Asalaam alaikum,

After the arrest of Tarik Mehanna some of his former aquaintances at Muslim Matters run by Yasir Qadhi/Yaser Birjas disgracefully took it upon themselves to write an article distancing themselves from Tarik and even went as far to making cowardly attacks on his supposed beliefs. This further shows their desire to please the powers that run the American government at the expense of their brothers who are suffering at the hands of the government. So if you ever happen to get picked up and you're innocent, dont expect these "shaykhs" to come to the rescue instead when you are siiting in your prison cell expect a family member or friend to pass on the message that your back has been well and truley stabbed.

Having originally declared that institutes like Al-Maghrib and Al-Kauthar were a-political its strange that many of their instructors are now taking it upon themselves to enter dangerous territory. By entering into discourse on politics it is only a matter of time before a muslim is forced to decide by the powers that be if you are "with us or against us".

Once again however, our brother Abu AbdusSalaam demonstrated his disgust at the article and he has shown time and time again that not all instructors in their institutes are competing with each other to sell out. Eventually Qadhi and Birjas were forced to make some sort of apology, a very weak and pathetic one at that. There are still calls from people within and outside Muslim Matters, to remove the article in its entirety.

Below is the original article that was written after Brother Tarik's arrest. Bear in mind at this time the charges against him have not been proven, the case has not even gone to trial but those who were supposed to be his friends and brothers at Muslim Matters took it upon themselves to judge him, isolate him and save themselves. I have also given the link to the "apology" at the end.

May Allah swt help us all. Ameen

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Tarek Mehanna
Tarek (also spelled Tariq) Mehanna, a Boston resident, was arrested by the FBI yesterday and charged with conspiring to provide material support to terrorists abroad. Tarek was arrested a year ago (in 2008) for other charges, and at the time, one of our staff wrote an article questioning the timing and method of his arrest. Additionally, a letter of his that was addressed to the public at large was posted on our site. Since that time, Tarek has commented on our website (and others) a number of times, typically expressing his extreme dissatisfaction with our points of view. In light of the above, an article about the case in general, and Tarek in particular, is extremely relevant.

As a platform for dialogue on contemporary issues facing Muslims minorities in the U.S. and Europe specifically, and Muslims around the word in general, MuslimMatters (MM) regularly engages people on the fringes of our communities. MM is often on the front lines against disinformation about Islam, and actively seeks to counter the radicalization of Muslims. One of the primary goals of our website is to educate our readers about the fallacies and dangers of all types of extremism by promoting Orthodox Islam. We debate many issues, some benign and some not so benign. Of the most controversial issues is, of course, terrorism and the use of violence, which is often based upon a flawed “ends justifies the means” mentality. Only last week, we released a very frank and blunt letter from a senior scholar of Islamic law criticizing the actions of terrorists and renouncing indiscriminate violence in the name of God. When we do publish such articles, we are frequently attacked by those sympathetic to such ideologies, primarily because they feel that we do not emphasize the underlying motives and political factors that generate such a reaction from these terrorists. They mention, on our website and on other forums dedicated to glorifying such extremism, that the interventionist foreign policy policy in Muslim lands may also be classified with the same adjectives, and that it is these actions by governments that is the direct cause of such radicalization.[i]

Our position has consistently remained the same: one mistake does not justify another. And while we have, on numerous occasions, pointed out specific actions that clearly appear to contravene international law and target civilians intentionally (the raid on Gaza last year comes to mind), we do believe that as a website committed to spreading an Orthodox Islamic religious identity, we have a more direct duty to correct religious misunderstandings and extremism than to be political commentators and foreign policy analysts. There are numerous websites that concentrate on the latter, but hardly any that address the former.

Research has shown, and the comments on our website and other forums would seem to indicate, that the group most susceptible to developing sympathy for violent movements are those who feel hopeless and powerless to effect any political and social change around them.This belief of total disenfranchisement leads such people towards violence. And this is not just a 'Muslim' problem. Members of any community that feel threatened, especially minority communities, are prone to flawed world views. It is well documented that support and recruitment for terrorism is most likely to occur amongst those who feel hopeless and unable to affect positive change in their lives[ii].

With this in mind, it is ironic to note that the Islamophobic association of Muslims and the religion of Islam as supportive or tolerant of terrorism creates the very climate that isolates certain members from society and enhances their vulnerability. Such a negative portrayal of their religion feeds in to a wider view that is already espoused by the jihadists: the 'us' versus 'them' mentality. 'You're either with us or against us', says the Islamophobe, agreeing completely with the religious terrorists. These trends are complementary feedback cycles which demonstrate how those who use a broad brush attack on all Muslims assist the radicalization process, and those Muslims who indiscriminately blame 'the kuffar (non-Muslims)' do the exact same.

Simply put: we believe that Islamophobes are indirectly aiding and abetting terrorists’ recruiting efforts by fitting into their agenda and supporting their stereotypes. Instead of channeling so much hate and xenophobia at others, it would be far more beneficial to engage in dialogue and be willing to deal with 'the other'.

Returning to the case of Tarek Mehanna, when he had been detained in late 2008, many in the Muslim American community had reacted with dismay. It was generally thought that this was a bogus arrest and that Mehanna had been falsely accused. After all, since the War on Terror was announced following the September 11th attacks, the civil liberties of the Muslim American community had been slowly withered away by the Patriot Act, warrant-less wiretapping, the denial of the basic American right of habeas corpus, and unsavory tactics that targeted the Muslim American community in general. One of those who felt that the arrest in 2008 was bogus was a writer for our own website. This MM writer had known Tarek Mehanna for a limited time in the past. Mehanna's reputation as a family man and a peaceful citizen was consistent with our writers personal experience. It was on this basis that this MM writer wrote an article on our website that defended Mehanna's innocence, arguing that "Tariq is presumed innocent unless proven otherwise." Based on this article, the MM community overall came to Mehanna's defense, and a letter written by him from jail was published on our site.

Since his subsequent release, Tarek Mehanna has distanced himself from our stances by essentially calling us hypocrites on our own website and on other internet forums known for supporting extremist agendas. Mehanna wrote that MuslimMatters was "a place for back-biting, slandering [the mujahidin] and self-comforting whining" in its stance against terrorism. Mehanna even questioned "the motives behind [MM]," an indirect accusation that the MM staff was supposedly siding with the "enemies of Islam." He has explicitly accuse us of 'watering down' Islam to 'appease' the enemies of Islam. However, let us also be clear for the record that we at MM do not, merely because of such comments, consider Tarek a threat to society.

We should remind ourselves and our readers that Tarek Mehanna, like any person charged with a crime, is innocent until proven otherwise. The fine line between sympathizing for a cause and actually becoming legally culpable for encouraging violence is one that the courts will have to decide and apply evenly to all Americas communities. (It is relevant to point out here how often one finds the same militant, threatening rhetoric by Islamophobes against Muslims as well - a cursory look at any of their websites has comments suggesting to 'kill 'em all', 'kick them out of here', 'bomb them back where they came from', 'do away with the lot of 'em', and other such language).

The point here is to reinforce the danger of moral equivalency. While Tarek might have argued for the differentiation between legitimate resistance and terrorism against innocents, it is quite clear that he chose to ignore defining what differentiates the two groups. We at MuslimMatters have always refused to let our emotions cloud our objectivity. Many people the world over are skeptical of the foreign policies of the superpowers, but we believe that the best and most effective way to change those policies is through education and dialogue, not violence and terror.

To those who have sympathy for or defend organizations that have targeted civilians, we ask that they look at and analyze the situation with more critical awareness. What good has come from this stance? Where has that approach caused a benefit? What conflict has been brought closer to resolution? Has suffering and persecution lessened or increased as a result? How have such sympathizers benefited themselves, their parents, or their communities? Such misplaced anger only brings pain within one's personal life, and fear and mistrust of the Muslim community overall.

We pray for Tarek and his family's faith and safety (as we pray for all people), and still remain highly skeptical that he was actually a 'terrorist in disguise' (based on what we know, we would be more prone to characterize him as an overzealous, angry and impetuous youth). At the same time, we state with all frankness that it is not surprising that someone who openly revels in the actions of foreign terrorist groups and exudes happiness any time something bad happens to the people of the land that he lives in will eventually come under suspicion and charged with some type of crime, regardless of whether he is actually guilty of a crime or not.

The arrest of Tarek Mehanna raises many questions, both for Muslims and for our communities’ harshest critics. Some of those questions center around First Amendment issues, and others around the religious ruling on expressing sympathy for those who do crimes, or even suggesting acts of violence without actually intending to commit them. Other questions revolve around the best and most effective way to approach such angry and disenfranchised youth: do we exacerbate the problem by arresting them, or is it safe to let them be until they mature themselves?

But the main question that we feel we need to ask ourselves and our readers is: are you contributing to constructive solutions, or are you venting frustrations and fears? In other words, are you a part of the solution, or are you a part of the problem?

Promoting the idea that the religion of Islam is inherently associated with terrorism is not only a lie, it empowers hate and hate-mongers, be they on the Robert Spencer/Debbie Schlussel side of the coin or the Bin Laden/Zawahiri side.The solution to hate is not more hate. Too much hate will destroy us all. It is important for moderate forces in the Muslim community, and for society at large, to take ownership over these issue. It is only with that kind of cooperation that we will be able to defeat extremism on all sides, while preserving the integrity and diversity of our free society

UPDATED: Regarding The Case of Tarek Mehanna |