Dr. Sami Al-Arian Continues to Speak Out

By Powell, Sara | Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, June/July 2002 | Go to article overview

Dr. Sami Al-Arian Continues to Speak Out


Powell, Sara, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs


Since Sept. 11, Dr. Sami Al-Arian has come under attack, as the University of South Florida (USF) tried to fire the tenured professor, allegedy for neglecting to specifically state that he was not speaking for the university when he appeared on a Fox television show Sept. 26, 2001. On April 10, Al-Arian spoke to a small crowd at Georgetown University about the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.

The computer science professor gave the audience a brief background of the wrangling between judges and courts that kept his brother-in-law and fellow USF academic Mazen Al-Najjar imprisoned for 1,307 days in his first battle with U.S. immigration authorities. Then, he continued, last November Al-Najjar again was taken into custody. This time, however, he no longer is treated like a normal prisoner, but is held in solitary confinement, in a 6-foot-by-9-foot cell, for 23 of 24 hours a day. He receives one hour of recreation a day in a yard by himself, Al-Arian said, and is strip-searched on the way out to the yard, and again on the way back to the cell. Al-Najjar had been enduring this treatment for five and a half months on the day Al-Arian spoke at Georgetown.

Moreover, he said, Al-Najjar is in this situation for nothing more than a visa violation. As a Palestinian, however, al-Najjar is stateless, and thus cannot be deported. The fact that his parents, children, and siblings all are U.S. citizens has made no difference--especially not in a post 9/11 United States, Al-Arian said.

Patriotism is now being defined as blind agreement with the government, Al-Arian said, although he called that a definition of nationalism rather than of patriotism. Of 2,000 people of Middle Eastern descent arrested since 9/11, he pointed out, only one has been charged with any crime related to the attacks--and that man already was in custody when the sweep began. Another 8,000 Arabs/Muslims have been questioned because of their ethnicity and/or religion, Al-Arian said, leading him to question whether the majority of Americans would be willing to sacrifice the civil rights of the minority in order to feel secure.

Al-Arian then proceeded to describe the surreal nature of his own post 9/11 experience. Appearing on "The O'Reilly Factor" to present the Muslim view of the tragedy, Al-Arian was harangued by host Bill O'Reilly for several minutes before O'Reilly ended the segment with the statement, "If I were the CIA, I'd follow you everywhere." The hate mail started arriving the next day, Al-Arian said, and soon afterward the university put him on paid leave. An orchestrated campaign to get him fired culminated in just that action on Dec. …

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