Sunday, June 16, 2013

Book Review: The Wrong Kind of Muslim

There's a piece of land in Eastern Pakistan that has long since been washed of a plane crash that killed a  dictator in 1988.  However, the dictator's legacy has not been washed away and continues to hold a vice-like grip on Pakistan's throat.  This legacy, as Qasim Rashid describes in his first book, The Wrong Kind of Muslim, oppresses every Pakistani by not allowing for freedom of conscience and creates a breeding ground for terrorists.  The victims of a lack of freedom of conscience range from all backgrounds, regardless of faith or no faith. The victims of the terrorists range from domestic to foreign. And yet, the country still has adherents to many faiths who live and die for their religion.
Qasim tells these peoples' stories.  He meets with Ahmadi Muslims, a community of Muslims who are constitutionally declared non-Muslim in Pakistan and face wanton persecution.   As per the oppressors, Ahmadi Muslims are "the wrong kind of Muslim." The nation's anti-blasphemy laws ensure that Ahmadi Muslims, as well as Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, atheists, and other minority groups receive unequal treatment. Through engaging conversations with several Pakistanis, Qasim outlines practically everything the reader needs to know about the current state of Pakistan, regardless of what they may or may not know about the nation's politics.
The characters in the book, all real people, are scattered throughout time and space, but united by a common idea to worship as they please.  Yusef, a man who never misses praying at his local mosque, wakes up ill one day and faces a dilemma of attending mosque on a fateful day.  Mian Jee, an agnostic on his deathbed, strikes a deal with God to find Him if he gets a second chance.  Danyal, an Islamic scholar, guides the author around and explains what is happening in Pakistan.  These people, and others in the book, all meet with a persecution that many could never stomach, let alone survive.
Yet, as much press as the book's title will receive, the subtitle is the crux of the story: An Untold Story of Persecution and Perseverance.  Everybody in the book experiences persecution by words and/or actions. But, the story becomes character-centric when the issue arises as to whether that person will continue with his or her faith.  Qasim repeatedly asks people why they don't simply fly under the radar so that they can safely return home to their families at the end of the day.  The answers he receives are as personal as they are sublime.
Rashid relates Danyal's story, a horrific account of torture that seemed possible only in movies and Guantanamo Bay.  "Danyal knew the torture was not a bluff and made a firm promise accordingly. That no matter how difficult, he would resist whatever they threw at him....Thus began the sleep torture. Danyal didn’t get a bed. And as disgusting as the floor was, they refused to let him lie down. Instead, in the middle of that small room was a hard, uncomfortable, wooden chair. Danyal sat up in that chair without slouching, and without moving [for hours]."  What happens next is not for the faint of heart, but worth the read for those who truly want to feel what made him persevere.
This book, although mostly set in a foreign nation, is not foreign to much of the world due to the presence of Taliban members throughout the world.  The same Taliban members that planned and/or carried out attacks in the US, UK, Canada, France, etc. have roots in the frontiers of Pakistan; places that are as wild and unrestrictive as the nation's policies.  Thus, the enemies of religious minorities in Pakistan are also America's enemies.
Qasim ensures the reader makes this connection by relating two incidents from May 2010 in "Pakistani Terrorism on American Soil."  Faisal Shahzad notoriously tried to blow up Times Square in early May.  Weeks later, Taliban forces simultaneously attacked two mosques in Lahore, Pakistan and slaughtered over 85 Ahmadi Muslims during Friday Prayer services.  The kicker?  Faisal Shahzad was trained by the very same Taliban group that attacked those Ahmadi Muslim mosques.
Stories of others can be difficult to follow, especially in such a foreign element with people we have never met.  When it comes to something as universal as the freedom to believe whatever we want to believe, then the stories are not so foreign.  "Shia sufferings and horrors Hindus face" explains the predicament these minority communities face day in and day out, with people skipping blasphemy allegations and proceeding straight to stone-cold murdering.  "The Thai Ahmadis" is a blip of the difficulties faced by Pakistanis trying to seek asylum and can leave the reader desirous of more information on how refugees fare.
I recommend reading this book for a variety of reasons, but namely because you have the freedom to read it, which is hard to say for about 5 billion of our fellow human beings.  When you begin The Wrong Kind of Muslim, be sure to clear your schedule for the next few days because you won't be able to put this down.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Due process or not due process? That is the question.

In the Tsarnaev aftermath, a lot of fervor has arisen over Miranda rights, due process, and "enemy combatant" status.  There are terms, historical notes, backbends, and loopholes that keep coming up.  We, as US Citizens, are subject to them, whether or not we agree.  But to move forward, most just choose to agree.  This means one thing: the Constitution has become like Apple's Terms and Conditions.  

Here are some known facts:
The Constitution applies to US Citizens.  
The Constitution includes the Bill of Rights.
The Bill of Rights are the first 10 Amendments.
One of those Amendments is the 5th Amendment. 
The 5th Amendment provides for Due Process.
Due Process applies to US Citizens.

Now let's define due process.  In a nutshell, due process is presenting your case in court fairly.

Brace yourself:

There are two types of due process: substantive and procedural.
Substantive due process: whether the government has an adequate reason for taking away a person’s life, liberty, or property.
Procedural due process: the procedures a government must follow to take away someone’s life, liberty or property. 

Yes, we just defined due process but now it gets a teensy bit tricky.  

When police take a person into custody and interrogate him (custodial interrogation), that person must be given Miranda warnings regardless of the severity of the crime.  

This is where people start citing the "Public Safety Exception".  This exception allows police to question a suspect in custody without Miranda warnings about the location of a missing gun or the location of a missing kidnapped victim for the protection of the police or the public.  These are immediate questions for a perceived immediate threat.  

      Does the public safety exception apply here?  
      There's new evidence emerging that Tsarnaev may have been part of a ring. However, this evidence is emerging over a period of days...days after he was caught.  Ideally, the public safety exception should last a short amount of time so that Miranda can swoop in and allow for the person to have due process.  But, on the other hand, Tsarnaev is not conscious.  So any questions asked cannot be answered.  The risks are now all perceived risks that start with "Maybes".  Maybe there are more bombs out there.  Maybe the one phone call he gets will result in him remotely setting off a bomb.  Maybe there is a terrorist ring he is a part of that is ready to strike.  All these maybes are just that: maybes.  They're not fact, but they are based on fact.  A fact that is quickly becoming a historical fact without immediate future danger.  I say that the public safety exception does not apply here. 

      So is he an enemy combatant?
      You might think that United States citizens captured in America cannot be designated as enemy combatants.  False.
      Precedent looks at two cases: Ex parte Quirin and Rumsfeld v Padilla. Quirin involved a bunch of German-Americans (one was a US citizen) landing on Long Island during WWII.  They were captured and tried as enemy combatants.   José Padilla was a US Citizen captured in Chicago for terrorism related conspiracies back in 2002, but he was not charged at the time.  He was designated an enemy combatant. He was subjected to enhanced interrogation tactics (also known as torture) while waiting to be charged.  The Padilla case history is not a pleasant read.  It is like reading about a roller coaster that goes forward for the first half of the ride, and then goes backwards for the second half of the ride.  

      Ultimately, Padilla was charged just before his case reached the Supreme Court (over three years after being arrested).  So yes, there were cases upon cases just to decide whether or not he would be charged.  

      Will Tsarnaev be held as an enemy combatant?  Will he face the daunting paperwork mountain ahead of him? The paperwork alone could be deemed cruel and unusual. Whatever the outcome, this will create important precedent.  If Tsarnaev was involved with a terrorist ring and he had terrorist objectives, then the War On Terror's battlefield has expanded and, well *spoiler alert* nobody is safe.  There are more home grown terrorists out there.  When they are caught, whatever happens with Tsarnaev will apply to them. 

      Politicians and talking heads across the country emotionally rant that Tsarnaev should not receive his Miranda rights and should be held as an enemy combatant.  Generally, these politicians and talking heads are not lawyers.  So let's leave the lawyering to the lawyers.  After all, it is lawyers who made Apple's Terms and Conditions.  The rest just have to click "Agree".  

Wednesday, January 16, 2013