Submitted by Anne:
The following report on Thursday’s Pre-emptive Prosecution Panel at NYU was written by attorney Steve Downs, who was one of the panelists. He captures how powerful an evening it was:
Hi Everybody – I just want to report that Lynne Jackson, Kathy Manley and I went to NYU law school last night for a presentation on "Personal Stories of Preemptive Prosecution". The idea for the presentation originated with sense that the Newburgh 4 group had been treated unfairly and needed a forum to express what had happened to them. Then Faisal Hashmi was added to talk about Fahad Hashmi’s plight. Then the Ft. Dix 5 were included. Then they brought us in to talk about Aref-Hossain and also about Project SALAM. Then Noor Elashi (daughter of Ghassan Elashi the founder of the Holy Land Foundation) was added. Each of these groups were given about 20 minutes to make a presentation. We spoke about the Aref-Hossain case, but also about Project SALAM and how it was trying to represent all of the hundred of other cases of premptively prosecuted Muslims who were not prersent that night. Then Mauri Saalakhan summed up the significance all of this tragedy (and urged everyone not to remain silent but to speak out). Then to my surprise three other groups came up to make brief presentations about other defendants I had not even heard of. Then they took questions. The evening went on and on and few of the approximately 100 people seemed to want to leave.
My overall impression was that there was a lot of energy in the room and a lot of emotion. For a skeptic, it might have been possible to dismiss one presntation or another as being the product of Muslims who were in denial about the bad things their loved ones had done, but as more and more similar stories poured out about families ripped apart, Muslims taken off in the night for reasons that made no sense, vicious, untruthful prosecutions, and so on, even the most hardened skeptic would have had to have been moved. At some point you reach a critical mass when the reality is undeniable that something really bad, really illegal is happening on a massive scale. We came close to that critical mass. I think even the event organizeers were stunned at the power of the witnesses who were trying to describe an unfolding tragedy of historical importance.
So it was a great evening. All the speakers helped to get the message out. Lynne and Kathy spoke passionately and were very effective. There was a wonderful moment at the end when all of the "panelists" were asked to come to the front of the room to take questions and so many people had eventually "spoken" that we filled one whole wall of the room. Then Alica McWilliams (Christian mother of one of the Newburght 4) invited Latta Duka (Muslim mother of the Ft. Dix 5) to come up and join the panelists and embraced her, and declared that we were all family now – all of us. And as I looked out at the crowd, I realized that if invited at least half of the crowd would have eagerly come up and joined our "family". Later there will be time to sort out strategy, and make legal arguments and try to make sense of what the government was doing. But part of what happened last night was the establishment of the Preemptive Prosecution Family – the understanding that all of us who have been touched by this tragedy are joined together and we need to help and support one another. We are not alone. Steve Downs