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[Report sent by Sis. Farah, Atlanta, Georgia. Sis. Tabassum is mixed Pakistani, Native American and African-American. May Allah reward their parents for having brought up such a Muslimah -Ed] [If this makes you cry, with pride or with emotion, say Allahu Akbar -Ed.]

A must-read personal account of an American Muslim woman detained by NYPD who refused to take off her hijab.

Here is the best quote I have read in a very long time for everyone here to think about:

"To those of you who are muslim and reading this: now is not the time to give up on Islam and your identity. We are only strong when we are with Allah (swt) and when we adhere to Allah's revelations."


Greetings of peace to everyone,

The story you are about to read is from a very good friend of mine. I sincerely hope that her tale will be an inspiration to you as it is for me.

Ma'a asalaama (with peace),
======== From: Tabassum

I am so tired after the incident yesterday with the police and I had written an email about it and then it was lost. So irritating, but I will write it again. If any of you would like more explicit details, just ask. And if you want a revised version without any grammar errors, just ask. Quick note to the Muslims at my university: I am thankful for all of your support today; it really means such much to me to have my community behind me. In addition, any of you are welcome to share this account with others. I trust your discretion.

All of you know about the citywide demonstrations that were held yesterday (Thurs. 3/27/03 8am-noon+) in front of and near Rockefellar Center (5oth and 5th Ave.) Our goal was to clog up Midtown Manhattan and stop "bussiness as usual" to the media corporations and other businesses that supported and bankrolled this war. We were successful. NYC really hadn't seen something like this until now. But what I wanted to share with all of you was my experience with the NYPD as a detainee and more importantly as a Muslim woman of color. The way I was treated was unlike many of the other protesters. But there were a few incidences of police brutality. Because I fit the profile of a "terrorist", because I am the new threat to national security, it was fine for them to disregard my rights as a human being and as a citizen.

I was arrested around 12noon at 48th and 5th Avenue close to the Fox News Building where they were childishly typing messages on their computerized ticker tape (which people on the street can read), "Go home," and other ridiculous phrases. My group and I lay down in the middle of the intersection blocking all four ways of traffic at once. We were dragged away one by one by undercover cops while we were fervently chanting anti-war, anti-corporate media, and anti-Bush administration slogans. We were dragged on our backs twice to the corner and the police then surrounded us preparing to handcuff us. We remained firm in our actions and we didn't let the police intimidate us with their weapons or supposed might. As I was handcuffed with handcuffs tightly (very tightly) secured around my wrists, another police officer grabbed me and slammed my body on the side of the prisoners' bus. As my left cheek was pressed hard against the side of the bus another officer was twisting my already secured arms. This African American woman officer who was aggressively searching me was a riot policewoman who was called over for me only. I was surprised to see a woman of color treating another woman of color so harshly. The members of my group were arguing with her and the supervising seargent to make her to stop handling me so roughly and to stop searching me so vigorously. They didn't treat anyone else this way and the police ignored their complaints.

I was photographed and put into the bus. I managed to look out and see how the crowd had swelled as well as the police presence. Other members from our group who were not arrested but in charge of our legal aid, quickly started the process of contacting lawyers, our emergency contacts, and taking interviews with the media. We were taken to a location near the Javitts Center to be transferred to another bus. When I was taken off the bus, I was the only one searched again. On the new bus we were taken to One Police Plaza which is similar to a detention facility for people who do things like we did (civil disobedience). When we arrived, our lawyer team was already there as well as other protesters who were supporting us. In the parking lot we sat cuffed for an hour and a half. So we were cuffed for almost 2-3 hours. It was painful, uncomfortable, and aggravating.

Next we were taken off the bus to be processed inside. A few of the officers separated me from the crowd. A female member of the group said that she didn't want to be separated from me and she made a spectacle of it. Since she works with the INS detainees she didn't even want to think about what they would do if I was taken somewhere alone. They still pulled me out of the entire group to search me again and my bag. One officer as a joke said," You might have a bomb," and he laughed.

Once inside it was another hour or so before we were put into our cells. They passed out something that resembled food. I asked for the food in my bag and told them that I was Muslim and I couldn't eat what they provided. Eventually they complied. After I was finally assigned to my cell after going through two other cells, we were there to wait.

The cells were no bigger than an average closet and they smelled of urine. The men were placed in one large cell and it was obvious how crowded and stuffy it was. But for the women, we were divided into the smaller cells that I described earlier with 4-6 women inside, which was clearly too many.

Many hours passed and us women did everything from converting popular songs into protests songs, to playing word games, to sharing other activist activities we were involved in, to etching on the walls, to just getting to know each other. For me I did just about all of that and talking to the women about Islam because I had a feeling that most of them had a misconception about Islam and women in Islam. We didn't want to think about how confined we were because after awhile it starts to get to you a lot and the restless energy starts to build. Since I was with the "mobile demonstrators", we were exhausted from going all over the city blockading traffic.

Now fingerprinting and photographing. I was filed in with the others to be fingerprinted and photographed. The problem happened with the photo. The officer said take off your scarf and I said no. he said you have to take it off. I said that I had a Constitutional right to practice my religion which included wearing my scarf. At this point it was clear to me that I did not have any rights. (We do live in a military state). At this point a few of the officers began to yell at me saying that I take it off or you will be refusing which means I will be charged again with this. I said that I am not refusing that I will take the picture but I will take it like this. They said no you are refusing so you go back and you will just stay here. I argued back saying that they can't do that that I have a right to religious freedom . They were basically saying no: I didn't that this is the law and that's it. I said what I believe in supercedes all of your laws. All the other detainees were arguing with them and they were quickly silenced. The chief sat me down and said let me give you some legal advice. I said that I didn't want "his" legal advice but that I wanted to talk to my lawyer outside. He said there are no lawyers outside (this is where the lying begins- because there was a whole team of lawyers and medics outside who were barricaded from coming in. And what the police did was against the law). He said just take it off, take the picture, and sue me later. I was disgusted by his answer and I said no. He said we will keep you here indefinitely and you will never speak to anyone. He said other people took off their religious garb (lie#2). I said no I won't take it off. He said fine you'll just stay here. I demanded to speak to my lawyer. Finally a cop gave me his cell phone. I called my parents asking for their advice because at this point I was so stressed from being intimidated by the officers and being manipulated and lied to that I forgot that I wrote my lawyer's number on my arm. After my family advised me to take it off because this was a serious situation and this was the worst place to be stuck in prison, I was devastated. I was crying uncontrollably. I had never taken off my hijab since I put it on. And to enter a room full of armed officers who were yelling at me and then to have them see me without my hijab was humiliating and such a violation of my privacy. After I told the officers how much I hated them; through all of the sobbing I stood in front of the camera and I removed one pin. My hijab was still on. I couldn't do this but the pressure was unreal. The detainees there were saying don't do it, don't let them intimidate you, they are lying to you, don't do it. I was completely humiliated as they (the police) just stood there watching me waiting to see what I would expose to them. My strength came back and I said NO again very loudly and they said so be it. I was to remain in jail indefinitely.

After a half an hour of yelling to the officer I finally got my phone call to my lawyer. He said that they were all outside and they knew about me and my case. Some people were already released and they passed the word along. He said we are calling the judge to override this. He said hang in there and don't let them intimidate you, it's against the law what they are doing, they can't keep you there, don't worry we are all on this. I felt better but annoyed. The officers who taken away yet another right for me to see a medic and get food from my bag (it was now about 10pm or so) because I was resisting; they were holding it against me. I returned to my cell. All the women wanted to know what was going on. I passed the word throughout the cells and eventually it got to the men: my name, the incident, my email, etc. Everyone there vowed to stay in until I was released and they were all going to call the media and other civil rights groups when they got out. If anything the women that night saw how empowered a Muslim woman is. They had a new respect for the hijab and a better understanding of what Islam was.

After a few more hours sitting there preparing my self for an extended time in jail and after prayers to Allah for patience and protection, an officer came to my cell and said get out. Another officer came to me who was not from this facility and asked if I was okay. I said I was considering the circumstances. He said that you are taking the photo with everything on. I was shocked. I entered the photo room again. He stopped the processes that were already in progress and said that she is taking the picture with her stuff on. The officers looked dumbfounded. The other detainees were quietly congratulating me for persevering and for sticking to my beliefs. I took the picture. I found out later that 3 lawyers were working on my case to get things overturned and everyone outside was putting immense pressure on the police that were barricading them on my behalf. As I walked past the men's holding area they cheered. They knew that I won this battle and as I entered the women's cells they did the same. I was released around 1:00a.m. this morning, Friday, March 28, 2003. I was escorted outside and the officer said to me good luck. The others outside started cheering when I approached them as they did for everyone who was released. The medic came to check me out, the Lawyers and the people from my group who were our support came up to me to congratulate me and see how I was. I have much appreciation for them and the National Guild of Lawyers. They were all there until every last 215 of us were released. One lawyer took my case personally because I have to appear in court because of my two charges of disorderly conduct. When I got home and after the cab had left, I saw about 4-5 armed National Guard standing there. Coincidence? I don't think so.

At this point I sit here physically tired and in some pain, but just amazed that I am here and not there. The police are very skilled in manipulating , lying, and intimidation that I almost believed in what they told me. I'm still emotionally sensitive to the incident but compared to others who are detained, incarcerated, tortured, and oppressed, I am doing fine, alhamdulillah (thanks to God). I have had a humbling and truly eye-opening educational experience. To those of you who are Muslim and reading this: now is not the time to give up on Islam and your identity. We are only strong when we are with Allah (swt) and when we adhere to Allah's revelations. We should not give in to the fear and intimidation. They only way they can deconstruct Islam, our Ummah (community), and our identity is if we let them.

This is a good place to stop. I pray that any of this can be helpful to any of you. I pray that I can be supportive to each of you in these increasingly difficult times. And I also pray to Allah (swt) to keep us protected and connected as a strong community of brothers and sisters.

Ma'a asalaama,

2003-04-06 Sun 16:54ct