Also See: Katherine Hughes | Criminalizing Compassion in the War on Terror
In a time and place where Muslims have learned it’s prudent to be silent, we should be especially grateful to Shamshad Ahmad for having the courage to write his book “Rounded Up.” The book opens with a quote from the Prophet Muhammad, “The highest form of jihad is to speak the truth in the face of an unjust ruler,” and Ahmad’s book is the embodiment of this quote. Understated and powerful, with respect for fact, each page is testament to his belief that the truth can indeed set us free.
“Rounded Up” tells of an FBI-instigated fake terrorist plot that not only terrorizes a whole community, but also sends two members of the Albany, New York, Muslim community to prison for 15 years each. Ahmad’s perspective is unique because of the many vantage points he occupies simultaneously as Muslim, immigrant, US citizen, mosque president and professor of physics.
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Government press conferences, political photo-ops and news flashes about “terrorists” are juxtaposed with community disbelief and impotence to counter the effects of a frenzied media circus feeding on duplicity and omission. Initial feelings of impotence are ultimately overcome by two bold initiatives from a diverse Albany community that has come together through tragedy: the Muslim Solidarity Committee (www.nepajac.org/Aref&Hossain.htm), which gives direct support to the two convicted men and their families, and Project SALAM (Support and Legal Advocacy for Muslims) (www.projectsalam.org), which addresses the wider context of what is happening nationwide.
Not to be missed – and perhaps to be read first – are the appendices. Taking samples from government transcripts of sting tapes, Ahmad illustrates how lack of context, omission and mistranslation contribute to distortions of reality that are then fed to an eager press in the “war on terror.” Thank you to Shamshad Ahmad for documenting this individual case of a cruel, tragic scenario that is, unfortunately, being played out over and over again in cases across the country.