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Detained by the US Government
by Rabih Haddad
Below is a letter sent by Pastor Rabih Haddad from his cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) in downtown Chicago. Haddad is well known in the Ann Arbor/Detroit area as an ecumenical leader and assistant Imam of a local mosque. He is co-founder of the Global Relief Foundation, the second largest Muslim charity in the US, which has had its assets frozen since December 14, 2001, even though the government has yet to produce any evidence against it.
Haddad, along with thousands of others, has been racially profiled by our government for being Arab and Muslim. He was locked up in solitary confinement in December 2001 without criminal charges and denied bond, without the government releasing any of the alleged “evidence” against him. The Detroit Free Press, Detroit Metro Times, Congressman John Conyers and the ACLU have sued Atty General Ashcroft to open the closed court hearings, which even his family, have been barred from.
Mr. Haddad’s letter is addressed to a member of the Chicago Coalition Against War & Racism (CCAWR).
January 27, 2002
Dear Mr. Thayer,
Thank you so much for your kind and thoughtful letter of January 22. I do greatly appreciate your interest and efforts for my release. Please extend my regards and gratitude to all members of CCAWR.
I am sorry to say that I was not able to see the protests because the window in my cell is “whited out” to allow light in but not for me to see anything out. I was able, however, to hear about it from other inmates who own small radios and heard it on the news.
It’s for my safety, they say.
Allow me to take this opportunity to bring you slightly into my world here at MCC Chicago. I am in a 6' x 9' solitary cell that seems to have been designed for extremely violent or extremely troublesome inmates.
The bed is situated in the center of the room with about a foot and a half on either side of it to the wall. The bed is a metal slab with four legs bolted to the floor and fitted on all four corners with special fittings to hold straps if it should become necessary.
I have a camera fixed on me right outside my door that has completely deprived me of any kind of privacy since that door has a small window which allows them to check and see if I’m still there around the clock.
It’s for my safety, they say.
I am allowed one 15 minute call to my family every 30 days. My food is handed to me through a slit in the door 2-1/2” x 12”. The same opening is used to put the cuffs on me before the door is opened for any reason. I am allowed 3 showers a week for which I have to be cuffed to walk 10 paces to the shower that has a door similar to my cell’s door.
I’m only un-cuffed after I’m inside and the door is locked.
I also get one hour of recreation five days a week, and what a joke that is.
I am led, cuffed, from my cell to a cage (literally) just down the hall which is the same size as my cell. In it is a homemade stationary bicycle that has no resistance and thus is worthless for exercising. I have to wait until the cage is empty because I cannot be put in there with anyone else, for my own safety, they say.
I have made numerous pleas to the warden and others to let me speak with my family once a week, but my pleas have fallen on deaf ears. I have been under these conditions for the past month and a half, which can drive a person to the extreme limits of his/her mental, emotional, and psychological capabilities.
Where do we draw the line between justice and oppression? Between prosecution and persecution? Is due process supposed to serve society or is society supposed to be enslaved by “due process?” Many people on this side of the fence, I’m sorry to say, have become Pavlovic dogs of sorts when it comes to “due process.” I have been treated like the worst criminal you can imagine when I have not even been charged with a crime, save overstaying my visa, which I was in the process of remedying.
All of this has done nothing but harden my will and strengthened my resolve to overcome and persevere. Your efforts and the efforts of others are like torches of hope that light my way in this deep and dark tunnel that I’ve entered and I am eternally grateful for that.
Please convey my warmest greetings and thanks to all those who planned, participated or supported your efforts. May God bless you all.
p.s. I forgot to mention the waves of cockroaches that invade the cell at night and crawl over everything, including me.
Statement from the Family of Rabih Haddad to the National Summit to Stop the Repression Against Muslim, Arab and South Asian Immigrants (May, 2002)
Rabih Haddad should be freed immediately. It’s been over five months since our brother was kidnapped by federal agents from his home in Ann Arbor Michigan. To this day, the government has not filed any charges against him.
If we allow President Bush to wage wars and terrorize other innocent civilians in the name of national security, then how are we different than the terrorists?
They have, however, intentionally leaked information to the media for no other purpose but to assassinate his character so that the public would abandon the fight for his human rights and basic civil liberties. On behalf of Rabih and his family, we appreciate your enthusiasm and support in keeping his struggle, our struggle, and fight for justice alive.
It seems as though John Ashcroft expects us to grow complacent to the new laws passed by Congress after September 11, 2001. Are we prepared to admit that, or are we willing to act today, and perhaps make history? Those laws have taken away our freedoms and more importantly our rights that we and many great people helped us achieve throughout the history of this great country.
If we accept the fact that the perpetrators of September 11 terrorized us and seeded fear in our hearts, then we have allowed them to win. If we allow this administration to carry on with its policy to play on those fears and nourish them, then the perpetrators have won. If we allow President Bush to wage wars and terrorize other innocent civilians in the name of national security, then how are we different than the terrorists?
Rabih Haddad is being made an example of. He has been imprisoned without charges; he has been kept in solitary confinement for several months and he was denied contact with his family on many occasions.
His human rights have been trampled on, as well as his family’s. It is obvious that any person of Middle Eastern descent is now a target.
If this is not racial profiling, what is? Mr. Ashcroft has taken it upon himself to be the Judge, the Jury, and the executioner. His track record speaks for itself. Is this the example we want set?