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Pakistan Link – November 14, 2003

Grassroots America Defends the Bill of Rights Conference

By Abdus Sattar Ghazali

A delegation from California participated in the annual national conference of  Grassroots America Defends the Bill of Rights from Oct 17 to 21st in Washington DC. The participants were: American Muslim Voice, Blue Triangle Network, South Alameda County Peace and Justice Committee, Silicon Valley for Civil Rights and Justice for New America. On the second day of the conference, members of the California delegation went to the Capitol Hill for lobbying and met Senators  Diane Feinstein and Russ Feingold. The delegation was stunned by Senator Feinstein’s remarks that  there is no evidence or testimony of abuse of the Patriot Act and that her office had received no calls complaining of abuse by the Patriot Act.

She was told about Dr. Sami Al-Arian who was detained under the Patriot Act. Ms. Samina Faheem Sundas, the Executive Director of the American Muslim Voice said; “I would also like you to write a letter on his behalf because he is being mistreated in prison. His bail has been denied. His right to a speedy trial has been denied.                                       A glimpse from the DC conference

Feinstein said: “Is that the guy who said ‘kill the Jews’?” Samina said: “Senator, I am un-aware of that but if Dr. Sami Al-Arian did, would that be enough reason to put him in prison? I know for a fact there are many Jews who say, kill the Muslims. Are we going to put all of them in prison? We chose you to be a senator for everybody...not just one group. As Muslims, we are not asking for any special treatment. Just due process, fair trial in an open court with open evidence for Dr. Sami Al-Arian.”

When Don Spark of the Blue Triangle Network asked her opinion about the secret detentions, she said “there was no such thing and no semantic rewording would budge her.” She responded stating four terrorist cells had been un-covered with the Patriot Act. Feinstein repeatedly said she liked the Patriot Act, she voted for the Patriot Act, and she does not want to change the Patriot Act.

Later the delegation met with the staff members of Senator Feinstein to discuss civil right issues. Cecilia Cheng of the New Americans briefed on Guantanamo Bay Chaplin Captain James Yee and Samina Faheem Sundas spearheaded the second round of Re-Registration which brought in Feinstein’s Immigration specialist.  She was unaware that a 2nd round was coming.  The delegation advocated for the SAFE act and against the CLEAR act. 

The delegation met with Senator Russ Feingold, who was the only senator to vote against the Patriot Act.  Ms. Samina Faheem Sundas told the Senator: “You are the only one who voted against the Patriot Act. I thank you on behalf of millions of Muslims. It seems that you are the only one who read that horrible act and it shows me that you are a fair person and trying to protect civil liberties for all.” Ms. Samina said the goal of her organization is to bridge the gap between all communities. Senator Feingold agreed with the AMV agenda by saying that “there was a big need for making ties and common cause.”

The delegation also attended the beginning of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s oversight hearing on the Patriot Act and the White House CIA leak combined. This was an Ashcroft bashing session. He was castigated by every Democratic Senator for not appearing at the hearing, avoiding congress and the Justice Department’s cloak of secrecy.

(Don Spark of The Blue Triangle Network contributed to this article.)

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