Wednesday, July 25, 2007

[wvns] Massachusetts Imam Persecuted

Muslim American Society of Boston (MAS Boston) Holds Press Conference
to Challenge Witch Hunt Against Muslim Community Leadership
July 25, 2007
http://www.masboston.org/index.php?section=128


MAS Boston held a press conference yesterday at the Moakley Federal
Courthouse in Boston to express shock and dismay at the government's
actions against Imam Masood and other leaders from the Muslim
community. Speaking at this press conference were the Arab-American
Anti-Discrimination Committee, the American Civil Liberties Union
(ACLU), Rabbi Barry Starr from Temple Israel in Sharon, Imam Abdullah
Faaruuq from the Mosque for the Praising of Allah in Roxbury. The
court room was packed beyond capacity and a crowd of over 45
supporters from the Muslim and other communities had gathered to
support the Imam at the hearing on just a few hours notice. All of the
Imams from the Greater Boston area also came in support. The Press
conference was covered by the NPR and the Boston Globe, both of which
gave good coverage to the story today.

Our concern revolves around the fact that last Thursday, the US
Attorney's Office, interrogated Imam Masood for six hours during which
he was threatened with jail, "humiliation" and abandonment from the
community, unless he "cooperated." Cooperation included answering
questions about various respected mainstream leaders and organizations
in the Boston Muslim community, many of whom are involved in a monthly
dialogue project with law enforcement agencies called BRIDGES
(Building Respect in Diverse Groups to Enhance Sensitivity). The goal
of the questioning was apparently to seek incriminating information
against community leaders even though it does not exist. The Imam did
not have information which the US Attorney's office was apparently
hoping for. He was then informed that he would be criminally charged
in two days.

At the hearing, Imam Masood was charged with a criminal complaint for
charges similar to what the Imam is already facing in immigration
court. The government alleges that Imam Masood misrepresented himself
to federal agents during the immigration process with respect to
whether he fulfilled the requirement of going back to Pakistan for 2
years between his J-visa and R-visa, whether he received state
benefits, and other such details. There is no charge even remotely
related to security or terror even though the case is being pursued by
the US Attorney's anti-terrorism unit. The judge mentioned the maximum
penalty as 10 years imprisonment and $250,000 of fines. Imam Masood
was released on $10,000 unsecured bond, meaning he did not have to pay
yesterday to be released.

We maintain that the transferring this matter from immigration
proceedings to criminal charges is punitive and vindictive on the part
of the government and is apparently a tactic to intimidate Imam Masood
into yield incriminating information about the Boston Muslim
communities' leaders even though such information does not exist. This
is a tremendous waste of taxpayer money and resources and takes
attention away from pursuing real threats to security.

Furthermore, this irresponsible action deals a strong blow to two
years of efforts in the unique BRIDGES initiative, which brought
together Muslim, Arab and Sikh community leadership into dialogue with
law enforcement agencies of Greater Boston. The purpose of these
meetings was to establish a forum in which both parties can discuss
relevant concerns in an atmosphere of transparency and mutual trust,
and achieve a concerted effort towards security. Building this forum
took a lot of effort from both sides and the Muslim and Arab
communities remain committed to the idea of such forums.

The BRIDGES forum allowed every opportunity to discuss with leaders of
the community any concerns or fears and also provided an open
invitation to mosques and any meetings with community members.
However, the US Attorney's Office has chosen to harass a leader in the
Muslim community and apparently indulge in an expensive,
community-wide witch hunt that will not result in uncovering real
threats to security.


LINK to BOSTON GLOBE ARTICLE:
http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2007/07/24/mosque_leader_accused_of_immigration_fraud/

PLEASE DONATE TO HELP TOWARDS IMAM MASOOD's SITUATION:
http://www.masboston.org/donations.php?fund=Civil%20Rights%20Defense%20Fund


ESCALATION OF IMAM MASOOD'S CASE

Major Setback in Muslim-Law Enforcement Relations
Reckless Witch Hunt Against Muslim And Arab Community Destroys Two
Years of Progress in a Unique Trust Building Initiative with
Law-Enforcement

Boston, MA – July 23, 2007

US Attorney's Office intimidates Muslim Leader in a seeming attempt to
incriminate various leaders and organizations in the Muslim community
Two years of progress in a unique trust-building initiative between
Muslim Community and Law Enforcement destroyed Imam Masood to be
charged today with a criminal complaint that has nothing to do with
terror or securityMuslim Community outraged and in full support of
Imam Masood

In an extremely disappointing and shocking development that destroys a
unique, two-year, trust-building initiative between law enforcement
and Boston Muslim, Arab and Sikh communities, the US Attorney's office
has tried to intimidate a deeply-respected Boston Muslim leader, Imam
Masood, into giving or manufacturing incriminating information about
several mainstream Boston Muslim leaders and organizations.

Imam Masood has been an active and upstanding member of the Sharon
community for over a decade. He has a wife and eight children, three
of whom are US citizens. He has always stood for peace, interfaith
cooperation and civic engagement. He is a strong proponent of
interfaith dialogue and enjoys much support from the broader Sharon
clergy. Imam Masood was thus far being prosecuted on minor immigration
technicalities.

Last Thursday, the US Attorney's Office, interrogated Imam Masood for
six hours during which he was threatened with jail, "humiliation" and
abandonment from the community, unless he "cooperated." Cooperation
entailed answering questions about many well respected mainstream
leaders and organizations in the Boston Muslim community, many of whom
are involved in a monthly dialogue project with law enforcement
agencies called BRIDGES (Building Respect in Diverse Groups to Enhance
Sensitivity). This fishing expedition is an apparent witch hunt to
seek or manufacture any sort of incriminating information against
community leaders. The Imam did not have information which the US
Attorney's office was apparently hoping for. Consequently he was
informed that he will be indicted and that he will stand Monday July
23rd at the U.S. District Court 1 Courthouse Way, Courtroom 24, 7th
Floor at 2:30 pm to be charged with a criminal complaint.

Among the potential charges are minor civic infractions involving car
registration violation, an error on a health insurance application and
an alleged minor discrepancy on a previous visa. This is a tremendous
waste of taxpayer money and resources and takes attention away from
pursuing real threats to security.

Furthermore, this irresponsible action deals a strong blow to two
years of efforts in the unique BRIDGES initiative, which brought
together Muslim, Arab and Sikh community leadership into dialogue with
law enforcement agencies of Greater Boston. The purpose of these
meetings was to establish a forum in which both parties can discuss
relevant concerns in an atmosphere of transparency and mutual trust,
and achieve a concerted effort towards security. Building this forum
took a lot of effort from both sides and the Muslim and Arab
communities remain committed to the idea of such forums.

The BRIDGES forum allowed every opportunity to discuss with leaders of
the community any concerns or fears and also provided an open
invitation to mosques and any meetings with community members.
However, the US Attorney's Office has chosen to harass a leader in the
Muslim community and indulge in an expensive, community-wide witch
hunt that will not result in uncovering real threats to security.

The Muslim American Society (MAS Boston), the American Arab
Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC-MA), and the Islamic Council of New
England will be available for statements at 1 Courthouse Way after the
indictment hearing of Imam Masood at 2:30pm on Monday July 23rd.


Please donate towards his situation at:

http://www.masboston.org/donations.php?fund=Civil%20Rights%20Defense%20Fund

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