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National Association of Muslim Chaplains

In Defense of Imam Yusuf Yee
(Captain James Yee) Muslim Chaplain

By Imam Warithudeen Umar, President NAMC 10-02-03

The arrest of Imam Yusuf Yee of the U.S. Army on suspicion of "aiding" Al Qaeda prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, is part of an on-going campaign of anti Islamic bias in America. It is a blatant distortion of justice. It is more than a travesty, it is a dangerous course that the American leaders are taking the population into.

The public needs to know it is the duty and responsibility of the Chaplain to aid inmates regardless of their crime. The Catholic Chaplain cares for and gives aid to the mafia don who may have killed, robbed and stolen in his criminal career. The Jewish Chaplain gives care and aid to the Jewish spies and criminals who work against the best interests of America. The Chaplain gives solace, prayer, aid and comfort to all kinds of convicted criminals serving time in prison.

The official Chaplains Manual of the National Association of Muslim Chaplains clearly outlines the duties of Muslim Chaplains. The duties and responsibilities are the same as those traditional duties of Christian and Jewish institutional workers. The Rabbis employed as Chaplains by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Prisons and the military are actively involved in providing aid and comfort to Jonathan Pollard the espionage spy who compromised American security and was sent to prison for life. They advocate for his release.

The job description calls for the Chaplain of whatever faith to be responsible for protecting the inmate's religious rights and obligations. The objective of assisting and aiding inmates is to encourage inmates to live according to their faith as law abiding citizens. The Chaplain also helps the inmate adjust to the orderly conditions of the prison setting and protects the inmates from abuses of the system and from abuses of individual guards.

This puts the Chaplain between the system and the inmate. The Chaplain's role as an advocate presents a unique situation which demands that he speaks for the inmates rather than for the system that confines them. This requires that a Chaplain be exposed to criticism from society and its systems of justice. The Chaplain like the prophets of old follow the scriptures that point out the fact that inspired religious leaders are to watch over the systems of justice as part of their divine calling. This is traditional in Judaism and Christianity and is not questioned by government. Now that Islam has become prominent, the Muslim faith workers who practice these same traditions are being persecuted.

Prison and jail Chaplains are responsible for congregational worship services, cell visits, counseling, and crisis intervention. They are to maintain religious calendars, conduct religious observances and coordinate religious holidays. Chaplains oversee the administration of the ministerial programs of the prison including religious dietary considerations. Chaplains verify obligatory religious artifacts, scriptures, publications and texts. Chaplains are responsible for contact with family and friends of inmates.

A typical day for a Chaplain in American prisons or in U.S. military brigs including Guantanamo Bay would be to visit the inmates cell by cell, distribute approved. religious reading material and prayer schedules while taking names of all inmates he serves. The Chaplain should always maintain files on the inmates and particulars about them, their families, former residences, health problems, etc.

The challenge of ministering to a captive congregation is difficult under the best of circumstances. The responsibilities shouldered by men and women who have accepted the calling of faith to serve the faithful behind bars are many. These Chaplains are usually exceptional individuals who should be applauded for their courage, kindness and generosity. Each day the Chaplains offer spiritual hope to the lonely, depressed, and often forgotten people.

People in the free society think of prison inmates as tough people. Inmates often exhibit a strong exterior in facing their status as captives and social failures. However, the strong facade often breaks down soon after incarceration. The stress and oppression of prison can make the hopeless lose contact with reality. Psychotic distress, panic and profound grief can cause a prisoner to commit suicide or misbehave and become a danger to himself and others. The Chaplain carries his notes as he makes his rounds. His goal is to manage the dynamics of the institution and help maintain the peace. Society as a whole should appreciate the Chaplain's function.

The media, the politicians and the Executive government that run the prisons have joined together in this persecution of Muslims and the trashing of Islam and the distortion of the good Chaplaincy work. Witness the unleashed vitriol of media persons like syndicated columnist Daniels Pipes who acts as a paid assassin against the Muslims, and U.S. Senator Charles Schumer the "Meir Kahane" of the politicians who doesn't miss a chance to spread misinformation and hatred against the Muslims and Islam. The government officials who run the prison systems have collectively, at the direction of bureaucrats, set about a campaign to harass Muslim Chaplains and Muslim inmates.

If Army officials caught Chaplain Yee with lists of Gitmo captives and details about them and their families, this is not evidence of criminal collusion, but evidence that a good Chaplain is performing his duty and doing a good job.

2003-10-12 Sun 06:05ct