Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Professors Rally Around a Fomer Student, Now Jailed Terrorist

The Chronicle of Higher Education (h/t Sharad Karkhanis) covers the story of Syed Fahad Hashmi, who is:

"being held in solitary confinement at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan, on multiple charges related to terrorism. And now his trial, supposed to begin at the end of this month, has been pushed back indefinitely."

I cannot comment on the case's merits because the facts are unclear and I am not an attorney. Nor can I comment on the fairness of the prison treatment of Mr. Hashmi because I have no knowledge respect to penal standards or the law. However, I can say that Professor Theoharis's claim that the case has relevance to what goes on at Brooklyn College or college campuses more generally is nonsensical. First of all, Mr. Hashmi had graduated Brooklyn College several years before his arrest. Second, he was arrested in England, not on the campus quad. Third, I have never seen any harassment of any student on the basis of religion, race, or color at Brooklyn College since I began teaching there in 1998. Nor do I believe that there is any kind of trend toward oppression of Muslim students on American campuses more generally.

Hashmi is a former student at Brooklyn College, where I teach. The Chronicle indicates that two of my colleagues, Professors Jeanne Theoharis and Corey Robin have organized a "Free Fahad" movement that has "gained the support of hundreds of academics, writers, and social-justice activists." The Free-Fahad movement protests his segregation from other prisoners, restricted visits and 24-hour surveillance.

According to Mark J. Mershon, Hashmi supplied military gear to Al Qaeda. According to the Chronicle, the faculty members believe that imprisoning Mr. Hashmi for providing military supplies to Al Qaeda freezes speech at Brookln College. After graduating from Brooklyn College and obtaining a master's at London Metropolitan University Hashmi was arrested on the grounds that he:

"conspired with unnamed persons to provide "material support or resources"—including money and military gear—to co-conspirators who delivered the materials to Al Qaeda members in Pakistan. The materials were to be used by Al Qaeda against U.S. forces in Afghanistan, the indictment says. Mr. Hashmi is also charged with allowing co-conspirators to store materials at his apartment that he knew would be delivered to Al Qaeda, and to use his cellphone to contact members of the terrorist organization."

According to the Chronicle article, Hashmi had threatened his arresters, which led to special surveillance and restrictions.

Professor Theoharis argues that the detention violates Hashmi's civil liberties. She goes on to argue that:

"Past Mr. Hashmi's personal predicament, however, the case's potential to create a chilling effect on college campuses is particularly troublesome to those in academe who want him freed...It's particularly significant in a moment when we are seeing the criminalization of Muslim students..."

Naturally, I distrust government's management of the penal system, and accusations of abuse need to be taken seriously. It seems, though, that any time an alleged terrorist is arrested, the CUNY faculty stand ready to provide legal advice and, as Karkhanis has pointed out, a job, in order to support the "speech" of murdering those with whom the terrorists disagree.

No comments: