A US district judge sentenced notorious terrorist, Shahawar Matin Siraj, to 30 years in prison this past Monday for agreeing to blow up the 34th Street subway station in Manhattan. The next day, by amazing coincidence, his family was arrested on immigration charges.
No doubt you’re scratching your head, trying to recall who Shahawar Matin Siraj is. If he’s dangerous enough to merit 30 years in the slammer and a deported family, why haven’t you heard of him? Likely because his case doesn’t pass the laugh test. The usual suspects are bragging that their jihad against him has saved civilization, but it’s shamefaced bragging of the kind you hear when a 10th-grader beats up a kindergartner. They dare not ballyhoo their triumph lest the serfs finally rouse themselves and yell, "Are you serious? You’re reading our mail and tapping our phones and groping us at airports because of guys like him?"
Siraj was a 22-year-old Pakistani working in Brooklyn, NY at an Islamic bookstore — located, ominously enough, next to a mosque. Both Siraj’s family and his attorneys have described him as "witless and impressionable." His uncle admitted, "He’s my nephew, but he’s not too bright…. He’s not dangerous, he just talks."
Siraj’s hours in the bookstore and the mosque, where he prayed, as well as his lack of sophistication recommended him to 50-year-old Osama Eldawoody. An Egyptian immigrant who became a US citizen, Eldawoody is also a "paid police informant." For several years after 9/11, he and an undercover cop prowled both bookstore and mosque. Eldawoody collected $100,000 of our taxes for chatting up "radical young Moslem men," a.k.a. customers at the bookstore, and for reporting the license-plate numbers of cars parked at the mosque. Wouldn’t it be easier if we simply required Moslems to wear yellow crescents on their sleeves?
The snitch and his undercover sidekick honed in on Siraj, "not the brightest bulb in the chandelier," and another dim wit as well. James Elshafay is just 21; his short life has been nasty and brutish. His Irish mother and Egyptian father separated when he was a toddler. He suffers from schizophrenia and depression, as do other members of his family, and takes drugs of which Leviathan approves to counter these ills. He took drugs Leviathan doesn’t approve as a teen, perhaps because a "male relative" molested him. He drank to excess, sniffed glue, and dropped out of the ninth grade in his school on Staten Island. He volunteered for the Army, but he was so damaged even those body-snatchers wouldn’t have him.
In short, Elshafay and his friend Siraj sound more like threats to themselves than to the American Way of Life. We’ve all known folks like them: there’s a glazed look in their eyes as they work to decipher such sentences as "You want fries with that?" and "The red light means STOP." Often they’re eager to please and readily agree to just about anything; you could suggest a blind date with Hillary Clinton, and you’d get a goofy grin and a "Sure!" Some of us, to our shame, may have mocked or even bullied children like them when we were kids. Then we grew up. We learned that wounded souls and minds are still worthy of respect, that their slow wits don’t exempt us from the Golden Rule, and that only the truly vicious take advantage of them.
Enter Eldawoody, the NYPD, the FBI, and the whole apparatus of prosecutors, judges, and other criminals fighting a largely invented but highly useful "War on Terror."
Eldawoody showed Siraj and Elshafay pictures of their fellow Moslems’ torture at Abu Ghraib and told them US soldiers were raping Iraqi girls. He claimed he belonged to a terrorist organization — well, OK, he does collaborate with the Feds — and could supply explosives. According to Siraj, Eldawoody suggested “blowing up the buildings and blowing up the Wall Street places.” Unfortunately for Siraj and Elshafay, the man pretending to be their friend and Moslem mentor, the one who told them his imam had declared a fatwa for killing Americans, was wearing a wire. When Siraj exclaimed, "That [US soldiers' raping Iraqi girls] was enough for me. I’m ready to do anything. I don’t care about my life,” Eldawoody’s tape caught it. Trying to impress the older man, Siraj also mentioned blowing up the 34th Street subway stop, which links to New York’s Penn Station. He and Elshafay allegedly possessed crude drawings of the station when they were arrested.
Siraj was tried and convicted in May. The chief witnesses against him were the drugged Elshafay, the corrupt Eldawoody, and his own words, taped without his knowledge. Siraj has no criminal record. He was a member of no terrorist organization. He possessed no explosives or other means of carrying out the scenarios Eldawoody concocted. Nevertheless, Judge Nina Gershon sentenced him to 30 years. Ray Kelly, New York’s police commissioner, called this travesty “an important milestone in safeguarding New York against terrorist plotters whether home-grown or foreign.” But Siraj’s attorney described it truthfully: "In essence, what we have is the New York City Police Department creating a crime so they can solve the crime and claim a victory in the war on terror. …What the government has done by painting this young man…as the mastermind behind the plot to bomb the 34th Street subway is really creating a devil so that they can lock up the devil."
You might think Leviathan would rest content after entrapping and railroading "the devil." But no. Now the beast is rampaging after Siraj’s parents and sister. Like torture, punishing a "criminal’s" family is an ancient horror that modern, supposedly enlightened societies shun. And like torture, Bush’s Amerika has revived it. This is especially infuriating since the Bible Bush claims to follow specifically condemns such injustice: "The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers: every man shall be put to death for his own sin." (Deut. 24:16; see also Jer. 31:30 and Ezek. 18:1—13.)
A dubious immigration battle cloaks the State’s vindictiveness against the Siraj family. These folks follow a form of Islam so secular their neighbors in Pakistan beat and burned Mr. Siraj. He sought asylum here. Our merciful bureaucrats rejected the application, so the family appealed. That apparently makes them "fair" game for Leviathan. But will the State bother with such an excuse the next time? When the rest of us are arrested for smoking pot, or for refusing to show ID, or for protesting the war, will our families be locked up, too?
The passage in Deuteronomy continues almost eerily, "Do not deprive the alien or the fatherless of justice…" Let us tremble with Jefferson when we reflect that God is indeed just and that His justice cannot sleep forever.
Becky Akers [send her mail] writes primarily about the American Revolution.