So Much For Liberty...: In The Aftermath Of 9/11 - The Islamophobic Politics
20 March 2011
By Karin Friedemann
In the aftermath of 9/11 the US Department of Justice
and especially the FBI have had a policy of rooting
out a phantasmagorical worldwide anti-US terrorist
conspiracy by arresting and prosecuting Muslim
Americans on ridiculous charges based on a bizarre
conspiracy theory that has moved from the Zionist
Lobby to the highest levels of the US government.
Of all the political prosecutions orchestrated by the
Neocons, that of Albany, New York's Imam Yassin Aref
is among the most outrageous.
Imam Yassin notes that his own preemptive prosecution
is "a form of selective prosecution which targets
certain individuals for prosecution for crimes not yet
committed, based on their adherence to the Muslim
religion, and that such unequal protection of the laws
is prohibited under the Constitution."
The US government claimed that Aref made 14 calls to
terrorists in Syria, even though Aref was only keeping
in touch with old friends at the general office of IMK
(Islamic Movement in Kurdistan), a perfectly legal
political party for which Aref had worked in Syria.
The US government refused to hand over transcripts of
these conversations that would have shown that there
was nothing of alarm being discussed, claiming this
evidence was "classified." Aref's conviction was based
on the US government's assertion that Mullah Krekar,
who was later accused of forming a terrorist
organisation, Ansar al-Islam, had also called that
number in the past. Imam Yassin had never once
encouraged terrorism to his mosque congregation and
had character witnesses to prove it. Yet, under
government pressure, Judge McAvoy told the jury that
the government had good reason to target Aref. This
seriously swayed the outcome of the verdict despite
the lack of evidence.
The US government had been trying to come up with a
way to frame Aref for years before his actual arrest.
There were a number of potential witnesses with very
interesting stories who had been willing to testify.
One was Abraham Youssef, who said the FBI had
interviewed him before Aref's arrest. Youssef was
facing some potential felony charges. He said the FBI
told him they could make these charges "disappear" if
he would give a statement against Imam Yassin, "that
one week prior to the September 11, 2001 attack,
Ibrahim had seen two of the nineteen hijackers
sleeping over at my house." Youssef flatly refused
Another man, Ali Yaghi, was approached by FBI agents
in Jordan and asked to testify against Aref in
exchange for legal residency in the US so he could be
reunited with his estranged American wife and their
children. Yaghi also refused.
Imam Yassin Aref stated: "the testimony of Youssef and
Yaghi were critical in showing that the government was
attempting to frame me and were willing to give
valuable consideration in order to get false but
In 2004, the FBI targeted Aref in a sting operation,
which was so farcical that it could have been a
comedy. The imam had simply witnessed a loan
transaction that took place between a member of his
mosque and a paid FBI informant, who was apparently
trying to avoid prosecution for his own criminal acts
by setting up and framing Aref and pizzeria owner
Mohammed Hossain in a fictional crime. As a result,
Aref was charged with Conspiracy, Money Laundering,
Material Support for a Foreign Terrorist Organisation,
and Lying to the FBI.
Aref was sentenced in 2007 to 15 years of
incarceration. His appeal was denied in 2008 while his
petition to the Supreme Court was denied in 2009.
Developing a public consciousness of the issues is
essential to prevailing in future political
prosecutions. According to Aref's lawyer Steve Downs,
"I do not think the issue in sentencing is the ability
of the lawyers but particular judges and the amount of
community support that the defendants were receiving.
Most judges stick to the guidelines. Some judges as in
Aref's case can be persuaded to deviate down, and some
judges as in the Ft. Dix 5 are persuaded to deviate
Sadly, Aref and many other wonderful people will rot
in jail until American citizens are willing to battle
the Islamophobic politics, on which the prosecutions
of Arabs and Muslims have been based.
Karin Friedemann is a Boston-based writer on Middle
East affairs and US politics, and Editor of World View