comments powered by Disqus
comments powered by Disqus
Mikhail Bell January 20, 2012
A hodgepodge of religious groups descended on Washington, DC on January 11 to protest the continued detention of terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay as well as the recent passage of the National Defense Authorization Act.
Amnesty International, National Religious Coalition Against Torture (NRCAT), and Pax Christi USA headed up nearly 70 “coalition partners” for a “day of action.” NRCAT members include the Episcopal Church, Presbyterian Church (USA), Evangelical Lutheran Church, United Church of Christ, United Methodist Board of Church and Society, and Evangelicals for Social Action.
Chanting “No justice, no peace,” demonstrators marched from the White House to the Supreme Court. Tom Parker, counter terrorism policy director at Amnesty International USA, bluntly assessed: “Ten years on, we should be witnessing the closure of Guantanamo and the end of unlawful detention policies.”
In a January 10 statement, Parker denounced the “rejuvenation of Guantanamo” as a blot on American foreign policy decision-making. He and other protesters also claimed the National Defense Authorization Act puts American citizens at risk for unwarranted and unlimited detention. President Obama signed the over 500-page law on December 31, 2011.
Parker bemoaned about Guantanamo: “Instead of putting an end to this symbol of the United States’ human rights failures, the U.S. government just revitalized it under new management.” National Religious Coalition Against Torture director John Humphries feared there is “no end in sight” to America’s heightened vigilance around national security issues.
Equally distraught was activist Tamer Mehanna, who advocated a less suspicious perception of Muslim-Americans during the protracted War on Terror. Mehanna, whose brother Tarek was held in prolonged solitary confinement after his arrest for translating terrorist materials, disputed repeated connections between Islam and terror. “There’s no reason to be afraid” of Muslims, he reassured.
Mehanna found company in the next speaker, who also condemned U.S. mistreatment of Muslims. Established in 1968, Islamic Circle of North America is a national chapter-based non-profit organization that seeks “to establish connections between Islam and the public” through “self-development, education, outreach and social services.” Its chief, Naeem Baig, chided the U.S. for ostensibly betraying its values during the War on Terror. Guantanamo Bay, he said, “represents America’s immorality” and is not an appropriate response for a nation at war against an uncommon enemy. Baig insisted we must “also be willing to sing the same song of freedom for all, freedom for all, freedom for all!”
Sister Dianna Ortiz of Pax Christi USA, a national Catholic social justice advocate, identified a “lack of political will” as the primary driver behind Gitmo’s continuance. She recommended a more benign perception of suspected terrorists, who are, she wrote, “brothers and sisters.” The Pax Christi program director encouraged ‘xenophilia’ or “loving the stranger” for engagement with potential terrorists. She contrasted this stance with “the opposite, more well-known term, ‘xenophobia.’” Sr. Ortiz concluded: “It is clear that if we want to end terrorism on our country's terms, the only way to do so is the true American way: with respect for due process, habeas corpus, and full constitutional and human rights.”
The Institute on Religion & Democracy
1023 15th Street NW, Suite 601, Washington, DC 20005-2601
P: (202) 682-4131 F: (202) 682-4136