Muslim Americans breathed a collective sigh of relief when Dr. Anwar Haddam and Dr. Mazen Al-Najjar walked out of prisons in Virginia and Florida, serving 1461 and 1307 days respectively without trial under the banner of secret evidence in America.
The two men were released after judges ruled that the government had failed to provide documentation to defend their incarceration, and to prove that they were a "threat" to American security.
The legal rebukes notwithstanding, Attorney General Reno dragged her feet to utmost to block their release, reflecting the same Islamophobic agenda that has been a hallmark of the former Administration.
Both co-sponsored H.R. 2121, the Secret Evidence Repeal Act of 1999 that was killed by the House Republican leadership. Thus, more than 18 months of hard work on the legislation was lost. The substitute legislation that passed the House Judiciary Committee by a significant margin a short time ago, never made to the House floor for a vote; it was filibustered by the House leadership. The opposition was led by the House speaker himself, as well as by other committee chairs such as Porter Guss of the Intelligence Select Committee and Bill Young of the Appropriations Committee, both Floridians.
Hany Kiareldeen was freed after seven immigration judges ruled in his favor and U.S. District Judge William Walls ordered him released on constitutional grounds. Kiareldeen was accused of conspiring with one of the World Trade Center bombers and threatening to kill Attorney General Janet Reno. An immigration appeals panel said there were "serious doubts regarding the reliability of
the information contained in the FBI reports."
These victories represented a landmark in Muslim American activism, where Muslims not only did grassroots work in their communities, worked to support the moral leadership in Congress, and built up alliances with non-Muslim organizations that likewise have moral agendas.
The secret evidence act, which disproportionately targets Muslims and Arabs, was a provision of the 1996 Anti-Terrorism Act and approved by President Bill Clinton. Ironically the legislation passed in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing, which was carried out by a non-Muslim, non-Arab American.
Omer Bin Abdullah is editor-in-chief of Horizon's Magazine, a publication of the Islamic Society of North America. He is also a weekly columnist for iviews.com and lives in Virginia.