Monday, March 07, 2005

Using Jesus to Abuse Muslims?

Here's a nice thing; US guards at Guantanamo Bay's prison colony have apparently been abusing Muslim prisoners there by, among other things, shaving crosses into inmates' hair and (in one incident) justifying a beating by exclaiming, "I'm a Christian."

I would hope evanglicals who take Jesus seriously would protest these actions (described in the below Miami Herald article) by writing their congresspersons and by speaking from the pulpits and the streets against continuing abuse at Guantanamo Bay against prisoners.

Further, I strongly urge evangelicals to militate for visitation rights to these prisoners, for themselves and for other relief and advocacy agencies.

Posted on Sun, Mar. 06, 2005
The Miami Herald
Captives allege religious abuse

Prisoners at Guantánamo Bay have complained of anti-Islamic abuses by guards and interrogators, including defilement of the Koran.

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Captives at the Guantánamo Bay prison are alleging that guards kicked and stomped on Korans and cursed Allah, and that interrogators punished them by taking away their pants, knowing that would prevent them from praying.

Guards also mocked captives at prayer and censored Islamic books, the captives allege. And in one incident, they say, a prison barber cut a cross-shaped patch of hair on an inmate's head.

Most of the complaints come from the recently declassified notes of defense lawyers' interviews with prisoners, which Guantánamo officials initially stamped ''secret.'' Under a federal court procedure for due-process appeals by about 100 inmates, portions are now being declassified.

The allegations of religious abuses contradict Pentagon portrayals of the Guantánamo prison for Taliban and al Qaeda suspects as respectful of Islam. Commanders at the base in Cuba have showcased the presence of Muslim chaplains and the issuance of Korans, prayer rugs, caps and beads and religiously correct meals.

Army Col. David McWilliams, the spokesman for the Miami-based Southern Command, which supervises the prison, said he could not confirm or deny the specific complaints. They could not be independently investigated because the U.S. military bans reporters from interviewing detainees.

But McWilliams denied any policy of religious abuse.

''There's certainly no planned approach from guards to interrogators that pits Christianity against Islam,'' he told The Herald. ``The policy has been to show respect for the Islamic religion -- and that runs the gamut from providing the items they need for prayer to making sure their diets are appropriate.''

The accounts of religious indignities and abuses come from at least two dozen captives and a range of attorneys -- from U.S. military lawyers assigned to defend prisoners to activist law professors and private corporate lawyers who have sued since the Supreme Court ruled in June that the captives can contest their detention in U.S. courts.


'On or about Christmas 2002, the head of shift banged on detainees' cells, yelling Merry Christmas and cursing Allah,'' said New York attorney Joshua Colangelo-Bryan's notes from his interview with Jumah al Dossari, 31, of Bahrain. ``Subsequently, a lieutenant arrived and . . . he hit Mr. al Dossari and insulted the Koran.''

And after Dossari asked a military policeman identified only as Smith why Smith had beaten him unconscious in one episode, according to the lawyer's notes, 'Smith replied, `because I'm Christian.' ''

New York lawyer Adrian Stewart said one of his 14 Yemeni clients, a man in his 20s, had his eyebrows and head shaved three times as punishment -- and one time the Army barber left what his client described as a cross-shaped patch of hair on his head.

Military spokesmen would not say whether they believed that the incident was the same one for which a prison barber was reprimanded for giving a detainee a haircut described as a Mohawk in February 2003.

The latest allegations of abuses at the prison in southeastern Cuba come as a three-star Air Force general is investigating FBI accounts of harsh interrogation tactics -- and subsequent reports that women soldiers used sexual taunts during interrogations. Devout Muslim men believe they must not touch women other than their wives.

New York attorney Marc Falkoff said his 13 Yemeni clients, men in their 20s and 30s, were also victims of religious humiliation.

Falkoff said prisoner Majid Ahmad, 24, told him that an interrogator stepped on his Koran at one point -- a sacrilege in Islam -- and that prisoners are ``mocked during prayers.''

Falkoff and other lawyers said prisoners also claimed U.S. troops sometimes blared music during prayers or tried to drown out a recording of the call to prayers. But that's not the worst.

''The things they always complain about is their trousers are routinely taken away from them for a variety of disciplinary actions, including not talking during interrogations,'' Falkoff said. ``Now, the reason this is a punishment . . . is that these guys can't pray without being covered head to foot . . . and they see this as a religious insult.''

The military says soldiers take pants from prisoners who might try to hang themselves; captives call it calculated punishment because Islam requires that they be covered as they pray five times a day.


Boston attorney Rob Kirsch said detainee Mustafa Ait Idir, 34, an Algerian-born Bosnian detained on suspicion of links to a plot to blow up a U.S. embassy, told of being transferred to a no-trousers cell section known as Romeo block.

When he refused to give up his pants, he was tackled, punched and pepper-sprayed, and had a testicle squeezed and a finger broken by soldiers of a quick-reaction force, Kirsch's notes said.

''Mr. Ait Idir desperately tried to reason . . . and again explained that he could not give up his pants for religious reasons since, without pants, he could not pray,'' the notes said. ``He asked if it would be possible for him to wear his pants only during prayer. The IRF [Immediate Reaction Force] began to spray tear gas again.''

German-born Turkish citizen Murat Kurnaz, 23, said he head-butted a woman soldier who rubbed her breasts against his back and stuck her hand down his shirt during an interrogation, said his lawyer, Seton Hall University law professor Baher Azmy.


Kurnaz claimed that in reprisal, the soldiers beat him and left him hogtied for about 20 hours, put him in isolation and denied him food for six days, Azmy's notes said. He drank water from his cell sink.

Three Kuwaiti captives -- Fawzi al Odah, 27, Fouad al Rabiah, 45, and Khalid al Mutairi, 29 -- separately complained to their lawyer that military police threw their Korans into the toilet, according to the notes of Kristine Huskey, a Washington attorney.

The alleged religious indignities have disturbed U.S. military officers assigned to defend the detainees.

''From vaunted religious freedom to what actually exists for Mr. Hamdan are worlds apart,'' said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Charles Swift, lawyer for Yemeni Salim Hamdan, 35, who worked as a driver on Osama bin Laden's Afghanistan farm.

To help his client pass time, Swift said, he brought Hamdan $550 worth of mainstream Muslim books that had been allowed in the prison during its first year of operation. He said censors prohibited them and explained that only Army-issued Korans were allowed.

''He did get one religious book -- it was approved in two days -- the Bible,'' Swift said.

Defense lawyers were unwilling to speculate on which alleged religious abuses involved approved U.S. interrogation techniques and which were committed by soldiers acting on their own.

But Pentagon interrogation rules have at times permitted the use of religion as a pressure point at Guantánamo, which, unlike the Abu Ghraib prison during the early, chaotic days in Iraq, was a strictly controlled site 8,000 miles from the battle zone.

Guantánamo commanders have boasted in successive media presentations that the Army captain who serves as intelligence chief systematically strips prisoners of religious articles such as prayer beads, a prayer rug or prayer oils if they are deemed uncooperative.

''The issue of removing published religious items or materials would be relevant if these were United States citizens with a First Amendment right. Such is not the case with the detainees,'' said an Oct. 11, 2002, legal brief written by the Guantánamo interrogation unit's lawyer, Army Lt. Col. Diane E. Beaver.


Anonymous said...

as a non-american, but definitely, as a christian, this leaves me breathless!!
This type of behaviour is simply non-acceptable, especially coming from a so-called "christian" nation, like the USA.

Anonymous said...

Dear Jon Trott,
I am a muslim and i certainly cried and also felt sad that my fellow muslim were treated this way.Christianity is a religion and Islam is a religion too.As an Islam,we were THOUGH to RESPECT other rigions INCLUDING CHRISTIANITY.They insulted my God,ALLAH(i cried when i read it).They also stepped on Quran(Koran) when many MUSLIM DON'T EVEN DARED TO DO THAT.My fellow MUSLIM'S pants trousers were pulled down and THEY CAN'T PRAYED!!!I don't believed this is happening in such a civilised place.Merry Christmas in Singapore were celebrated among all religions and THEY are CURSING ALLAH!!!! When some Muslim don't even do that!! To tell u the truth,I have CHRISTIANS IN MY FAMILY!! They respect us and we respect their religion!!I certainly feel VER VERY SAD(i am not blaming other christians because i know there are many christians out there who have sense and are much much more better then those christians u said)....Is there a need to insult ALLAH,steped the holy QURAN,pull down Muslim pants when they have to pray and also to mocked them while praying...(i cried when i read ur blog)..Dear Jon Trott,i usually blame my friends when they say Christians are bad ppl(i even had a fight with them.)I usually say they r all spouting nonsense but...this is happening jus like wat my friends said..BUT I KNOW SOME CHRISTIAN ARE FAR OFF MORE BETTER THEN THE ONES U SAID...

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