Tarek Mehanna

I learned about the town of Haditha, where 24
Muslims – including a 76-year old man in a
wheelchair, women, and even toddlers – were
shot up and blown up in their bedclothes as the
slept by US Marines. I learned about Abeer al-
Janabi, a fourteen- year old Iraqi girl gang-raped
by five American soldiers, who then shot her and
her family in the head, then set fire to their
corpses. I just want to point out, as you can see,
Muslim women don’t even show their hair to
unrelated men. So try to imagine this young girl
from a conservative village with her dress torn
off, being sexually assaulted by not one, not two,
not three, not four, but five soldiers. Even today,
as I sit in my jail cell, I read about the drone
strikes which continue to kill Muslims daily in
places like Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen. Just
last month, we all heard about the seventeen
Afghan Muslims – mostly mothers and their kids
– shot to death by an American soldier, who also
set fire to their corpses. These are just the
stories that make it to the headlines, but one of
the first concepts I learned in Islam is that of
loyalty, of brotherhood – that each Muslim
woman is my sister, each man is my brother, and
together, we are one large body who must
protect each other. In other words, I couldn’t see
these things beings done to my brothers &
sisters – including by America – and remain
neutral. My sympathy for the oppressed
continued, but was now more personal, as was
my respect for those defending them. I
mentioned Paul Revere – when he went on his
midnight ride, it was for the purpose of warning
the people that the British were marching to
Lexington to arrest Sam Adams and John
Hancock, then on to Concord to confiscate the
weapons stored there by the Minuteman. By the
time they got to Concord, they found the
Minuteman waiting for them, weapons in hand.
They fired at the British, fought them, and beat
them. From that battle came the American
Revolution. There’s an Arabic word to describe
what those Minutemen did that day. That word
is: JIHAD, and this is what my trial was about. All
those videos and translations and childish
bickering over ‘Oh, he translated this paragraph’
and ‘Oh, he edited that sentence,’ and all those
exhibits revolved around a single issue: Muslims
who were defending themselves against
American soldiers doing to them exactly what
the British did to America. It was made crystal
clear at trial that I never, ever plotted to “kill
Americans” at shopping malls or whatever the
story was. The government’s own witnesses
contradicted this claim, and we put expert after
expert up on that stand, who spent hours
dissecting my every written word, who explained
my beliefs. Further, when I was free, the
government sent an undercover agent to prod
me into one of their little “terror plots,” but I
refused to participate. Mysteriously, however,
the jury never heard this. So, this trial was not
about my position on Muslims killing American
civilians. It was about my position on Americans
killing Muslim civilians, which is that Muslims
should defend their lands from foreign invaders
– Soviets, Americans, or Martians. This is what I
believe. It’s what I’ve always believed, and what I
will always believe. This is not terrorism, and it’s
not extremism. It’s what the arrows on that seal
above your head represent: defense of the
homeland. So, I disagree with my lawyers when
they say that you don’t have to agree with my
beliefs – no. Anyone with commonsense and
humanity has no choice but to agree with me. If
someone breaks into your home to rob you and
harm your family, logic dictates that you do
whatever it takes to expel that invader from
your home.
But when that home is a Muslim land, and that
invader is the US military, for some reason the
standards suddenly change. Common sense is
renamed ”terrorism” and the people defending
themselves against those who come to kill them
from across the ocean become “the terrorists”
who are ”killing Americans.” The mentality that
America was victimized with when British
soldiers walked these streets 2 ½ centuries ago is
the same mentality Muslims are victimized by as
American soldiers walk their streets today. It’s
the mentality of colonialism. When Sgt. Bales
shot those Afghans to death last month, all of the
focus in the media was on him-his life, his stress,
his PTSD, the mortgage on his home-as if he was
the victim. Very little sympathy was expressed
for the people he actually killed, as if they’re not
real, they’re not humans. Unfortunately, this
mentality trickles down to everyone in society,
whether or not they realize it. Even with my
lawyers, it took nearly two years of discussing,
explaining, and clarifying before they were
finally able to think outside the box and at least
ostensibly accept the logic in what I was saying.
Two years! If it took that long for people so
intelligent, whose job it is to defend me, to de-
program themselves, then to throw me in front
of a randomly selected jury under the premise
that they’re my “impartial peers,” I mean, come
on. I wasn’t tried before a jury of my peers
because with the mentality gripping America
today, I have no peers. Counting on this fact, the
government prosecuted me – not because they
needed to, but simply because they could. I
learned one more thing in history class: America
has historically supported the most unjust
policies against its minorities – practices that
were even protected by the law – only to look
back later and ask: ’what were we thinking?’
Slavery, Jim Crow, the internment of the
Japanese during World War II – each was widely
accepted by American society, each was
defended by the Supreme Court. But as time
passed and America changed, both people and
courts looked back and asked ’What were we
thinking?’ Nelson Mandela was considered a
terrorist by the South African government, and
given a life sentence. But time passed, the world
changed, they realized how oppressive their
policies were, that it was not he who was the
terrorist, and they released him from prison. He
even became president. So, everything is
subjective – even this whole business of
“terrorism” and who is a “terrorist.” It all
depends on the time and place and who the
superpower happens to be at the moment. In
your eyes, I’m a terrorist, and it’s perfectly
reasonable that I be standing here in an orange
jumpsuit. But one day, America will change and
people will recognize this day for what it is. They
will look at how hundreds of thousands of
Muslims were killed and maimed by the US
military in foreign countries, yet somehow I’m
the one going to prison for “conspiring to kill and
maim” in those countries – because I support the
Mujahidin defending those people. They will look
back on how the government spent millions of
dollars to imprison me as a ”terrorist,” yet if we
were to somehow bring Abeer al-Janabi back to
life in the moment she was being gang-raped by
your soldiers, to put her on that witness stand
and ask her who the “terrorists” are, she sure
wouldn’t be pointing at me. The government says
that I was obsessed with violence, obsessed with
”killing Americans.” But, as a Muslim living in
these times, I can think of a lie no more ironic. –
Tarek Mehanna 4/12/12

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