Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Fact Checking

Yesterday I spent many hours in the Federal Courtroom where the government is prosecuting the Holy Land Foundation, in a retrial, to show that it financed terrorism through its charitable activities. Testifying for the defense was Dr. John Esposito, who among his many achievements has produced a brief on terrorism that is used by our government and will be given to the incoming administration, and two of the six books that are given to the U.S. army's Iraqi officers before they are to be located there.

Dr. Esposito testified extensively about the nature of Islamic worship, giving a view of the religion that was a relief after the visits I have made to the courtroom where the attempt to make charitable activities appear sinister have been depressing. While here in the U.S. we have seen a lot of hate marketed as the nature of some religion, I still believe that most of us are more inclined to associate teachings of the various religions with humanity's desirable qualities. The attempts of our government to colorize Islamic worship as motivated by desire for world dominion hopefully are not succeeding with the twelve chosen to represent the U.S. public in this trial.

I won't go into a lot of detail, and recommend that if you want to more about Islam, Dr. Esposito's books are among many that are available to you. As you probably are aware, Christian, Jewish and Muslim teachings all include the basic call for charitable activity. Muslims are taught that charity, called zakat, constitutes one of the five essential practices of the Islamic faith.

As I have previously reported, the government has tried over the course of the two trials to convince the jury that the varied charitable activities of the Holy Land Foundation are direct financing of terrorist groups in the Middle East. Unnamed agents from Israeli anti-terrorism units have used materials they unearthed to convict the accused, implying that any threat against Israel is a threat against the U.S. The constant use of weighted terms - like holy war, suicide bombing, and those dread Arabic-sounding words jihad, mujahedin, and Shia law - has been rather transparently intended to provoke hostility, and anyone would expect that the jury is getting tired of it.

Occasionally a witness breaks through with a statement like that one by a convicted defense witness - that anyone who wants his donation to get to the needy will give it to Hamas, because the government will use it to build casinos.

Yesterday I felt a lifting of the dark pall of prejudice in the courtroom as an enlightened witness talked about facts, rather than implication. While I had been discouraged as the judge formerly appeared to side with the government prosecution, yesterday I watched the same judge showing a distinctly judicious manner. He even allowed testimony that put the defense in a good light to be sustained. I am hopeful.

Actual teachings of faith and/or patriotism may sometimes be perverted, as we all too well know. The Salem witch trials and McCarthy hearings are examples we went through in developing as a nation. The reaction to those events was a revulsion, and return to high ideals.

The dark side of politics has prevailed for eight years, and we can see that revulsion is the result throughout the country. I felt its weight lifting, and am hopeful of justice prevailing. The trial goes on,and these are interim reports, but facts are peeling away a lot of the murk it consisted of in my previous visits.

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