.
She stated that there are so many fellow Americans who are in the front rows and making a human shield for us. They are fighting for the protection of our constitutional rights but we must join them and learn to fight for our freedom and civil rights “The True Islamic Nonviolent Way”.
“We need to get over our fear and be in the driver’s seat of our own future. As a community and as individuals we must find courage, whether we have to rent it, borrow it or buy it. As a Muslim I believe that there is a day destined for my departure from this world and no one can change that. That is the single most important factor in removing fear from my life. Most of our fellow Americans are open-minded, kind and compassionate people and if we will share our stories and the plight of Muslims and Arabs with them since 9/11. They will be more of them supporting us. We need to build relationships, make alliances and build safer and harmonious communities together.”
She insisted that we need to unite just like the “brotherhood of Migration” at the time of Prophet Mohammad (Peace Be Upon Him)’s from Mecca to Medina.
Samina also talked about “Adopt a Family/Friend” concept. This idea came to me as I was assisting families during the INS special registration operating a nationwide hot line. “When the head of the households were in detentions and ultimately were deported, no body was there to help the families cope with the situation. So many of the wives were homemakers and did not know how to mange their lives and the needs of their children without their partners. They were ashamed of the situation they were in and did not want any family member or friend to know their situation. If we had this program “ Adopt a family/friend” established at that time they would have a choice available to them, to stay in the USA with their US born children. This way we can link people together through neighborhoods, schools, workplaces, organizations, and places of worships. Adopting a family or friend will create that hope and sense of safety that we all desire.”
She concluded by saying that "make no mistake if there is a genuine threat to our nation we will defend our homeland together".
Altaf Bhimji from the Bay Area Green Party was there to talk about how they are trying to come up with a proposal regarding “what is it that they can do” or “what kind of service can they provide to Muslim community that would meet their needs to the best”. “Since our communities are isolated and are not connected to others communities, they will work with American Muslim Voice to come up with a proposal regarding how can they help the community and member during the times of their needs,” he added.
Last but not least President of Woodland Mosque Mr. Riaz Ahmed thanked everyone for being there at this important informative session.
Nosheen Khan is the AMV Chapter President of the Chico, CA and a software consultant.
About American Muslim Voice: We are a grassroots, nonviolent, inclusive, civil, immigrant and human rights organization building alliances and genuine partnership with like minded groups and individuals to protect and preserve civil liberties and constitutional rights for ALL. Our goal is to bridge the gap between all communities and unite us all under the umbrella of our common humanity