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American Muslim

Baltimore Chronicle - May 12, 2004

Six Religious and Human Rights Groups
 Call for Rumsfeld's Resignation

"We are outraged at the larger culture of illegal behavior that is manifested by torture, indefinite detentions, collective punishment, the indiscriminate use of force, and the premise of guilty until proven innocent."

MAY 12, 2004--At a press conference on Wed., May 12 at Masjid Dar El-Salam Mosque in Sanf Francisco, six leaders of Bay Area religious and human rights groups gathered to make a public statement. These individuals were: Rayan El-Amine, Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee; Medea Benjamin, Global Exchange; Samina Faheem Sundas, American Muslim Voice; Souleiman Ghali, Islamic Society of San Francisco; Rabbi Michael Lerner, Beyt Tikkun Synagogue; and Van Jones, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights.

Their joint public statement of the participants reads as follows:

We are outraged at the torture and extreme humiliation of Iraqi prisoners. We are outraged at the egregious violations of due process in US-run prisons from Guantanamo to Afghanistan to Iraq, where the Geneva conventions that have governed the treatment of prisoners of war for decades have been cast aside. We are outraged at the larger culture of illegal behavior that is manifested by torture, indefinite detentions, collective punishment, the indiscriminate use of force, and the premise of guilty until proven innocent.

This culture of illegal behavior has been set at the highest level, and responsibility needs to be taken at the highest level. That is why we are coming together to call for the resignation of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

Personal statements of participants in the press conference included:

"The soldiers who abused the Iraqi prisoners must be punished. But it is not enough to only castigate those low level soldiers, many of them reservists, who physically committed the abuses," said Samina Faheem Sundas of American Muslim Voice. "In order to demonstrate to the world that the American people will not tolerate torture, accountability must reach all the way up the chain of command."

"The fundamental Biblical injunction to treat every human being as though s/he was an embodiment of the Image of God is being systematically violated in our military prisons in Iraq and Guantanamo," said Rabbi Lerner. "Jews, who have too often been the victims of torture throughout our history, are particularly outraged that these practices continue in Iraq and are funded by our tax dollars."

"It is Donald Rumsfeld's responsibility to guarantee that the US is abiding by the Geneva Conventions, and he has utterly failed to do so," says Medea Benjamin of the human rights group Global Exchange. "Apologies, although necessary, will fall flat if the international community does not see that those at the highest rank are held responsible."

"With responsibility comes accountability," says Souleiman Ghali, president of the Islamic Society of San Francisco. "It is time for Mr. Rumsfeld to put the interests of America before his personal interests, and resign."

The participating groups are calling on members of the religious and human rights community around the US to join them in their call for Rumsfeld's resignation.

For more information, visit FireRumsfeld.org.

San Francisco Chronicle – May 13, 2004

Local Muslims respond to horrible images from Baghdad
 They say Arabs treated badly both in U.S. and Iraq

By Don Lattin

Souleiman Ghali, the president of the Islamic Society of San Francisco, had just seen the entire video of the beheading of Nick Berg, a Jewish American civilian in Iraq, by Muslim extremists chanting "God is Great. "

Before that, he'd seen the photos of the nude Iraqi prisoners degraded and humiliated by jeering U.S. soldiers.

They were all horrifying images, and sickeningly reminiscent of the days Ghali lived through the civil war in Lebanon, where he saw alleged spies burned alive in the streets of Beirut and dogs feeding on human remains.

"Each one accuses the other of terrorism,'' said Ghali, sitting at a table in his second-story mosque. "Where does it all end? Humanity has reached a level so low, so sad, so horrendous. May God have mercy on us.''

Sharing the table at his Tenderloin mosque on Wednesday were a rabbi, a Methodist minister and three other political activists. Before the images of Berg's execution shocked the nation, they had scheduled a news conference at the mosque to call for the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

Ghali was the fifth speaker to address the media, but the first to mention the beheading of Berg.

When the sixth and final speaker finished her remarks, the reporters were asked if they had any questions.

"Where is the outrage in the Muslim community over Nick Berg?" one of them asked.

Jess Ghannan of the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee, one of the speakers who hadn't mentioned Berg, took the microphone.

"Of course there is outrage at what happened to Nick Berg,'' Ghannan replied. "But why is this happening? It is happening because of the occupation. The occupying forces are responsible for the chaos in Iraq."

Joining Ghannan and Ghali at the news conference was Rabbi Michael Lerner of Beyt Tikkun Synagogue, the Rev. John Oda of the United Methodist Church, Muslim activist Samina Faheen, and Medea Benjamin of the human rights group Global Exchange.

Several speakers saw a connection between the abuse of prisoners in Iraq, the treatment of alleged terrorists at U.S.-run prisons from Afghanistan to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and the detention and deportation of many Arab and Muslim immigrants in the United States. "There is systematic torture of Arabs and Muslims both here and in Iraq, '' Ghannan said.

His comments come on the heels of a new state report examining the impact of Sept. 11 and the U.S. Patriot Act on Muslims in California. The 60-page report, released Tuesday by the California Senate Office of Research, summarizes "instances of cruel and illegal treatment of Muslims by federal authorities." It was undertaken at the request of state Sen. Liz Figueroa, D-Fremont, whose district includes several large Muslim communities in the East Bay and San Jose area.

Relying largely on previous investigations and media reports, the study concluded that many Muslim, South Asian and Arab immigrants in California have faced "humiliation, embarrassment and intrusions of privacy." It blames these incidents on the sometimes overzealous enforcement of the Patriot Act, including indefinite detentions, secret searches and surveillance and the monitoring of computer traffic.

Passed by Congress and signed by President Bush just 45 days after the events of Sept. 11, 2001, the controversial Patriot Act gave federal agents broad new powers to investigate those it suspects to be terrorists. Those investigations have focused on citizens, immigrants and foreign visitors of Arab, South Asian and Islamic descent.

The state report estimates that 60 percent of the 800,000 Muslims in California are "in some category of foreign visitor or certified immigrant."

FBI surveys of mosques in California and across the nation have caused "widespread apprehension among community members who believe they were being scrutinized based on religious association."

"To date," the report states, "out of no such activity in California has a successful prosecution of an accused terrorist been reported."


Mercury News – May 13, 2004

National Internet campaign calls for ouster of Rumsfeld

By Cecilia Kang

Bay Area human rights activists and religious leaders launched a national Internet campaign Wednesday, calling for the ouster of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld over the abuse of Iraqi prisoners.

On their Web site, www.firerumsfeld.org, the Muslim, Jewish, and human rights leaders who are behind the campaign ask visitors to send letters to Republican senators, asking them to pressure Pentagon leaders to fire Rumsfeld.

``We've had enough,'' said Medea Benjamin, who is the executive director of the human rights group Global Exchange and who created the Web site.

Benjamin and the groups, including the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee, American Muslim Voice and Rabbi Michael Lerner from Beyt Tikkun Synagogue, held a press conference Wednesday at the Masjid Dar El-Salam Mosque in San Francisco to announce the launch of the Web site.