The news that the U.S. army has dropped all charges against Captain James Lee highlights the ordeal how, post 9/11, a Muslim becomes a target of baseless accusations. The authorities once suspected him of offenses involving spying, mutiny, sedition and aiding the enemy, while his prosecutors suggested that they might seek death penalty.
James Yee (aka Yousef Yee), a West Point graduate, converted to Islam, served as a Muslim chaplain at Fort Lewis and then was assigned at the Guantanamo Bay prison.
It all started, as reported in the Washington Post, October 10, 2003, when Yee "protested what he believed were lives of unrelieved tension and boredom experienced by his fellow Muslims in captivity." It was this sympathy that made him suspect, and started a witch-hunt. He was apprehended on September 10, 2003, and kept in isolation until October 10, while military authorities scrambled for charges. Eventually, the charges were downgraded to "mishandling classified information after authorities found maps of the prison and information about detainees in his possession" - nothing unusual for a chaplain.
Nevertheless, the Daily News, October 24 reported "despite only minor charges, the Muslim chaplain is held at a Navy brig in South Carolina in maximum security, and incommunicado." And he is "not allowed to read news accounts of his case and has only the Koran to read. He has only brief phone contact with his family in Springfield, N.J., and meets his attorney wearing iron legs." Thus detained for 76 days, only after vehement protestations of his attorney, he was transferred to a minimum prison facility.
At a hearing in December, his accusers could not even show that the documents charged with were actually classified, and he was released on November 25, 2003.
Meanwhile, a furor developed that it is the training that Muslim chaplains receive that generates extremism. There are two US institutions that train Muslim chaplains: One, affiliated with the reputed International Institute of Islamic Thought, is the graduate school of Islamic Social Sciences situated in Leesburg, VA; the other is the Islamic American University in Southfield, Michigan. These schools were raided (the first for the second time) alleging that they breed Wahabism (allegedly associated with a specific, narrow and exclusionary agenda). Senator Schumer of New York in the forefront of these accusations.
There is nothing in the curricula or the training of these institutions that could be remotely thus associated. The students and faculty of the Leesburg school, interviewed by the national Public Radio dwelled on its open and thought-stimulating approach to scholarship; and that it very much encourages, rather than stifle (opposite of radicalism) personal exploration.
Also, Yee married a Syrian and studied there from a reputed scholar, Sheikh Kuftaro of the Nakshbandi "Sufi" order - a testament to his morals.
In dismissing the charges, Major General Geoffrey Miller, Commander of Joint Task Force Guantanamo, cited "national security concerns that would arise from the release of evidence" if the case proceeded.
An editorial of the New York Times, March 24, 2004 under the caption "Military Injustice" commented, "What they really are trying to hide from view, it seems clear, is not national security secrets, but the incompetence and mean-spiritedness of their prosecution." This while "lawyers on both sides had security clearance, and sensitive evidence, if any existed, could have been left confidential." Yee even opted for debriefing to clarify.
Yet the army left with no other recourse, charged him with administrative sanctions for adultery and downloading pornography on his computer. On Wednesday, April 14 Yee won his bid to remove the reprimand from his record.
Fong Yee, mother of Captain Yee said the Army's decision to dismiss charges offered little reason to celebrate because it was done without clearing his name. "Realize you [US Army] made a mistake, and apologize," she was quoted as saying. "What's wrong with that? It's an honorable thing to do. That's just basic human decency."
Siraj Mufti, Ph.D. is a researcher and free-lance journalist.
Thank you for posting this article. I had the opportunity of a life time to meet with Brother Yusuf Yee, may Allah bless him and reward him. He told his story of how Salat was and forever will be the key to his success. His face was glowing with Nur from Allah, may brother Yee and his family continue to seek patience and help from the all mighty, most merciful, Allah. We are here for you brother Yee, so are the angeles, prophets, messengers and Allah Himself. I'm sorry for what America has done to you. The least they can say is we are sorry, like your loving mother Mrs. Fong Yee stated in this article. Thank you again brother Yee, you are a great enspiration to all of us. What happened to you could have happened to anyone of us and it is happening to us on a daily basis. Whether America locks us up or not we are the servants of Allah and it is in Him we put our trust. May Allah bless you all, Shukran. Ameen
We should all pray & be thankful to Allah that brother James Lee (aka Yousef Lee) was finally given respite from the horrible treatment metted out to him. When the very (so called) 'uphoalders of democracy & justice' have done injustice to him. I hope InshAllah they will be showed the evil & hypocricy of their ways. At the same time, i would like to say that we as a community should increase our bonds and make our selves collectively stronger so we can InshAllah counter such acts of indecency and degradation against our community in the future.
This article should be widely circulated to highlight the types of abuse of power, and trumped up charges occuring in America and across the world. Mass circulation may reduce the number of such incidences of such abuse.