Muslim Legal Fund for America seeks justice for disenfranchised Americans

12/05/11 Josh Holton
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When many Muslims-Americans are accused of heinous acts such as terrorism and aiding militant groups, some are deprived of their rights to a fair trial, and others are even held captive indefinitely in places like Guantanamo Bay. Sunday the Muslim Legal Fund for America held a benefit luncheon in Tampa. Khalil Meek is their executive director.

The Muslim Legal Fund for America (MLFA) isn’t a law firm, but it aims to provide funding for legal services. Hassan Shibly is the director of Tampa’s Council on American Islamic Relations. He said that CAIR helps connect Muslim-Americans with lawyers at times when their basic constitutional rights may not be respected.

He’s referring to the National Defense Authorization Act, which some say gives the military too much power over American citizens, who would typically have the right to a trial in a civilian court. Shibly said that like many new laws enacted following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Americans are all too eager to give up their rights and liberty for security.

Shortly after 9/11 then USF professor Sami Al-Arian was charged with aiding a Palestinian terrorist organization, but after a six month trial in 2005, he was found not guilty. His attorney Linda Moreno said that the US government, unhappy with the outcome, subpoenaed Al-Arian in an unrelated terrorism trial, but he refused to testify. He has been on house arrest for contempt of court in 2006, and Moreno said that legal assistance has been hard to come by.

But she said some groups were willing to come to his aid.

Osama Abu-Irshaid is originally from Palestine, but is now the editor of Al-Meezan, an Islamic newspaper. He said that as the Occupy Movement originated as a show of solidarity with the Arab Spring, he in turn stands with the Occupy Movement.

And Abu-Irshaid said that he doesn’t want special privileges for Muslims, but he wants justice to be afforded for all people. The Muslim Legal Fund’s executive director Khalil Meek said that Muslims are like a “canary in the coal mine” and injustices enacted against their community act as a warning for other minorities who could expect to be disenfranchised.

He said that groups like the Muslim Legal Fund of America are as necessary as the NAACP was for African Americans during the civil rights movement. Several speakers at the event called on President Barack Obama to veto the National Defense Authorization Act, which could affect not only Muslims, but all American citizens.

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