ISNA Joins Fast to Close Guantanamo at Interfaith Gathering on Capitol Hill
(July 24, 2013) A group of religious leaders and people of faith spoke at a press conference on Capitol Hill, in anticipation of a Congressional hearing about the possibility of closing the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.
They each pledged to fast as a symbol of the need to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. The one-day fast was organized by the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) and over 200 other clergy and people of faith from across the country participated. The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) has been a founding member of NRCAT since its inception in 2006.
"Ramadan is a month of stillness and reflection, of prayer and remembrance of God," said Maggie Siddiqi, Program Coordinator in ISNA's Office for Interfaith & Community Alliances, at the press conference. "Yet who among us could find stillness in our hearts when our nation – by, of, and for the people – commits atrocities in our name? Who among us could turn to our Lord and seek His mercy when we show no mercy to 166 people we have imprisoned?"
“The situation at Guantanamo is dire,” said Rev. Richard Killmer, executive director of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. “Most detainees in Guantanamo have never been tried, convicted or even charged with a crime. For years, more than half of them have been imprisoned despite being cleared for release or transfer. Many of these detainees, in a nonviolent protest of their seemingly permanent detention, have been on a hunger strike for almost five months – their only means of protesting their indefinite detention..... Now is the time for President Obama to transfer or release these detainees. The current crisis will be resolved only by transferring, releasing, or trying all the prisoners held at Guantanamo and finally ending this chapter in U.S. history.”
After the event, Killmer and other faith leaders attended today’s hearing, “Closing Guantanamo: The National Security, Fiscal, and Human Rights Implications,” convened by Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), chair of the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Earlier this month, NRCAT united more than 40 senior religious leaders from across the country in signing a joint letter to President Obama urging the administration and Congress to close Guantanamo as soon as possible, expressing the unity of the religious community on the issue.
For more information or to see how you can join this effort, please visit www.nrcat.org/fast2closegitmo2013.
Remarks by Maggie Siddiqi of ISNA:
In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate:
We stand here today as communities who are compelled by our faiths to speak out against injustice wherever we may find it. And we stand here as Americans, legally bound by our Constitution to put an end to cruel and unusual punishment.
Since 2002, our nation has maintained a prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. We have heard verified reports about horrible acts of torture, including "humiliating acts, solitary confinement, temperature extremes, [and the] use of forced positions." These events have not gone unnoticed by the international community. Where our country was once seen as a beacon of freedom and hope, many now view the United States as an oppressor and a torturer.
And indeed, we are sorrowed that our nation earned this terrible reputation. We know that our country can do better. We the American people are far better than the detention facility that has come to symbolize us all.
Yet eleven years later, there are still 166 detainees, over half of whom have been cleared for release or transfer. Many of them have no charges against them. We have no right to hold these individuals there, and yet they remain, separated from their families, their communities, and their livelihoods. We are failing as a nation to provide them with justice.
In the Holy Qur’an, God asks us to “be a community that calls for what is good, urges what is right, and forbids what is wrong” (3:104). Our call today is for justice. We urge the closure of this facility. We urge our government never to let torture happen again.
This is the holy month of Ramadan, and so I will break my fast this evening at sunset, as Muslims are instructed to do, rather than in a few moments. Ramadan is a month of stillness and reflection, of prayer and remembrance of God. Yet who among us could find stillness in our hearts when our nation – by, of, and for the people – commits atrocities in our name? Who among us could turn to our Lord and seek His mercy when we show no mercy to 166 people we have imprisoned?
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) taught us that among our responsibilities to one another, we should treat everyone with kindness, including those are imprisoned, and we should even treat them with hospitality. How could we seek the blessings of God this month, or any other month, while ignoring His clear command?
I pray that God grants us His forgiveness for our wrongdoings as a nation. I pray that He facilitates any effort that might come out of today’s hearing that will lead to the immediate closure of Guantanamo. He is the Most Just and the One who has power over all things, and it is only fitting that we seek His help to right the wrongs that we ourselves have committed. I pray that He grants our nation an easy way forward to restore this justice.