“Dr. Sami, as I call him, is a friend of mine, and I have absolutely no shame in calling him a friend.” The oft-racist Michigan Student Zionists, in a cheap attempt to exploit yesterday’s arrest of Sami Al-Arian on terrorist-related charges, quoted me in a press release yesterday as saying this months ago, ostensibly in their repeated efforts to associate me, a 21-year-old student, with terrorism.

There is racism endemic in our government today with its origins buried deep in the architects of our post-Sept.11 unconstitutional, and wholly un-American, policies. The neoconservatives, who have exploited this nation’s greatest tragedy to stir fear in our society, are now recreating the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. This time, the victims are the Arabs, who by the thousands have been detained and arrested for minor immigration violations or more often than not, for no reason at all.

Where does Al-Arian fall in this? According to Attorney General John Ashcroft, a man not known for respecting the integrity of the Constitution, Al-Arian has ties to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. These allegations are not new though, and should be critically examined for a number of reasons.

First, Al-Arian has been cleared numerous times of these same charges. After thorough investigations prior to the post-9/11 madness, these charges had been rejected by, among others, the University of South Florida (through an investigation in 1996 by William Reece Smith, former head of the American Bar Association) and an immigration judge. In fact, after his citizenship application was halted in 1995 by the Immigration and Naturalization Service, who cited secret evidence, a concept that in itself continues the redundant trend of un-American ideals staining our judicial process. Al-Arian filed a Freedom of Information Act to determine what this evidence was. Two years later, the evidence was revealed as news clippings from The Tampa Tribune.

The author of these articles was a previously unknown reporter named Michael Fechter, who built his career out of weaving fantastic tales against Al-Arian and the Muslim community in general. Mentored by Steve Emerson, a phony thoroughly discredited and exposed for fabricating numerous stories in attempts to cast the American Muslim community as a threat to national security, Fechter’s evidence was circumstantial, with guilt by association being his preferred weapon of choice. Other Fechter shock stories included attempts to tie the Oklahoma City bombings to Muslim extremists. Fechter’s allegations against Al-Arian were discredited by the nearby Miami Herald and St. Petersburg Times, who concluded that his charges revolved around weak journalism.

In examining yesterday’s arrest, and the upcoming trial, we must take into consideration the current anti-Arab frenzy that has swept the nation. Our own Justice Department has led a racist witch hunt, resulting in the detention of thousands of innocent Arabs. Meanwhile, reports surfaced last week of a “Patriot Act II,” which would further clip our civil liberties and constitutional rights, but whose passage would benefit greatly from yesterday’s arrests.

The reality is countless lives have been ruined as political agendas have exploited the media’s pandering to anti-Arab hysteria and a society drowning in fear. A clear example of this is seen even on this campus, as the Michigan Student Zionists relentlessly continue their campaign to stifle intellectual discourse on the Arab-Israeli conflict through charging the pro-justice students and organizations with a dubious guilt by association. A clear example of this has been seen numerous times on Capitol Hill, with a continuing war on Arabs domestically and abroad, in Palestine and Iraq.

Taking all of this into consideration, we must closely monitor the government’s case against Al-Arian. The attorney general’s charges are both serious and damning, so it is imperative that we ensure a fair and open trial. Over the past 17 months, this constitutional right has been disregarded with countless Arab detainees. With the high profile nature of this case, we must demand a return to constitutional values, in hopes that a fair verdict void of a society’s bigotry is given. Until then, it would be premature, un-American and morally bankrupt to consider Dr. Sami anything but innocent until proven guilty.

Kiblawi is an LSA senior and president of the University’s chapter of the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee.

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