Friday, April 08, 2005

Then They Came for The Children

Two sixteen-year-old girls from New York have been arrested and held by federal immigration authorities. The girl appearing to be the primary focus of the investigation is a devout Bangladeshi Muslima. Her parents had recently rejected the marriage proposal of a Michigan man and his family. According to a New York Times report, a few months after the rejection of the proposal the young woman stayed out overnight for the first time without contacting her parents. Fearing that his daughter had eloped, the father contacted the police. The father believes that this is what set off the federal investigation into the young lady and has led to her arrest and detention.

An article in the Houston Chronicle has quoted Adem Carroll, an activist with ICNA (Islamic Circle of North America), as stating that during a police investigation of one of the young ladies for truancy, (likely the Bangladeshi girl) an essay on Islam and suicide was found on a home computer, which prompted her arrest.

The Chronicle stated, "Investigators were concerned that girls might be recruited sometime in the future for a suicide mission by a suspect in an ongoing terrorism investigation, one of the officials said. They decided to detain the pair before they could become involved, the official added." But, according to the mother of the Bangladeshi girl, the two had never met before their arrests and questioning at Immigration and Naturalization in the Javits Federal Office Building in New York. The Guinean girl was there facing deportation along with her family when she saw the veil of the Bangladeshi girl and gave her the obligatory greeting of one Muslim to another--As salaam alaykum (peace be with you). The officers assumed that the girls knew one another and and included the Guinean girl in the investigation. They were then sent to a detention center in Pennsylvania.

According to an Associated Press article, two federal officials suggested that the document accusing the girls may have exagerrated their alleged threat to U.S. security.

Because neither girl is a U.S. citizen, they do not have access to court appointed attorneys. The father of the Bangladeshi girl earns less than $18,000 dollars a year and has not been able to afford a quality attorney to represent his daughter. The supposed evidence against the girls has been withheld from them and their attorneys by the Department of Homeland Security, so even if they did have competent legal representation their counsel would be working with one hand tied behind their back. Also, according to the New York Times report, "There are no firm time limits on immigration detention, so the burden is on the girls to prove that they are not potential suicide bombers, rather than on the government to prove they are."

My hope is that the Muslim community, indeed all Americans who value our constitution, will rally behind these girls and protecting their civil rights. They are minors who have grown up in America. They have been presumed guilty and now have the overwhelming burden of trying to prove themselves innocent against a secretive and powerful federal government with no money for quality attorney's. I will be investigating the case further and contacting CAIR as well as the ACLU to see what their awareness is about this case and what, if anything, they plan to do. I will, InshaAllah, update the blog regularly with any information that I find on this case.

First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left
to speak out for me.

Pastor Martin Niemöller

Prophet Muhammad (saawas) said, If you see evil, you must try to stop it by your hands; if you cannot do that, then at least speak out against it; and if you cannot do that, then at the very least do not accept it in your heart - but that is the weakest position for a person of faith.' (Muslim 70).

Originally posted here.

2 comment(s):

  • Thank you for this.

    Another article in the NYT focusing on the Guinean girl.
    Teachers and Classmates Express Outrage at Arrest of Girl,
    16, as a Terrorist Threat

    By Nina Bernstein

    April 9, 2005, The New York Times


    At Heritage High School in East Harlem, where the student
    idiom is hip-hop and salsa, the 16-year-old Guinean girl
    stood out, but not just because she wore Islamic dress. She
    was so well liked that when she ran for student body
    president, she came in second to one of her best friends -
    the Christian daughter of the president of the parent-teacher
    association, Deleen P. Carr.

    Now Ms. Carr, a speech pathologist who calls herself "a
    typical American citizen," is as outraged as the girl's
    teachers and classmates, who have learned that the girl and
    another 16-year-old are being called would-be suicide bombers
    and are being held in an immigration detention center in

    "They have painted this picture of her as this person that is
    trying to destroy our way of life, and I know in my heart of
    hearts that this is bogus," said Ms. Carr, who welcomed the
    Guinean girl to her house daily and knows her family well. "I
    feel like, how dare they? She's a minor, and even if she's
    not a citizen, she has rights as a human being."

    According to a government document provided to The New York
    Times by a federal official earlier this week, the Federal
    Bureau of Investigation has asserted that both girls are "an
    imminent threat to the security of the United States based on
    evidence that they plan to be suicide bombers." No evidence
    was cited, and federal officials will not comment on the

    Its mysteries deepened as teachers and neighbors gave details
    of the Guinean girl's life, like the jeans she wore under her
    Muslim garb, her lively classroom curiosity about topics like
    Judaism and art and her after-school care for four younger
    siblings while her parents, illegal immigrants who have lived
    in the United States since 1990, eked out a living.

    "I just can't fathom this," said her art teacher, Kimberly
    Lane, who has repeatedly called the youth detention center
    but like Ms. Carr was not allowed to speak to the girl, who
    has no lawyer. Among the unanswered questions they raised was
    why, if she was really a suspect, no F.B.I. agent had shown
    up to search her school locker or question her classmates,
    who sent her letters of support.

    "This is a girl who's been in this country since she was 2
    years old," Ms. Lane said. "She's just a regular teenager -
    like, two weeks ago her biggest worry was whether she'd done
    her homework or studied for a science test."

    Until now, attention has focused on the other 16-year-old, a
    Bangladeshi girl reared in Queens who could not deal with the
    hurly-burly of her West Side high school and withdrew into
    home schooling. Yesterday, on a motion of the government, an
    immigration judge closed the Bangladeshi girl's bond hearing
    to the public and adjourned it to next Thursday, said Troy
    Mattes, a lawyer who is taking over the case but has yet to
    meet her.

    By the Bangladeshi girl's account, reported by her mother,
    the girls did not meet until March 24, after their separate
    arrests in early-morning raids on immigration charges against
    their parents. Both grew up in Islamic families. But while
    the Bangladeshi girl had grown increasingly pious, and
    uncomfortable in the urban culture of the High School of
    Environmental Studies on West 56th Street, the Guinean girl,
    a 10th grader, embraced every aspect of Heritage High, at
    106th Street and Lexington Avenue, her teachers said.

    "She is, yes, an orthodox Muslim, but completely integrated
    into this school," said Jessica Siegel, her English teacher
    in a class in which topics like teenage pregnancy and world
    politics were discussed. Ms. Siegel was profiled in the book
    "Small Victories," by Samuel G. Freedman, as an
    unsentimental, but fiercely committed teacher who provoked
    and delighted her students.

    "She's a wonderful, wonderful girl," Ms. Siegel said. "She's
    about the last person anyone could imagine being a suicide

    The English teacher's most vivid recollection was of a day
    two months ago when she heard a kind of roar in the hallway
    of the school, which is full of colorful student collages and
    life-size sculptures in papier-mâché. The teenager had
    stopped wearing her veil, and she beamed as her fellow
    students, seeing her face for the first time, cheered.

    After the class read "Night," the Holocaust memoir by Elie
    Wiesel, the girl wrote a paper about genocide in the Sudan,
    she recalled. But she was so excited about a field trip to
    see Christo's "Gates" in Central Park, Ms. Siegel said, that
    she skipped an appointment at immigration - a teenage impulse
    the teacher now worries might have set off problems with
    federal authorities. Her father is now in immigration jail
    facing deportation.

    At Woodrow Wilson Houses a few blocks from the school, a
    sticker on the family's apartment door reads, "Allah is our
    protector." Yesterday no one was home, but across the hall,
    Christine Anderson, a neighbor, shook her head in disbelief
    when she learned why she had not seen the girl or her father
    in recent weeks.

    "Why would they take the lady's daughter?" she asked.
    "They're nice people, and hard-working people. I've been here
    four years. I know she's not a problem child."

    Ms. Lane, the art teacher, said that when Heritage High first
    learned that immigration agents had picked up the girl, one
    of her best friends asked if someone from the school might
    have denounced her as an illegal immigrant. "I remember
    telling her the government doesn't go after 16-year-old
    girls," Ms. Lane said. "And in the last few days, I'm
    wrestling with the fact that, yes, it does."

    © Copyright 2005 New York Times Company

    By Blogger malangbaba, at 4/11/2005 03:57:00 PM  

  • Salam

    This blog, Body and Soul, http://bodyandsoul.typepad.com/
    has a post calle 'Teenage Wasteland" about this case. There is a blog devoted to the case apparently, there are sevearl links at Body and Soul. go check it out.


    By Blogger Anna in PDX, at 4/17/2005 03:01:00 AM  

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