Flint family of man imprisoned in Iran makes plea to Iranian government

http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2012120925051

1:11 PM, September 25, 2012

By Elisha Anderson

Detroit Free Press Staff Writer

Amir Hekmati’s family tried working through Iranian government channels, requested to meet with Iran’s president and wrote letters to court officials in an attempt to bring him home.

When that didn’t work, they started talking to the media, hoping Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will learn about Hekmati’s case when he’s in the U.S. this week. They want Ahmadinejad, who is scheduled to address the United Nations General Assembly in New York Wednesday, to find out what is happening with Hekmati when Ahmadinejad returns to Iran.

“It appears whoever is managing his case right now is not giving him the due process that exists even within (its) own judicial system,” his sister Sarah Hekmati, 31, of Lathrup Village, said at a news conference today.

Amir Hekmati, 29, has been in prison in Iran since August 2011, when he was accused of working for the CIA. It’s an accusation his family and the U.S. government say is false. The U.S. State Department is urging the Iranian government to release Hekmati, a former U.S. Marine who grew up in Flint.

A day after Amir Hekmati’s father talked to the Free Press from hishospital bed in Novi, Sarah Hekmati and her husband Ramy Kurdi, 32, made their plea to bring Amir Hekmati home at a news conference held at the Council on American-Islamic Relations Michigan Chapter (CAIR) in Southfield.

CAIR is assisting the Hekmati family and has worked with Iranian officials in the past when other Americans have been imprisoned there.

“If the Iranian officials will turn Amir over to us, then I am willing, and we at CAIR are willing, to fly to Iran to bring Amir back home,” Executive Director Dawud Walid said. “We hope that the Iranian government will take this offer from us.”

Amir Hekmati wanted to visit his ill grandmother in August 2011 and entered Iran legally, his family said. He knew he was taking a small risk going to the country for the first time in his life, but told his mother he thought it was worth it to see his grandma before she died.

Hekmati spent two weeks with relatives before he disappeared. His family didn’t know where he was for four months.

The first confirmation they had that Amir Hekmati was still in Iran was a video of him confessing to be a CIA spy — he had lost about 40 pounds by that time, his family said.

“We know that this confession was given under duress,” Sarah Hekmati said.

His family and the U.S. government say the charges are categorically false.

Amir Hekmati had been kept in solidarity confinement. His family hasn’t heard from him since the end of June, so they don’t know if that is still the case or what his current conditions are.

Hekmati’s mother and grandmothers have been able to see him. The family estimates they’ve probably only spent four hours total with him total since he was detained more than a year ago.

Amir Hekmati has no idea that doctors discovered a brain tumor in his father, his family said. The family fears the elder Hekmati could die before he gets the chance to be reunited with his son.

“We hope that the Iranian authorities that are here in the U.S. can hear our plea,” Sarah Hekmati said.

A candlelight vigil is scheduled for 7 p.m. tonight at Mott Community College. The community is invited to attend. It will be held between the MCC Library and the Mott Memorial Building, located on the maincampus, 1401 E. Court St. in Flint.

CAIR-MI to Call for Due Process for Muslim Detained in Iran

MEDIA ADVISORY

CAIR-MI to Call for Due Process for Muslim Detained in Iran

(SOUTHFIELD, MI, 9/24/12) ­ On Tuesday, September
25, the Michigan chapter of the Council on
American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MI) will hold a
press conference in Southfield, Mich., on the eve
of Iran’s president speaking to the United
Nations to call for due process and mercy for a
Michigan Muslim being detained by the Iranian government.

WHAT: Press Conference Calling for Due Process
for Mich. Muslim Detained in Iran
WHEN: Tuesday, September 25 at 10 a.m.
WHERE: CAIR-MI Office, 21700 Northwestern Highway, Suite 815, Southfield, MI
CONTACT: CAIR-MI Executive Director Dawud Walid,
248-842-1418, E-Mail: dwalid@cair.com

Amir Hekmati, a U.S. military veteran from Flint,
Mich., has been detained by the Iranian
government since August 2011 on the accusation
that he is a CIA agent. He was subsequently given
the death penalty in January, but the conviction was later dismissed.

Hekmati’s family has not been able to communicate
with him for several months and no court date has been given for a retrial.

SEE: Flint Family Holds Out Hope for Release of Son (Free Press)
http://tinyurl.com/9pwtvpe

Hekmati’s mother, sister and brother-in-law will
also be at the press conference.

CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties
and advocacy organization. Its mission is to
enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage
dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower
American Muslims, and build coalitions that
promote justice and mutual understanding.

- END ­

5 points of clarification on protests to anti-Islam trailer

Based upon the lack of thorough analysis that I’ve seen in mainstream media discussing the unrest overseas pertaining to the anti-Islam trailer, I thought that I’d share the following thoughts:     

 The deaths of the U.S. ambassador in Libya and three additional Americans appear not to have been related to protests about the trailer.

It has now been revealed that Ambassador Stevens was on Al-Qaeda’s hit list.  Moreover, intelligence now says that the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi appears to have been a well-planned operation, not a spontaneous attack related to protests about the anti-Islam trailer.

The anti-Islam trailer was virtually unknown to Muslims until a Salafist television aired it in a move that seems politically motivated.

The anti-Islam trailer first came on the internet in June 2012, and there was no national or international outrage about it.  On September 8, 2012, the Salafist television station Al-Nas, which is owned by a Saudi media group, aired part of the trailer.  The showing of the trailer then sparked protests in Cairo and Benghazi as a consequence.  The trailer was not shown by Egyptian State television, unlike some media accounts.  The Salafists are political rivals of the Muslim Brotherhood led government, and the Salafists also fashion themselves to be the true upholders and defenders of Islam.

The majority of Muslims still have not gone into the streets to protest the film, and the majority of rallies have been peaceful.

Muslims have protested in the streets against the anti-Islam trailer from Nigeria to Thailand; however, the majority has not taken to the streets.  Even if 100,000 Muslims in several countries have protested, which I believe the number to be less than this, the number would not even be an hundredth of a percent of 1.6 billion Muslims.  Furthermore, the majority of protests such as the 10,000 people who protested last week in Beirut, Lebanon did not cause any injury to human life or damage to property.  The burning of the Kentucky Fried Chicken in Tripoli, Lebanon and property damage to U.S. embassies in Egypt and Yemen are intolerable exceptions, not the rule.

The angry protests at U.S. embassies are about much more than the anti-Islam film.

Though the favorability rating of America is still high in many Muslim majority countries, many Muslims feel that this anti-Islam movie, which was made in the USA, is the preverbial straw that broke the camel’s back in a list of other grievances.  When many Muslims hear America talking about democracy and freedom of speech, they fully know that America has and continues to support dictatorships in Muslims countries that stifled democracy and freedom of speech (i.e. Musharraf in Pakistan & Mubarak in Egypt).  Such support of dictators is viewed by the people as American political hypocrisy (which it is) as well as the continued American exploitation of their countries’ natural resources and/or strategic value.   Hence, we see the protests that have turned the ugliest in countries in which America has supported dictators, which suppressed their own populations.

Christians have not gotten as angry about slights towards Jesus because of the clear absence of the political dynamic which exists in some parts of the Muslim world.

Being that the protests in many parts of the Muslim world are greater than the anti-Islam trailer, it is not analogous to compare the environments that these Muslims live in with the West.  Isolated insults of disrespect towards Jesus cannot be compared to the Islamophobia industry, which promotes anti-Muslim hate on a daily basis, which has even influence politicians such as Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-MN) to make anti-Muslim statements that are aired around the world.  Moreover, no Muslim majority country has propped up dictators, bombed, occupied and sent drones into Christian majority nations.  If America, United Kingdom and France were invaded by a Muslim country, had over a million civilians killed and continued to send drones that kill civilians, perhaps citizens of those countries would view an insult against Jesus coming from that country as but another act of insult and humiliation.  This is exactly how many view the anti-Islam trailer coming from America, even though our government had nothing to do with making the film.

There is much more to be said about this topic and more will be said as events unfold.  One thing is for certain that there is no justification for violence or intimidation against any country’s embassy and diplomatic staff.  Likewise, we need to use our free speech to encourage dialog among civilizations, not to promote mean-spirited, non-intellectual insults that do nothing but breed more misunderstanding and enmity among the family of man.  We cannot persuade or win people over to our point of view with malicious intent to insult and demean.

Interfaith leaders condemn hate speech at ICA rally

http://www.arabamericannews.com/news/index.php?mod=article&cat=Community&article=5962

Interfaith leaders condemn hate speech at ICA rally
Samer Hijazi
Saturday, 09.22.2012, 05:46pm
DEARBORN-Hundreds of locals turned out on Friday afternoon at the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn where a group of interfaith leaders stood in front of the mosque to condemn the anti-Islamic film that has led to worldwide outrage in the last few weeks.

Those speaking at the event included Imam Hassan Al-Qazwini of the Islamic Center of America, Reverend Edwin Rowe from the Central United Methodist Church, Dawud Walid, the Executive Director of CAIR-MI, Michael Hovey from the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Detroit, Imam Mohammad Elahi from the Islamic House of Wisdom, Robert Bruttell of the Interfaith Leadership Council and Victor Begg from the Michigan Muslim Community Council.
Imam Al-Qazwini started off the event at the podium by telling the audience that it was time for both the Muslim community as well as Americans to draw the line between freedom of speech and hate speech when it promotes discrimination and bigotry.
“Islam will not tolerate or condone violence in honor of defending our holy prophet. Yes as Muslims we need to defend the dignity of our holy prophet, and yes as Muslims we need to demonstrate and condemn this kind of movie. But Muslims should not resort to violence by attacking innocent people. And finally, my dear brothers and sisters….this is what we Muslims expect; we ask that Muslims respect all the prophets of God. We respect Jesus, peace be upon him. We respect Moses and Abraham…and all other prophets and messengers of God. Therefore we demand that the rest of the world respect our prophet Muhammad,” Imam Al-Qazwini told the crowd.
Michael Hovey from the Archdiocese of Detroit then took the stand to inform the crowd that as Christians they condemn the spread of hate speech and recognize the importance of Muslims and Christians standing side by side in peace. Also speaking was Reverend Edwin Rowe, who took the podium to tell the crowd that the blame of the escalating violence should be placed on those individuals who were responsible for creating the movie first and foremost.”Blood is on their hands. There is absolutely no way we can call this anything close to free speech. In fact, if you know the action that you are going to create is going to result in violence and death, then you are responsible for the blood that it causes and I praythat these folks will be brought to justice. What our faiths together teach us is if we respond to evil with evil, then we all become the very thing we hate,” Hovey told the crowd.
Dawud Walid, from CAIR-MI told the audience that it should be American Muslims’ responsibility to react to hate against Islam by advocating peace and explaining to other Americans why the video was so offensive and disgraceful in the first place. Walid stated that Muslims shouldn’t tolerate when hate groups attack any of the religion’s prophets.”The Qur’an says that the prophet is closer to the believers than to their own souls. Prophet Muhammad says none of you will truly believe until he has more love for me than he has for himself, his parents and his children. So when we see a movie molesting our prophet, molesting his wives, it hurts us more than someone literally molesting our fathers, mothers, wives and our husbands. But prophet Muhammad never returned insults with injury. And this Muslim community has been very responsible because out of seven million American Muslims, we can’t even recall one act of violence or intimidation,” Walid stated.
The crowd at the Islamic Center not only included Muslim and Arab Americans, but individuals from other religions also came out to show their support for the cause. Bystander Peter Blohm, a Scottish Christian Dearborn resident, said he came to the event because he is a big supporter of peace.”I think the community has a right to speak out against it but at the same time there is a very thin line between freedom of religion and freedom of speech. I was also here when Pastor Terry Jones, if you can even call him a pastor, when that ordeal happened with him and I think it’s really important that we spread a message that everyone can live together. I also believe it’s important that the Muslims stand up and condemn what some extremists in the Middle East have been doing,” stated Blohm.
But not all bystanders were happy with the event that took place on Friday afternoon in front of the mosque. One local Muslim woman was extremely disappointed, stating that she expected a bigger turnout.”Dearborn has the biggest Muslim population ever…where are they? Not enough people showed up. We need to get the word out there that prophets are not toys for anybody to play around with. We don’t condemn anybody’s religion, so why are they bothering our religion,” the woman stated wishing to remain anonymous.
Residents will have a second opportunity to address the issue next week, where community leaders have been organizing an event that will take place at the Dearborn Civic Center located on Michigan Ave. The event, scheduled on Friday, September 28th at 5:30 p.m. in the venue’s performing arts theater, is asking for all residents of all religions to come together to stand up against hate.

‘Answer evil with good': Metro Detroit religious leaders address Libya violence

http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20120915/METRO01/209150389/-Answer-evil-good-Metro-Detroit-religious-leaders-address-Libya-violence?odyssey=tab|topnews|text|FRONTPAGE

‘Answer evil with good': Metro Detroit religious leaders address Libya violence

Dearborn Heights — Metro Detroit religious leaders on Saturday emphasized the need for a peaceful response to recent violence that resulted in the death of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans during an assault on the U.S. consulate in Libya.

“Our basic message from the community is that there is no justification for vicious behavior, no to violence, no to extremism,” Victor Ghalib Begg, senior adviser of the Michigan Muslim Community Council, said at a news conference at the Islamic House of Wisdom.

“We urge all Muslims to address and peacefully oppose any provocative or aggressive acts against their faith — emphasis on peacefully.”

Begg was joined by Imam Mohammad Ali Elahi, the leader of the Islamic House of Wisdom, who said the violence should be condemned as well as the abuse of freedom of speech. Elahi denounced as “irresponsible” the anti-Muslim video that sparked widespread discord in the Middle East and played a role in the Libya attacks.

“The man they insulted is a holy leader for all the Muslim world who is honored and remembered in our prayers every day at least five times a day, so we understand why the Muslim community is upset and pained and bothered with this kind of irresponsible abuse of freedom of speech,” he said.

“At the same time, we have serious problems with some of their reactions from some areas in the Muslim world, especially Libya, that caused death and destruction.

“We consider that not only an act against America but Islam, because our faith teaches us to answer evil with good.”

The Rev. Lawrence Ventline, who works with the Archdiocese of Detroit, agreed the film was designed to provoke.

“Smut is smut, as is anything denigrating human dignity, whether it’s a cartoon or a viral video,” he said. “We need to press somehow to come together to be in solidary on a regular basis, to deal with the injustices people feel as their toes are being stepped on in the poverty of some of these nations.”

The Obama administration has denounced the movie, aiming to pre-empt further turmoil at its embassies and consulates. The film, called “Innocence of Muslims,” ridicules the Prophet Muhammad, portraying him as a fraud, a womanizer and a child molester.

Dawud Walid, the executive director of the Michigan Council on American-Islamic Relations, called the administration’s response “beautiful.”

“The Obama administration’s response was excellent and balanced in two ways: First the U.S. government didn’t sanction or support that film,” Walid said. “Secondly, they came out and denounced the violent acts but recognized that it represented only a small part of the Muslim population.”

Also taking part in the news conference Saturday were Imam Hassan Al-Qazwini, leader of the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn, and Imam Ishack Samoura, with the Islamic Center of as-Salaam in Detroit.

The dialogue came on the same day as al-Qaida’s branch in Yemen praised the killing of the U.S. ambassador in Libya and called for more attacks to expel American embassies from Muslim nations.

The statement, posted Saturday on Islamic militant websites, suggested al-Qaida was trying to co-opt the wave of angry protests in the Muslim world over the anti-Muslim film.

Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula said the killing of Stevens was “the best example” for those attacking embassies.

It said protesters’ aim should be to “expel the embassies of America from the lands of the Muslims” and called on protests to continue in Muslim nations “to set the fires blazing at these embassies.”

Also on Saturday, Pope Benedict XVI appealed for religious freedom in the Middle East, calling it fundamental for stability in a region bloodied by sectarian strife.

Benedict spoke on the second day of his visit to Lebanon, a country with the largest percentage of Christians in the Middle East.

“Let us not forget that religious freedom is a fundamental right from which many other rights stem,” he said, speaking in French to government officials, foreign diplomats and religious leaders at the president’s palace in Mount Lebanon in the southern suburbs of Beirut.

He held up Lebanon, which is still rebuilding from a devastating 1975-90 civil war largely fought on sectarian lines, as an example of coexistence for the region.