Friday, April 28, 2006
  Trial by a Jury of One's Peers
The framers of the American constitution felt it was vital to ensure that every person was given a fair trial, and so they devised the trial by a jury of one's peers. This, it was believed, would guarantee justice and a fair trial.

African Americans, of course, have long known that it does no such thing given a society in which bigotry and racism makes a jury assume people of certain races are more likely to be criminally active than people of other races, or where prejudice leads people to judge people of one race more harshly than they would people of another race, and have more sympathy for people of their own race than they would people of a different race.

No doubt, Latinos also face the same difficulty. And now we have evidence that Muslims, too, are facing discrimination by juries that calls into question whether an American Muslim can receive justice and fairness at the hands of a jury by their peers. Of course, many American Muslims have felt since 9-11 that it was impossible for a Muslim man, particularly a Muslim Arab or Pakistani man, to get a fair trial because of Islamophobic juries. With reports of almost 46% of the population saying they have a negative opinion of Islam, these fears do not seem faretched. The proceedings at the trial of a Lodi, CA man accused, and convicted, of providing material support to terrorits have gone a step further, proving that such fear were indeed justified.

The trial took a disturbing turn today as one of the jurors filed an affadavit that she was coerced into going along with a verdict she did not agree with, and defense attorneys are asking for a retrial.

The juror, Arcelia Lopez, cited several issues with the trial:

All of these add up to a pretty clear indication that Hayat did not get a fair trial.

Given the fact that some of the evidence provided is questionable -- the main witness was paid to collect evidence against Hayat and to testify against him; at least some of the material support was in the form of wire transfers between said witness, Hayat and his uncle, suggesting perhaps entrapment; the confessions of Hayat and his father, neither of whom speak good English were videotaped while neither had access to a lawyer, some of their "statements" were, according to their lawyer, simply echoing a question they didn't understand -- it makes you wonder -- was Hayat lead into a situation and then unable to get a fair trial by his jury?

I don't know if Hayat is guilty or not, but whether he is or not, he deserves a fair trial. But, I have to admit, just writing down this analysis is scary. I know some people will read these musings and think I'm soft on terrorism, that I'm hoping for criminals to get free. Of course, neither is true, but there is the niggling worry -- if you stand up for someone who has been accused, will you be seen as guilty by association? Will you be seen as sympathetic to terrorists?

It is truly sad that American Muslims -- or African Americans or Latinos --have to live under such shadows of fear.

Dear Pamela,

I could not agree with you more. I believe it is plain that you only want to see fairness toward all people. I wish that were true of everyone, that everyone had the bavery of spirit that it takes to look at others with open minds and open hearts. I believe it is fear that causes people to lump each other into blind categories.
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Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

Progressive Muslim, feminist, mom, writer, mystic, lover of the universe and Doug Schmidt, cellist, theologian and imam.

What I'm reading now

Cane River
An interesting exploration of the gradual whiting of a family through slavery to modern days.

To see an archive of all the books I've read (well the ones I've read and review since I started the blog) with comments, please click here

Causes Worth Supporting

This is just a short list -- a few of my favorites.

English Language Islamic Fiction. We need more of it. Lots more.
Pay a Teacher's Salary in Afghanistan. The Hunger site actually has a lot of worthwhile programs. You can find them all here .
Muslims for Progressive Values. My organization. We can always use donations, of time or money!
Human Rights Campaign for the glbt community
National Religious Campaign Against Torture
The ACLU I'm a card carrying member. Hope you'll become one too. The organization that has done the most, as far as I can tell, to pull the countries progressive side together.
Network of Spiritual Progressives. Working to reclaim religion and morality for the religious left.

Blogs Worth Reading

Wanda Campbell also known as Nochipa A very gifted poet and a gentle, compassionate soul. Nochipa and I are on the same page on sooooo many things
Writeous Sister Aminah Hernandez, she's got some excellent latino pieces and always has good writing info on her blog.
Sister Scorpion aka Leila Montour - Leila is a fount of energy, quirky humor, and bad attitude. She's also a talented poet.
Muhajabah Very interesting commentary here. I don't always agree with her, but her pieces are always thought-provoking.
Georgie Dowdell Georgie is a great writer and a good friend.
Louise Marley Another great writer. I think Louise is one of the best sf writers exploring faith themes.
Ink in My Coffee Devon Ellington (who has numerous aliases) who is also the editor of Circadian Poems. A truly inspiring woman with a seemingly endless supply of energy.
Ethnically Incorrect With a name like that, isn't a given I'm going to enjoy this writer?
Freedom from the Mundane Colin Galbraith, another excellent writer, from Scotland.
The Scruffy Dog Review This is a new e-zine with an ecclectic mix of fiction, poetry, and non-fic, some really enjoyable pieces here.
Ramblings of a Suburban Soccer Mom Lara, another gentle soul, very thoughtful.
Circadian Poems A journal of poetry, new stuff up all the time.
Ye Olde Inkwell Michelle writes romance and is one of my writing buddies.
Muhammad Michael Knight The original punk Muslim writer. Like him or love him, Mike is always coming up with the unexpected.

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