We Plead Guilty

Mira Al-Hussein is a student of International Studies at Zayed University, in Dubai.


The twenty-one year old American Taliban, John Walker Lindh, has stunned us all by the statement he had made, pleading guilty, and accordingly accepting two charges against him; 1. Providing servinces to the Taliban, and 2. carrying explosives during the comission of a felony. Other charges against him were dropped.


Relieved as we may be by the end of a trial that has not yet started, we were downed by the judgement, which most of us consider to be unfair, and we could not help but ask, ‘Why did John Walker Lindh throw in such an announcement?’ ‘Why did his parents look untroubled at all?’ Some people would argue that a deal was made to spare Lindh the possibility of spending life in prison by having him make voluntary statements admitting to two charges. This is precisely what Lindh’s attorney had said. Lindh is an American citizen, and this may as well be the very reason why he had been privileged with such a deal, to our delight and satisification. I am not arguing the morals of this trial, nor am I maliciously inciting the very-likely-to-have-had-happened hush-hush talks, behind the scenes, intending to keep Lindh from serving a lifetime sentence. He is a fellow Muslim, and he is innocent. We wanted him to be freed.


As Muslims, we all supported Lindh, wholeheartedly. Whether we felt he had done the right thing by joining the Taliban, which some of us very much like and support, or we felt that he was sidetracked from the real purpose of his traveling abroad in sought of knowledge, we still supported him. I personally supported the Taliban on religious and principle grounds, which does not parallel their ideology or understanding of Islam. Nevertheless, I still think that Lindh had not done a mistake by joining the Taliban, and fighting a war of reformation alongside with them. It was said that the American Taliban fought only against the Northern Alliance, which in any case was a civil problem that no foreign country has the right to interfere in.


It is sad to have an earnest young Muslim, with such potential and iron will, spend twenty years in prison, and shut away from the whole world. We followed the case with joy and agony. This convert Muslim taught us how to feel proud of him and ashamed of ourselves, at the same time. We were proud of his finding his own way to Islam at a very young age. We admired him for traveling abroad, all alone, to enhance his knowledge in Islam and learn Arabic. It is praiseworthy how this young Muslim of 20 years had memorized seven chapters of the Holy Qur’an, which hardly any practicing Muslim today knows by heart. He took up arms, endangering his life, which he could have possibly lost, to fight for virtues and Islamic righteousness. He was not afraid to express his support for his fellow Muslims.


On the other hand, we were soiled with shame, torn down by our own helplessness. We were too afraid to publicly voice our support for John Walker Lindh. Our deafening silence falsely suggested our acceptance of his unknown fate then. We did not want him to spend his life in prison, but we kept that repressed wish to ourselves. Two rallies were held in support of Lindh, in Virginia, and less than ten people participated. We let him down. We failed all our fellow Muslims, accused of terror, in Guantanamo and elsewhere. We strongly believe that they are innocent, and as much as we abhor the treatment of the prisoners in Guantanamo, we say nothing about it. Not an objection uttered. It makes me wonder: How ‘Muslim’ are we?


John Walker Lindh, the American Taliban, taught us how a convert Muslim can shame us all. His seriousness and devoutness with respect to learning Islam is admirable. With strong and unshakable faith, he was willing to accept the consequences of his bold, explicit statements in which he confessed that he had followed his heart when he joined the Taliban. We, on the other hand, were busy defending Islam, saying it was hijacked by the terrorist attacks, as if we had already accepted the questionable accusations cast upon the Taliban and Al Qaeda, being the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks. Lindh believed in a more practical Islam. He went to perform Jihad in Afghanistan and Kashmir. We seem to be more satisfied with an idle Islam. We do not appear to be bothered with what is happening to other Muslims around the world, as long as we remain on the safe side. We want to live, but who cares if others live? We say we care, but since ‘saying’ does not necessarily require ‘doing’, then we continue to ‘say’.


We also should have the courage to plead guilty. We ought to admit our many faults and mistakes. But first and most importantly, we should plead guilty to not caring about our fellow Muslims. If we continue to not care, nothing will change, and no body will care for us. ‘To care’ is a civilized manner, and to care is the least we can do, since we claim to be incapable.


When the West spoke out its disapproval of the treatment of the prisoners in Guantanamo, arguing that such treatment contradicts with the West’s Human Right values and civilized beliefs, the United States was pressured to move the prisoners to other, less confined cells, and to give them more rights. We plead guilty for not even attempting to criticize the treatment of the prisoners.


We plead guilty for not supporting John Walker Lindh. Could he have been set free had we shown a little bit more care? Very possible. Who knows?

Mira Al-Hussein is a student of International Studies at Zayed University, in Dubai.

Mr. Bush, Practice what you preach to others

Mr. Bush, Practice what you preach to others

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                               More in ‘Perspective’ or ‘Archive’


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