Terror - and Civil Society - on trial in Boston
By Charles Jacobs
Tarek Mehanna, a young Muslim student, son of an Egyptian immigrant, was arrested two years ago at his home in Sudbury; accused by the FBI of plotting a Mumbai like machine gun massacre of New England shoppers in Attleboro's Emerald Square Mall - and for giving material support to Al Qaeda in Iraq. His trial began on Oct. 24.
Prosecution documents tell of Mehanna's attempt to seek terrorist training in Yemen and Pakistan. They describe the pleasure he and his friends took in watching videos of Americans being beheaded and of American soldiers killed and mutilated in Iraq. Watching a scene of an American soldier whose chest was ripped open and whose innards then set ablaze with gasoline, Mehanna called it "a Texas barbeque." When asked by a fellow extremist if the soldiers should not have received some sort of trial, Mehanna said no, "BBQ sauce is the way to go." Mehanna and his friends talked online about how his own translations of Al-Qaeda recruitment literature into English made him part of "the media wing of Al Qaeda." In these same conversations, monitored by the FBI, he has said that he "looks to Osama Bin Laden as his real father" and "loves him," and that he wasn't sorry for the victims of 9/11; he was just sorry "for the buildings."
An upper middle class fellow with an advantaged background hates his neighbors and his country? Aren't we told that poverty produces radicals?
Despite all this, the very people who have been telling us for years that they are true moderates have developed a Free Tarek Mehanna (FTM) Committee, which describes Mehanna in a petition as "a person with strong ethical values" who is "intelligent, charismatic, influential and trusted by many in the local Islamic community." A role model.
The group has been aggressively politicizing the judicial proceedings against Mehanna. Its spokesmen accuse the FBI of a national effort to harm the entire American Muslim community. FTM has targeted individual prosecutors and harassed the US Attorney's office with repeated phone calls and sit-ins. It labels anyone who dares to raise concerns about radical Islam as bigots and Islamophobes.
On Sept. 24, the leadership of the Islamic Society of Boston mosque in Roxbury organized an event there that featured pleas for support by Mehanna's brother and by the families of three convicted terrorists from Georgia, North Carolina and New York (Ehsanul Sadequee, Ziyad Yaghi and Syed Fahad Hashmi, respectively). Speakers claimed their communities were "suffering under the war on terror," which they called a US government plot against Muslims.
Whether Tarek Mehanna violated the law is an issue that should be left up to the courts - without mob pressures.
But what everyone in Boston should be concerned with is that Boston's Muslim leadership, under the guise of protecting free speech, is celebrating a man who sees himself as a hateful enemy of our society and was prepared - says the FBI - to kill his fellow New Englanders.
One of the leaders of FTM is Imam Abdullah Faaruuq, president of the umbrella organization of all the mosques in New England (Islamic Council of N.E.) and the Muslim chaplain at Northeastern University. Imam Faaruuq caused a stir when, in response to Mehanna's arrest, he encouraged Boston Muslims to "pick up the gun and the sword, don't be afraid to go out there and do your job." Faaruuq, by the way, is a man who has been embraced by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick. While my organization has made both Patrick and the Northeastern administration aware of Faaruuq's activities, both have refused to repudiate him. There's a money angle as well: Northeastern student activity fees paid for a Support Mehanna event on campus in April. Last year, Faaruuq gave the Patrick administration $50,000 for "Muslim sensitivity training" for police.
In supporting an anti-American Islamist radical, Boston's Muslim leadership is promoting a sort of tribalism, which sees all Muslims as "our brothers and sisters" who must be defended regardless of their actions. Rather than shunning indecent behavior found among fringe people in their own groups, as all decent Americans have learned to do, they are teaching their children to embrace people who want to kill their neighbors. This can only encourage future acts of hatred and terror.
Truly moderate Muslim leaders would want a fair trial for Tarek Mehanna, but would strongly condemn his hateful beliefs and might even undertake to investigate how these awful thoughts and radical ideology penetrated their community. We can only hope such voices emerge.
It's disheartening to watch privileged children of Muslim immigrants who have benefited so generously from America turn toward hatred while their communal leaders exploit America's tolerance to promote and lionize an indecent young man who is also an accused terrorist. In my view, the most disturbing facet of this story is the utter failure of Massachusetts media and political leadership to honestly deal with the growing radicalization of young Muslims.
I hope that Massachusetts' civic and political leadership will summon the courage to ensure that justice is served and Mehanna's trial proceeds without political interference or mob pressure.