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Rally to Free Rabih Haddad

Protesters rally in Chicago to fight for the immediate release of political prisoner Rabih Haddad.
Today is the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s birth, a day on which Americans everywhere have a chance to reflect on the message of equality between all people which Dr. King fought so hard to make a reality. It is especially offensive, therefore, that on this day, millions of Muslim Americans now have to face an unprecedented wave of persecution. To compound this injustice, since September 11th, many immigrated Muslims have been detained and denied their basic Constitutional right to dues process by the very government that is supposed to serve them.

The most recent, and one of the most gross examples of this comes with the arrest of Rabih Haddad, a Muslim-American from Ann Arbor Michigan. Haddad, who entered the U.S by legal means, was arrested on December 14th for alleged visa violations. Along with the arrest, officials seized Haddad’s family computer and tore through his children’s Ramadan presents to search for evidence. And though he has yet to be officially charged with any crime, Rabih Haddad has spent the past month in prison.

Noel Saleh, one of Haddad’s attorneys, believes that Rabih has been arrested for his work with Global Relief. On the same day as Haddad’s arrest, the assets of both Global Relief and Benevolence International were frozen. Both organizations provide humanitarian aid to the Muslim world. And though they allegedly have Al Qaeda ties, federal authorities have not yet shown any evidence to back these claims.

Faced with massive protest in Michigan, federal authorities secretly moved Haddad to the Metropolitan Correctional Facility on 71 W. Lasalle this past week.

To protest this disturbing course of events, roughly 100 activists—both Muslim and non-Muslim alike—came out to the MCF on Saturday, December 19th to show their support and demand Rabih’s immediate release. The action, organized in large part by the Chicago Coalition Against War and Racism, featured speeches from several activist organizations, as well as Rabih’s wife and brother. Rabih’s brother declared his joy at the support, saying, “All of you here today are Rabih’s family,” adding, “To John Ashcroft and George Bush, I say what are you thinking? You should be inviting people like Rabih to this country, not asking them to leave! We are not here today only to free Rabih. We are here to free all Muslims; we are here to free all Americans.”

Rabih Haddad’s imprisonment begs the question of who, exactly, John Ashcroft and George W. Bush are trying to fight in their war against terrorism. Rabih Haddad is a respected member of the Ann Arbor clergy, an assistant Imam at the Ann Arbor Mosque, and by the accounts of all that knew him, he is a peaceful man. At the rally in his favor, his wife, Salma al Rashid, quoted a letter of his, which said, “There is nothing so strong as real gentleness, nothing so gentle as real strength.” Prior to his arrest, Rabih Haddad was in the process of becoming a legal resident, which makes these sudden deportation proceedings very strange. Clearly, the federal government has singled Haddad out for other reasons. But the only way in which Haddad resembles the profile is in the fact that he is Muslim. Why would George Bush and John Ashcroft wage war on terrorism by detaining a pacifist?

Sadly, Haddad is only one of many immigrants in detention for whom due process has been ignored since September 11th. Since the war on Afghanistan began, the federal government has, under the guise of national security, has engaged in a McCarthy-style witch-hunt, targeted primarily at Muslims. Since September, many Muslim organizations have found themselves the targets of similar investigations, whether there has been evidence to support them or not.

Many have refused to stand idly by and watch as innocent Americans lose their civil rights one by one. At the rally, the National Lawyer’s Guild promised to support Haddad and to pursue his case, no matter where the government tries to move him. Also, Michigan congressmen Lynn Rivers and John Conyers have openly opposed Haddad’s detention, while recent resolutions have been passed by the Ann Arbor City Council supporting his right to a fair trial. However, as of the release of this article, Rabih Haddad remains a political prisoner, locked away and uncharged.



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