Protesting Former Attorney General Ashcroft's Visit

Magda Bayoumi and Bob Newman at the Ashcroft protest. Magda is one of the 150 Muslim families who were interrogated on the day of the Help the Needy arrests. Photo: Katherine Hughes

Former Attorney General John Ashcroft recently spoke at Syracuse University defending government tactics in the "war on terror." Protestors of the event included supporters of Dr. Rafil Dhafir, a local oncologist who is a victim of a government policy that targets Islamic charities in the US.

Since September 11, 2001, six major US Muslim charities and several smaller Muslim charities have been shut down, including Dhafir's Syracuse, NY charity, Help the Needy. Each charity's assets were frozen and its associates held without bail while Ashcroft announced to the media that "funders of terrorism" had been apprehended. Thus organizations and individuals associated with humanitarian work were denied the right to be held innocent until proven guilty and were subjected to "guilt by association."

W hen Ashcroft announced his resignation in November of 2004, he gave as evidence of success in the "war on terror" 211 criminal prosecutions, 478 deportations, and $124 million in frozen assets. But what he neglected to mention was virtually none of these cases were actual terrorism convictions. Like Dhafir, other charity associates were convicted of white-collar crime and sanctions violation. Indeed, at the time of Ashcroft's resignation there was only one bona fide terrorism conviction, that of the shoe-bomber Richard Reid.

Muslims and Arabs in the US are currently being subjected to an ad hoc redefinition and contraction of their basic freedoms without any recourse to public debate. Dhafir and others were not afforded the protections the Bill of Rights guarantees to all; this is not what we want from our legal system. In order to sustain a vital democracy there must be equal treatment under the law for all.

The government recently overturned an appeals court decision to grant Dhafir transcripts at the expense of the court; we need to raise $22,000. Please send a donation for any amount to: Dr. Dhafir Appeal Fund, c/o Peter Goldberger, esq., Attorney at Law, 50 Rittenhouse Place, Ardmore, PA 19003. Write "Dr. Dhafir Appeal Fund" in the memo line and note that donations are not tax-deductible. More information: www.dhafirtrial.net.

- Katherine Hughes