Tarek Mehanna’s Powerful Statement As He Received a 17-Year Sentence Despite Having Harmed No One

14.4.12

What a disgrace. On Thursday, Tarek Mehanna, a 29-year old pharmacist from Sudbury, Massachusetts, was sentenced to 17 and half years in prison, after being found guilty in December on seven charges, including “providing material support to terrorists,” conspiracy to kill in a foreign country and lying to law enforcement officers. Perhaps that sounds appropriate, but as Nancy Murray of the ACLU explained in an article for the Boston Globe, the extent of his involvement in “terrorism” was that he had “emailed friends, downloaded videos, translated and posted documents on the web, and traveled to and from Yemen in 2004.”

She continued, “No evidence was presented in court directly linking him to a terrorist group. He never hatched a plot — indeed, he objected when a friend (who went on to become a government informer and has never been charged with anything) proposed plans to stage violent attacks within the United States. He never had a weapon.” Although Mehanna did lie to the FBI, there was no justification for prosecutor Aloke Chakravarty to stress the “gravity” of Mehanna’s offences, but it fitted — and fits — a pattern of demonizing Muslims, even when there are first amendment issues, involving free speech, even when there is evidence of dubious FBI activity, and even when it is undisputed that Tehanna never raised arms against anyone, and never believed that it was just or appropriate to attack any American on US soil.

According to Aloke Chakravarty, however, over ten years ago Tarek Mehanna “‘began to radicalize’” and to radicalize others to ‘visit violence’ on Americans,” The prosecutor also alleged that, although Mehanna “failed in his efforts to find a terrorist training camp when he visited Yemen in 2004, he found his niche … serving as the ‘media wing’ of al-Qaeda, translating documents, and sharing videos.”

In contrast, defense attorney Jay Carney pointed out that Mehanna was in fact being “punished for activity protected by the First Amendment, for translating documents freely available in Arabic on the Internet and for his refusal to be an informant.” Carney “asked the judge to focus on ‘what the defendant did and did not do’ — he went to Yemen for one week eight years ago. He refused to go to Iraq with the friend whom the government later enlisted as an informer. He was under close FBI scrutiny for more than eight years — if he was so dangerous, why did the FBI wait so long to arrest him?”

The answer, as Jay Carney noted, is that, firstly, the FBI wanted to turn Mehanna into an informant, and when that failed they decided to have him prosecuted as a terrorist. The contrast with the case of a David Stone and his anti-government militia — a nine-man, heavily armed Christian militia, who conducted “military-style training in preparation for a terrorist attack involving the bombing of a funeral for the police officer they had killed three days earlier” — could hardly be greater. While Mehanna received a 17-year sentence, Stone and his violent white friends were acquitted just two weeks ago by a federal judge in Michigan, who “said they were just venting and exercising their First Amendment rights.”

Unfortunately, in recent years, the post-9/11 distortions that led to the establishment of Guantánamo, an official torture program and the institutional demonization of Muslims has not been done away with, and, in fact, seems only to have become normalized and invigorated — partly through the cynical machinations of Republicans and the rightwing media, who have focused on creating a new wave of fearmongering in response to failed terrorist attacks like that of the inept would-be plane bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab in December 2009. Nancy Murray, for example, pointed out that, in June 2004, a jury in Idaho “found that the web activity carried out by a Saudi graduate student, Sami Omar al-Hussayyen,” who “had been indicted in a blaze of publicity for setting up websites for Islamic organizations and posting inflammatory messages on the Internet,” was “protected by the First Amendment.” At his trial, the defense team’s only witness was “a former CIA operative who cast doubt on the government’s assertion that people become jihadists because of what they read online.”

Noting that, “as in the Sami al-Hussayen case, the prosecution in the Mehanna case made the material support statute a vehicle for the suppression of unpopular ideas that fall within the boundaries of the First Amendment — including watching ‘Jihadi’ videos with others, lending CDs to ‘create like-minded youth,’ [and] translating texts freely available on the internet,” Murray surmised that Mehanna’s case had turned out differently not just because of the fearmongering I outlined above, but also because of “the widespread acceptance of the notion of a ‘domestic radicalization process’ promoted through internet activity, which was first put forward by the New York Police Department in its 2007 report, ‘Radicalization in the West: The Homegrown Threat.” Ironically, she added, “This is the same NYPD which mapped its ethnic communities, carried out wholesale monitoring of Muslims, and in the years ahead, would screen the Islamophobic film “The Third Jihad” to nearly 1500 of its new recruits and officers.”

Murray continued, “For the prosecution, Tarek Mehanna serves as a poster boy for the radicalization thesis:  a dangerous ‘violent extremist’ who ‘lived a double life’ and never ‘expressed any remorse for his crimes.'” She added, however, that the radicalization scenario used by the prosecution was anything but objective. As well as drawing on the NYPD view, “submissions forwarded by the US Attorney’s Office to Judge George O’Toole” also included “a May 2008 staff report from the Senate Homeland Security Committee, ‘Violent Islamic Extremism, The Internet and the Homegrown Terrorist Threat,'” which, as Murray notes, “reads like a primer on the government’s case against Mehanna.”

She added that those quoted in the report include Lawrence Sanchez, Assistant Commissioner of the NYPD’s Intelligence Division, “who, thanks to an investigation by the Associated Press, we now know to be a CIA operative and the architect of the NYPD’s blanket monitoring of Muslims,” although another source quoted in the report, Dr. Marc Sageman, a former CIA Operations officer and counter-terrorism expert, actually “testified for the defense in the Mehanna trial,” and took “a similar line to the CIA operative who testified for Sami Omar al Hussayyen,” arguing that the videos which Mehanna downloaded and shared “were insignificant as recruiting tools.”

In conclusion, Murray noted that, although the prosecution “showed 9/11 videos to the jury and sprinkled its language during the trial and in its sentencing memorandum with repeated references to al-Qaeda,” the defense maintained that the government’s persistent attempts to portray Mehanna as “weaving some kind of spell over others to bring them into a terrorist cell” was “a fantasy of the government’s own making.” In her closing argument at the trial, defense attorney Janice Bassil had effectively debunked the government’s claims, stating that “the only idea that Tarek Mehanna had in common with al-Qaeda is that Muslims had the right and the obligation to defend themselves when they were attacked in their own lands. And we believe that. When the British came to reassert their hold over America — let’s face it, we were a colony — we fought back. We rebelled. We defended our land.” However, as Murray noted in her concluding comments, “The lesson of the Mehanna case is that where Muslims are concerned, sentiments like these could constitute ‘thought crime.’”

While this is an excellent summary of the supposed case against Tarek Mehanna and its horrendous distortions, the clearest defense of Tarek Mehanna’s actions came from Mehanna himself, in the following statement which he read during his sentencing, and which I hope you have the time to read in full, as it is a clear explanation of the principles of self-defence — from an American perspective, and then from the perspective of a Muslim American — which motivated Mehanna, and which he has refused to disown, even when trapped and betrayed by the FBI for the “crime” of refusing to become an informant. As he explained in a key passage:

“[T]his trial was not about my position on Muslims killing American civilians. It was about my position on Americans killing Muslim civilians, which is that Muslims should defend their lands from foreign invaders — Soviets, Americans, or Martians. This is what I believe. It’s what I’ve always believed, and what I will always believe. This is not terrorism, and it’s not extremism. It’s the simple logic of self-defense.

Tarek Mehanna’s statement, read to Judge O’Toole during his sentencing, April 12, 2012

In the name of God the most gracious the most merciful,

Exactly four years ago this month I was finishing my work shift at a local hospital. As I was walking to my car I was approached by two federal agents. They said that I had a choice to make: I could do things the easy way, or I could do them the hard way. The “easy“ way, as they explained, was that I would become an informant for the government, and if I did so I would never see the inside of a courtroom or a prison cell. As for the hard way, this is it. Here I am, having spent the majority of the four years since then in a solitary cell the size of a small closet, in which I am locked down for 23 hours each day. The FBI and these prosecutors worked very hard — and the government spent millions of tax dollars — to put me in that cell, keep me there, put me on trial, and finally to have me stand here before you today to be sentenced to even more time in a cell.

In the weeks leading up to this moment, many people have offered suggestions as to what I should say to you. Some said I should plead for mercy in hopes of a light sentence, while others suggested I would be hit hard either way. But what I want to do is just talk about myself for a few minutes.

When I refused to become an informant, the government responded by charging me with the “crime” of supporting the mujahideen fighting the occupation of Muslim countries around the world. Or as they like to call them, “terrorists.” I wasn’t born in a Muslim country, though. I was born and raised right here in America and this angers many people: how is it that I can be an American and believe the things I believe, take the positions I take? Everything a man is exposed to in his environment becomes an ingredient that shapes his outlook, and I’m no different. So, in more ways than one, it’s because of America that I am who I am.

When I was six, I began putting together a massive collection of comic books. Batman implanted a concept in my mind, introduced me to a paradigm as to how the world is set up: that there are oppressors, there are the oppressed, and there are those who step up to defend the oppressed. This resonated with me so much that throughout the rest of my childhood, I gravitated towards any book that reflected that paradigm — Uncle Tom’s Cabin, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, and I even saw an ethical dimension to The Catcher in the Rye.

By the time I began high school and took a real history class, I was learning just how real that paradigm is in the world. I learned about the Native Americans and what befell them at the hands of European settlers. I learned about how the descendants of those European settlers were in turn oppressed under the tyranny of King George III. I read about Paul Revere, Tom Paine, and how Americans began an armed insurgency against British forces — an insurgency we now celebrate as the American revolutionary war. As a kid I even went on school field trips just blocks away from where we sit now. I learned about Harriet Tubman, Nat Turner, John Brown, and the fight against slavery in this country. I learned about Emma Goldman, Eugene Debs, and the struggles of the labor unions, working class, and poor. I learned about Anne Frank, the Nazis, and how they persecuted minorities and imprisoned dissidents. I learned about Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, and the civil rights struggle. I learned about Ho Chi Minh, and how the Vietnamese fought for decades to liberate themselves from one invader after another. I learned about Nelson Mandela and the fight against apartheid in South Africa.

Everything I learned in those years confirmed what I was beginning to learn when I was six: that throughout history, there has been a constant struggle between the oppressed and their oppressors. With each struggle I learned about, I found myself consistently siding with the oppressed, and consistently respecting those who stepped up to defend them — regardless of nationality, regardless of religion. And I never threw my class notes away. As I stand here speaking, they are in a neat pile in my bedroom closet at home.

From all the historical figures I learned about, one stood out above the rest. I was impressed by many things about Malcolm X, but above all, I was fascinated by the idea of transformation, his transformation. I don’t know if you’ve seen the movie “X” by Spike Lee, it’s over three and a half hours long, and the Malcolm at the beginning is different from the Malcolm at the end. He starts off as an illiterate criminal, but ends up a husband, a father, a protective and eloquent leader for his people, a disciplined Muslim performing the Hajj in Makkah, and finally, a martyr.

Malcolm’s life taught me that Islam is not something inherited; it’s not a culture or ethnicity. It’s a way of life, a state of mind anyone can choose no matter where they come from or how they were raised. This led me to look deeper into Islam, and I was hooked. I was just a teenager, but Islam answered the question that the greatest scientific minds were clueless about, the question that drives the rich & famous to depression and suicide from being unable to answer: what is the purpose of life? Why do we exist in this Universe? But it also answered the question of how we’re supposed to exist. And since there’s no hierarchy or priesthood, I could directly and immediately begin digging into the texts of the Qur’an and the teachings of Prophet Muhammad, to begin the journey of understanding what this was all about, the implications of Islam for me as a human being, as an individual, for the people around me, for the world; and the more I learned, the more I valued Islam like a piece of gold. This was when I was a teen, but even today, despite the pressures of the last few years, I stand here before you, and everyone else in this courtroom, as a very proud Muslim.

With that, my attention turned to what was happening to other Muslims in different parts of the world. And everywhere I looked, I saw the powers that be trying to destroy what I loved. I learned what the Soviets had done to the Muslims of Afghanistan. I learned what the Serbs had done to the Muslims of Bosnia. I learned what the Russians were doing to the Muslims of Chechnya. I learned what Israel had done in Lebanon — and what it continues to do in Palestine — with the full backing of the United States. And I learned what America itself was doing to Muslims.

I learned about the Gulf War, and the depleted uranium bombs that killed thousands and caused cancer rates to skyrocket across Iraq. I learned about the American-led sanctions that prevented food, medicine, and medical equipment from entering Iraq, and how — according to the United Nations — over half a million children perished as a result. I remember a clip from a ‘60 Minutes’ interview of Madeline Albright where she expressed her view that these dead children were “worth it.” I watched on September 11th as a group of people felt driven to hijack airplanes and fly them into buildings from their outrage at the deaths of these children. I watched as America then attacked and invaded Iraq directly. I saw the effects of ‘Shock & Awe’ in the opening day of the invasion — the children in hospital wards with shrapnel from American missiles sticking out of their foreheads (of course, none of this was shown on CNN). I learned about the town of Haditha, where 24 Muslims — including a 76-year old man in a wheelchair, women, and even toddlers — were shot up and blown up in their bedclothes as they slept by US Marines. I learned about Abeer al-Janabi, a fourteen-year old Iraqi girl gang-raped by five American soldiers, who then shot her and her family in the head, then set fire to their corpses.

I just want to point out, as you can see, Muslim women don’t even show their hair to unrelated men. So try to imagine this young girl from a conservative village with her dress torn off, being sexually assaulted by not one, not two, not three, not four, but five soldiers. Even today, as I sit in my jail cell, I read about the drone strikes which continue to kill Muslims daily in places like Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen. Just last month, we all heard about the seventeen Afghan Muslims — mostly mothers and their kids — shot to death by an American soldier, who also set fire to their corpses. These are just the stories that make it to the headlines, but one of the first concepts I learned in Islam is that of loyalty, of brotherhood — that each Muslim woman is my sister, each man is my brother, and together, we are one large body who must protect each other. In other words, I couldn’t see these things beings done to my brothers & sisters — including by America — and remain neutral. My sympathy for the oppressed continued, but was now more personal, as was my respect for those defending them.

I mentioned Paul Revere — when he went on his midnight ride, it was for the purpose of warning the people that the British were marching to Lexington to arrest Sam Adams and John Hancock, then on to Concord to confiscate the weapons stored there by the Minuteman. By the time they got to Concord, they found the Minuteman waiting for them, weapons in hand. They fired at the British, fought them, and beat them. From that battle came the American Revolution. There’s an Arabic word to describe what those Minutemen did that day. That word is: JIHAD, and this is what my trial was about.

All those videos and translations and childish bickering over ‘Oh, he translated this paragraph’ and ‘Oh, he edited that sentence,’ and all those exhibits revolved around a single issue: Muslims who were defending themselves against American soldiers doing to them exactly what the British did to America. It was made crystal clear at trial that I never, ever plotted to “kill Americans” at shopping malls or whatever the story was. The government’s own witnesses contradicted this claim, and we put expert after expert up on that stand, who spent hours dissecting my every written word, who explained my beliefs. Further, when I was free, the government sent an undercover agent to prod me into one of their little “terror plots,” but I refused to participate. Mysteriously, however, the jury never heard this.

So, this trial was not about my position on Muslims killing American civilians. It was about my position on Americans killing Muslim civilians, which is that Muslims should defend their lands from foreign invaders — Soviets, Americans, or Martians. This is what I believe. It’s what I’ve always believed, and what I will always believe. This is not terrorism, and it’s not extremism. It’s the simple logic of self-defense. It’s what the arrows on that seal above your head represent: defense of the homeland. So, I disagree with my lawyers when they say that you don’t have to agree with my beliefs — no. Anyone with common sense and humanity has no choice but to agree with me. If someone breaks into your home to rob you and harm your family, logic dictates that you do whatever it takes to expel that invader from your home. But when that home is a Muslim land, and that invader is the US military, for some reason the standards suddenly change. Common sense is renamed “terrorism” and the people defending themselves against those who come to kill them from across the ocean become “the terrorists” who are “killing Americans.”

The mentality that America was victimized with when British soldiers walked these streets 2 ½ centuries ago is the same mentality Muslims are victimized by as American soldiers walk their streets today. It’s the mentality of colonialism. When Sgt. Bales shot those Afghans to death last month, all of the focus in the media was on him — his life, his stress, his PTSD, the mortgage on his home — as if he was the victim. Very little sympathy was expressed for the people he actually killed, as if they’re not real, they’re not humans. Unfortunately, this mentality trickles down to everyone in society, whether or not they realize it. Even with my lawyers, it took nearly two years of discussing, explaining, and clarifying before they were finally able to think outside the box and at least ostensibly accept the logic in what I was saying. Two years! If it took that long for people so intelligent, whose job it is to defend me, to de-program themselves, then to throw me in front of a randomly selected jury under the premise that they’re my “impartial peers,” I mean, come on. I wasn’t tried before a jury of my peers because with the mentality gripping America today, I have no peers. Counting on this fact, the government prosecuted me — not because they needed to, but simply because they could.

I learned one more thing in history class: America has historically supported the most unjust policies against its minorities — practices that were even protected by the law — only to look back later and ask: ‘what were we thinking?’ Slavery, Jim Crow, the internment of the Japanese during World War II — each was widely accepted by American society, each was defended by the Supreme Court. But as time passed and America changed, both people and courts looked back and asked ‘What were we thinking?’ Nelson Mandela was considered a terrorist by the South African government, and given a life sentence. But time passed, the world changed, they realized how oppressive their policies were, that it was not he who was the terrorist, and they released him from prison. He even became president. So, everything is subjective — even this whole business of “terrorism” and who is a “terrorist.” It all depends on the time and place and who the superpower happens to be at the moment.

In your eyes, I’m a terrorist, I’m the only one standing here in an orange jumpsuit and it’s perfectly reasonable that I be standing here in an orange jumpsuit. But one day, America will change and people will recognize this day for what it is. They will look at how hundreds of thousands of Muslims were killed and maimed by the US military in foreign countries, yet somehow I’m the one going to prison for “conspiring to kill and maim” in those countries — because I support the Mujahidin defending those people. They will look back on how the government spent millions of dollars to imprison me as a “terrorist,” yet if we were to somehow bring Abeer al-Janabi back to life in the moment she was being gang-raped by your soldiers, to put her on that witness stand and ask her who the “terrorists” are, she sure wouldn’t be pointing at me.

The government says that I was obsessed with violence, obsessed with “killing Americans.” But, as a Muslim living in these times, I can think of a lie no more ironic.

Tarek Mehanna
4/12/12

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Digg and YouTube). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in June 2011, “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” a 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, and details about the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, and available on DVD here — or here for the US). Also see my definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all my articles, and please also consider joining the new “Close Guantánamo campaign,” and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

93 Responses

  1. TruThSeEker says...

    Furthermore I truly believe that the MAIN reason for the anti-US sentiment within the muslim world comes down to…….(the elephant in the room is??)……of course it’s unrelenting support for Israel and its apartheid regime. For too long has the US and it’s allies stood by while Israel has carried out atrocities on the Palestinians and has broke every UN resolution for the past 40 years. It shows complete and utter hypocrisy to go around telling everyone else how bad they are when it has stood by while Israel does whatever it wants. Furthermore I find it laughable that Iran is seen as the enemy for allegedly saying it WANTS to ‘wipe Israel of the map while on the other hand Israel IS wiping Palestine of the map. I really really think if Israel was bought to account for its actions then it would go a LONG way into combating potential terrorists and they’re recruitment tactics as I’m sure this is one of the first examples used when trying to recruit. Oh and before someone uses the anti-simetic card this is a Zionist issue not a Jewish one, I have no problems with Jews just as I don’t have issues with Christians or people with any faith or not!! ONE LOVE..PEACE!

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks again, TruTHSeEker. Great analysis.

  3. TruTHSeEker says...

  4. SAM says...

    I agree with Laura, I think there is more to it than mere coincidence, Andy you do have an inclination towards fill in the blank.

  5. Eric B says...

    “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.” –Voltaire

    I am a disabled veteran. I felt compelled to offer my self and my life if necessary, to defend the United States and her Constitution. I paid a small price for that decision, much smaller than many of my compatriots paid. I am an educator, teaching philosophy and political science. I know what our country was founded on. I know how our systems work. It makes me sick to see the man labelled as an outsider and a terrorist is more “American” than some of the people I’ve seen comment on this situation.

    Shame on those of you who cannot appreciate this man’s dedication to the principles you don’t even begin to understand. He is more of a hero and patriot than half of you could ever be. Open your eyes, pay attention to what’s going on around you, and engage your brains. Your government does not care about your rights and freedoms; you do nothing to stop it because you do not understand you are being led. Wake up before it’s too late.

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Eric. I think — I hope — that you’ve taken the discussion to a new level.

  7. Mark says...

    I believe this person is wrongfully imprisoned and believe He is right in how Muslim men are morally correct in defending their homeland. As a former infantry soldier who fought in Afghanistan for 16 months I often question the morals and ethics of what I did. As I have acquired a few more years I think more on this and my opinion has and is changing as I educate myself further. I greatly advocate his belief in self defense, but having been in some of these “Muslim lands,” I have seen how this religion has also trampled upon the freedom of peoples of any religion but its own and find it difficult to stand with him in defense of it. Although America is not faultless, His argument fails to win me over as an argument towards individual liberty as I have seen what little liberty is within the lands he is defending. I advocate individual liberty. Those countries are sovereign unto themselves and it is not our place to invade and try to provide something to them which they should choose for themselves. Also, I doubt that what we have done has actually made America a safer place than we were previously. The world is not perfect, there will always be evil, danger, and risk. Lets do our best to be a country that strives to not add to those aspects as much as we can while creating an environment of liberty within it as an example, not a force. We cannot police the world, but we can show the world how they should police themselves. (Also, well said Eric B, well said) We should look to our own freedom which is currently under attack before we judge others.

  8. Osman says...

    It is hilarious to see the number of imbeciles on this page painting a broad brush on a group of people with a religious affiliation. In this case, this would be Islam.

    Not even 1% of the Muslim population of the world has undertaken terrorist activities in the past 20 years. Well isn’t that remarkable? Islam is such a great evil in this world that the overwhelming majority actually get on with their own lives like normal people!

    Judge people for their individual actions, not based on the group they are affiliated with.

    In the United Kingdom, many of the London rioters were actually black youth. Some black youth attacked the Police forces. Does that mean all black people are bad?

    Honestly, I cannot fathom to understand the stupidity of some of the posters in this website. It’s rather hilarious most of the people who claim Islam is violent and oppressive are actually showing the same tendencies and beliefs TOWARDS Muslims, whether they like to admit it or not. They hypocrisy is rampant. Over 1,000,000 dead Iraqis. Over 4,000,000 dead in Vietnam. Over 300,000 dead in Afghanistan. But naw, the U.S. military are heroes! Support our beloved troops!

    The tripe that is uttered from the brainwashed masses is utterly depressing. In this case, we have Laura to thank for her delightful contribution! I pity such people.

  9. Osman says...

    With regards to Tarek Mehanna, it is hard to argue against what he has said. Castle doctrine is allowed in the United States. You are authorised to kill anyone who breaks into your home. Now, shifting this to the perspective of the Iraqis and Afghanis, why is anyone surprised that they want to fight the US soldiers? The US soldiers have illegally occupied their homelands.

    If Chinese or Russian soldiers has led an invasion against our own country (whether that is US, Canda, UK etc), we wouldn’t think twice about shooting them. I would fight tooth and nail if anyone tried to break in my own home, never mind my own country.

    This quote from Malcolm X is how we should ALL live our lives:
    “Be peaceful, be courteous, obey the law, respect everyone; but if someone puts his hand on you, send him to the cemetery.”

    Let us all be peaceful and have mutual respect for one and another. But punish those who are truly guilty. From what I can gather, freedom of speech is a right of every American. Thought crimes do not punish anyone. If Tarek is imprisoned for having views the US Government doesn’t agree with, then what a sad world we are living in. As the old adage goes, sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.

  10. Maqsood Iman Ahmed says...

    If we leave the muslims alone thy will leav us alone.. We keep lighting the fires around the world and occupying their lands, supporting corrupt leaders abusing Islam under freedom of speech. It’s not surprising there is tension.

  11. Blessed2bea says...

    Hello and good morning everyone!

    Has anyone else besides me realized that Laura’s #3 post and Slidje’s #28 are identical? Meaning they are one of the same individuals!

    My question here is this,”why would this 1/one individual see the need to use 2 different names,whereby showing his/her serious lack of education,illiteracy and full blown inbreeding”?

    This individual is simply a racist belonging no doubt to a racist organization,I believe!

    In fact I will take it one step further and say,”maybe this person is also part of the government”!

  12. The Merovingian says...

    firstly that ‘Laura Conway’ is obviously a mentally challenged, sheltered, narrow minded individual who probably has never been out of her home town, easily brainwashed by the media and shouldnt be allowed to breed!!
    The answer is in the fact he was asked ‘the easy way or the hard way’ … where does the justice system even seem fair when that question is asked?? What about the good old fashioned ‘fair way’ ????? He was sentenced from the point he declined the agent’s offers. This guy was clearly not a terrorist, he had a lot of knowledge, from what i have read here, probably more knowledge about the history of America than a lot of the American population. I hate to read the comments that are clearly posted by a racist, |I know white, black, brown people, all beliefs and creeds… There are good people, and bad people no matter what colour, race or even what beliefs you have. Bring forth the NWO, the world needs a deep clean.

  13. Bryan Eric says...

    Andy you are a muslim, but you won’t admit it.

  14. Andy Worthington says...

    I think if I was a Muslim I’d be declaring it openly. I don’t recall any religion advising people to keep quiet about it. This is about human rights and justice — always has been, always will be.

  15. ali says...

    Hi Andy,

    Great article and kudos on your articulate and entertaining responses to the various comments.

    Although I grew up in North America and love so many things about this place, unfortunately, I’ve grown tired of the general mentality (manifest in many of the comments) that you write about.

    I know every-land has its pros and cons, and there are no shortage of amazing aspects of North American-life, I have began planning my exodus back to the lands of my ancestors (West & Central Asia).

    I have grown tired of my religion being demonized and the stereotype of most villains. I don’t want my children to grow-up wanting to hide their religion.

    Articles like yours give me hope that perhaps there will come a day when the majority of ‘Westerners’ realize their slumber and intellectual destitution.

    I fear that I may not be around for that day…

    Luckily, I am planning on leaving this first-world land of hate and hypocrisy to moving to a second-world land of history and culture – it’s not perfect, but at least I don’t have to live as a second-class citizen, and I’m not the villain in every action-movie.

    Cheers,
    ~Ali

  16. Andy Worthington says...

    Good to hear from you, Ali, and thanks for explaining the problems you have encountered, and your hopes for the future. I too hope for a future in which hatred and racism and scapegoating give way to a worldview that is more constructive. At present, deeply untrustworthy people are in charge, and are playing on their populations’ basest instincts to create division where there should be unity, a unity that ought to involve some profound questions about whether those who choose to lead us have our own best interests at heart, or whether they are only serving a narrow, wealthy elite, and manipulating us to keep us from becoming aware of the truth.

  17. Sarhan says...

    Hey Andy,

    Just letting you know that Laura’s objective was to make you admit, you are not a Muslim and that you do not believe in religion. You don’t have to respond to trolls. Anyway, keep up the good work 🙂

  18. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Sarhan. Yes, I am trying to make myself more troll aware in future!

  19. Noor Mohammed says...

    Nice to see we do have people like Andy, we should admit that we have good and bad people in all the communities and cannot blame the whole community for the things done by couple of them in a community.

    We should be unite one side saying we are good people and fight against the bad ones irrespective of any religion.

    As far as i know i have never come across any religion which preaches killing innocent.

    So all the people who are killing people belong to no religion so they are our enemies.

    no matter what religion we are we should be united.

  20. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Noor. Great points, and good to hear from you.

  21. djamaluddin says...

    Andy,

    It really is uplifting to hear from people like yourself who are proponents of equality.

    Keep up the work friend.

    Djamaluddin

  22. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Djamaluddin. Much appreciated. Equality is a good way of putting it – and perhaps often forgotten as of significance when discussing those whose interest is in human rights and justice.

  23. Anon says...

    Andy, it would be very interesting to see the IP addresses belonging to the people who seem to be “trolling”. I refuse to believe that any person who read this post would be as hard headed as to post comments such as the ones this “Laura” has posted. Our “Laura” is a common phenomenon – almost every single impartial article dealing with Muslims and “terrorism” seems to be plagued by such extremely bigoted comments, who often succeed in subverting the discussion and resorting to ad hominem attacks on the author.

    “People don’t convert overnight, it happens gradually” – no amount of FOX news can do this to the brain of any conservative who has the ability to access the internet.

    Is “Laura” a troll? Is “Laura” a bot? It is not uncommon for the Israeli government to employ such mass cyber propaganda techniques as flooding impartial blogs with pro-occupation, anti-Palestinian, racist comments. The key here is impartial – why do these bots comment on impartial blogs or articles instead of on blogs that champion either side? Because as humans, when we see two sides to an issue which we are unaware of, we like to think that we’ll “tread the middle path”, and not become an “extremist” for either side. How do we know what the two sides represent from an impartial blog post? The comment section – the place where the impartial post is doomed to be accused of supporting a certain extreme, by comment bots feigning to represent the other extreme – if an impartial observer were to have to pick the “middle path” between two views such as – “Tarek Mehanna did not plan to kill any American civilians, and feels this is completely wrong” and “Tarek Mehanna supported Al Qaeda by translating material for the organization, which is clearly a bad idea” – versus these two views -“Tarek Mehanna did not plan to kill any American civilians, and feels this is completely wrong” and “Tarek Mehanna is a bloodthirsty Jihadi, who has tried once already to become a terrorist and acts as the media wing of Al Qaeda, the terrorist organization responsible for 9/11 – he even tries to defend these views by claiming that it’s OK to kill Americans because they killed us – two wrongs don’t make a right!” – I leave it up to the reader’s imagination to figure out which “middle path” the observer would pick for the first and second.

    By making the xenophobes and racists look much more outrageous than they really are, the people responsible for these bots try to shift opinions towards more complete acceptance of the picture painted by mainstream politics – that even though some Muslims are nice, there are still a bunch of “them” out to get “us” – so let’s imprison and torture them before they actually do anything wrong!

    Again, I reiterate – it would be nice to see the IP addresses of the people posting unacceptable comments. Do they map to real, home IP addresses in the US? Or to some DoJ assigned IP?

  24. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, you’re right about the trolling. I didn’t know at the time. Nasty business.
    I’m sure all capable people can see through it, and can see the truth about the real story.

  25. James says...

    How much pro-murder propaganda does the US government and media engage in? How is calling people who murder people in Iraq and Afghanistan “heroes” not material support and comfort and moral support and complicity in those murders? The premise of this case is that when the US decides to murder people that’s a good thing, should anyone talk about doing to the US what the US proudly does to other people, then they should sit in jail for 17 and half years. In the end by their support of these kinds of injustices the people fo the US prove they deserve the worst atrocities to be committed on them, they are the kind of people that if others heard they died in a horrific fire they would say “they never cared about such things happening to others, serves them right”

  26. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks for the comments, James. Good to hear from you.

  27. moejoe says...

    Recently the USA government forced Times New York NOT to publish a true story because it would lead to security risks. Anyway I agree, as is per UN law, armed resistance to occupation is both legally and morally justified. So Muslims in Iraq or Afghanistan who fight against US occupying troops are not terrorist they are justified freedom fighters, I believe that and will say it and write it. The irony is this , plotting to kill abroad is only a crime depending on who you plot to kill, same with funding armed groups. E.g if any US civilian sent Money to the Libyan rebels or even joined to fight against Gaddaffi the US government would of had no problem with that

  28. Andy Worthington says...

    And the irony is that, when Gaddafi was our friend, especially from 2004 to 2006, the opposite was true, and being an enemy of Gaddafi made you an enemy of the West.

  29. Fairy says...

    Thankyou Andy for posting this and I appreciate your open mindedness. The world needs more people who are willing to understand the other side rather then those who seal their hearts and minds and prefer to be ignorant to others’ sufferings.

  30. -MA- says...

    His last statement should be spread far and wide. May Allah (SWT) hasten his release and re-unite him with his loved ones.

  31. Farzana says...

    Maybe if the tv screen wasn’t you only window to the outside world you wouldn’t be so ignorant luara. I was only 7 years old when 9/11 happened BY THE US GONVERNMENT, and i sit here with frustration that people like you believe everything you hear in the media. Why don’t you simply open a book called the Quran and find that there is NOT ONE verse that says to kill innocent people. Educate your ignorant self.

  32. Nina says...

    Beautiful article, and you have very great points. A lot of people, unfortunately, are so brainwashed by the media and what they hear about Islam that they’re not even capable of thinking with their own minds anymore. How frustrating is the fact that despite all the oppression going on, people choose to be blind to it. What good does one get out of “rejecting” the fact that there’s so much evil? People don’t feel the pain of the oppressed until they go through it themselves or rather, one of their loved ones is put through trial and must face oppression.

    Its so obvious that there is so much oppression going on especially with the Muslims. The government always has to find a scapegoat- before it was the blacks, and now its the Muslims. Wonder who’s next?

  33. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks for the comments, Nina.

  34. Respect for the Prophet: A Reply to Len | Ilisha Blog says...

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    […] when the US-born Muslim, Dr. Tarek Mehenna, refused to become FBI informant, he was denied his rights under First Amendment, even though like the above said Jews, he […]

  36. Shami Witness and the War on Ideas | I Can Haz Khilafah? says...

    […] his sentencing, Tarek Mehanna spoke that inconvenient truth in eloquent defiance before he was carted off to […]

  37. Tarek Mehanna’s Powerful Statement As He Received a 17-Year Sentence Despite Having Harmed No One | Andy Worthington | says...

    […] via Tarek Mehanna’s Powerful Statement As He Received a 17-Year Sentence Despite Having Harmed No One …. […]

  38. Rocky McGrath says...

    You all are stupid. Send his ass to GITMO! Send them all!

  39. freedetainees.org – Tarek Mehanna’s Powerful Statement As He Received a 17-Year Sentence Despite Having Harmed No One says...

    […] By Andy Worthington […]

  40. Abdullah says...

    It was this kind of injustice that led in large part to the fall of the Church from power in Europe. This kind of persecution will ultimately undermine free speech and related values, there is already a growing movement against Khomeini style of government, in America, how much longer before that group grows too big to handle?

  41. Alan says...

    I came looking for reference material, and found so much more, thank you, Mr. Worthington. For all of my friends and countrymen who seek understanding:
    If you want to understand a subject, ask yourself who benefits. It is sometimes very difficult to follow, but if understanding is your goal, knowing who benefits is the key.
    Because there is less emotion involved, please let me use the US embargo against Cuba as an example. When Fidel Castro took over Cuba and instituted a communist government, the US responded by placing an embargo that prevented Americans from buying Cuban goods or traveling to Cuban soil.
    The embargo was supposed to throttle Castro’s regime and cause it to fall. It gave Castro an external enemy to blame for everything and made him stronger. It was supposed to cripple his hold on the Cuban people, but it did the opposite; the Cuban people suffered terribly from the embargo, but it was a wonderful, heaven sent boon to the communist regime. For more than fifty years! Why, if it never worked, not one day– why, if it accomplished the opposite of its intended purpose, every single day, did we embargo Cuba for fifty years? Well, who benefitted from the embargo (besides Castro)?
    Think about what Cuba will sell us if allowed: tobacco and sugar. Millions of acres of sugar and tobacco are planted in the southeastern US every year. Think about how Havana will compare to Miami as a tourist destination if US citizens may travel there: Havana’s climate and setting make Miami look like Jersey, you know. Now go find out who the embargo’s most vocal supporters were in Congress. Then check into their funding, and their industry backgrounds. When they quit Congress, who did they go to work for?
    It is not always easy to find the answers, even now that we have the internet. But it is always instructive to ask the questions.
    Using the full armed might of the USA to kill terrorists in the Middle East is a little like going to your neighbors’ houses and using hand grenades to kill their mice. It is very easy to see that we would be better off minding our own business, even if we do get attacked once in a while. Who benefits?

  42. Andy Worthington says...

    Well said, Alan – follow the money. Good to hear you. Since 9/11, it seems to me, we are fighting wars not even based on a spurious notion of ideology or nationalism, but for the arms companies and those who profit from war – just look at Dick Cheney and his involvement with Halliburton.

  43. Andy Worthington says...

    Today, my friend Ann Alexander wrote on Facebook:

    I received a good news message from Tarek Mehanna today. Here is what he says….

    “One thing I wish to point out is that I’m no longer in the CMU. I was moved to the general population last week. Thankfully, this entails more freedom to call my family, the ability to hug them during visits, and other such simple luxuries that I didn’t have before. In addition, my current address is exactly as follows:

    Tarek Mehanna (# 05315-748)
    United States Penitentiary
    P.O. Box 1000
    Marion, IL 62959
    USA

    so please write to Tarek.

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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