In terrorism sting, defense attorney stereotyped Islam

The FBI attempted a counterterrorism sting involving a Tunisian man named Ahmed Abassi. Ultimately, Abassi who was 26 when the effort began, ended up facing no terrorism charges.

Instead, The Washington Post explained a deal Abassi took—“to plead guilty to the charges that included putting false information on an application for a green card — the same one the undercover agent helped him complete — and making a false statement to immigration officials.”

The newspaper account disclosed an interesting defense tactic—a stereotype of Islam and the role the faith’s holy book, depending on interpretation, can play in jihad.

Abassi didn’t commit an act of terrorism, but he seemed fine with the concept of it. The paper said Abassi “argued that the Koran allowed ‘Muslims to attack Americans in the same ways Americans had attacked Muslims, including the killing of women and children,’ according to court records.”

Abassi, living in New York, also agreed with the concept often expressed by terrorists—“the principle that America should be wiped off the face of the earth.”

The paper’s account of the terrorism sting suggests Abassi was more talk than action. What’s interesting, however, is a statement by Abassi’s attorney, Sabrina P. Shroff, a federal public defender. Shroff resorted to a defense tactic that, had it been uttered by a conservative in a public forum, would’ve likely drawn accusations of stereotyping Muslims.

Shroff commented on information derived from taped conversations between Abassi (Ahmed) and a man he was accused of attempting to radicalize, a student named Chiheb Esseghaier:

“If you actually listen to the conversations between Chiheb [Esseghaier] and Ahmed, you’ll realize Ahmed is talking about words and verses from the Koran…He’s telling Chiheb what’s in the Koran. That is not radicalizing.”

Thus, the attorney resorted to the concept of Islam’s holy book as a factor in jihad.

Abassi is allegedly awaiting deportation from a holding facility in New Jersey.

Abassi had previously been studying for a degree at a university in Canada, and he and his wife had apparently been able to afford a trip home to Tunisia. How Abassi could fund an education and travel abroad but not fund his own defense is a question no one has asked. Public defenders are funded by U.S. taxpayers.

Featured Photo: 11th Century North African Koran in the British Museum; Lord Harris at en.wikipedia [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:LordHarris]

(Commentary by Kay B. Day/Aug. 15, 2014)

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About Kay Day

Kay B. Day is a freelance writer who has published in national and international magazines and websites. The author of 3 books, her work is anthologized in textbooks and collections. She has won awards for poetry, nonfiction and fiction. Day is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors and the Authors Guild.
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