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February 26, 2011


Speech for Standing on the Side of Love - 2/13/11

by Lynne Jackson

I want to thank you very much for the award. I would like to ask you to donate generously to Project SALAM - Support and Legal Advocacy for Muslims.

Four short blocks from here, two innocent Albany Muslim men were arrested by the FBI in a government-fabricated sting operation on August 5, 2004. Yassin Aref and Mohammed Hossain were tried, convicted and sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Yassin and Mohammed are only in prison today because they are Muslim. If they were not Muslim, the FBI never would have targeted the law-abiding Kurdish Imam and the proud American pizza-shop owner.

The Albany community was shocked at the convictions and long prison sentences given to these men. After Aref and Hossain lost their appeal, we met people in other cities where the same injustice happen.

We realized that the targeting of Muslims was a bigger problem than our one case in Albany. That there were hundreds of preemptively prosecuted Muslims, given long or even lifelong prison terms.

In August, 2008, we formed Project SALAM to research these cases. We sent letters to President Obama and Attorney General Holder. We made a wall of names of the first 100 cases we have researched, and you can see that wall now at the back of the Emerson hall. We created a website to document the injustice.

We speak out at every opportunity about how the FBI and the government targets Muslims.

Why are Muslims being targeted? To keep fear alive and to support our wars overseas, our government needs an enemy. Our government chose Muslims to be the enemy.

Project SALAM is dedicated to bringing to light this anti-American injustice of targeting, entrapping, arresting, and imprisoning of law-abiding, innocent Muslims.

The situation for Muslims and others is getting worse in our country. In September, the homes of peace activists were raided by the FBI - the government agents were looking for evidence of “material support to terrorism” a broad, far-reaching law that criminalizes speech and association.

New York Congressman Peter King has announced that he is going to hold hearings on whether or not Muslims are helping law enforcement to fight so-called “domestic terrorism.” What Mr. King is doing is recreating the House Un-American Committee - just substitute “Muslim” for “communist”.

I believe as Unitarian Universalists, we have a special obligation to stand up, speak truth to power, and work to protect our Muslim neighbors.

We know what injustice looks like.

Not only do we know what injustice looks like, we take action to right it.

I believe the scapegoating and targeting of Muslims is the most significant civil rights issue of our time.

We must stand up for our Muslims neighbors.

We cannot let our government continue its attacks.

We know how to stand against injustice.

Please join with me to stand up to the FBI, to the bigots in Congress, and to the people who vilify Muslims.

The collection plate today will go to Project SALAM. Checks can be made out to Project SALAM. But, most of all, please learn more about and join Project SALAM. We will be at the back of the hall after the service and would be glad to answer your questions and tell you more about our projects.

Thank you very very much.