[Ppnews] Chicago Tribune: Bridgeview mosque cheers Salah verdict

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Mon Feb 5 08:40:38 EST 2007





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Chicago Tribune: Bridgeview mosque cheers Salah verdict
by Lolly Bowean and Gerry Doyle, Tribune staff 
reporters. Tribune staff reporter Margaret Ramirez contributed to this report

February 2, 2007

<http://rs6.net/tn.jsp?t=rokhj7bab.0.4b8hj7bab.cnbkgrbab.2978&ts=S0229&p=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.chicagotribune.com%2Fnews%2Flocal%2Fchicago%2Fchi-0702020186feb02%2C1%2C4364373.story%3Fctrack%3D1%26cset%3Dtrue>http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/chicago/chi-0702020186feb02,1,4364373.story?ctrack=1&cset=true 


Moments after learning that Muhammad Salah was 
cleared Thursday afternoon of federal charges of 
helping to fund terrorism, Abubakr Meah rushed 
out of the Mosque Foundation in Bridgeview 
grinning and waving a thumbs-up to a passing vehicle.

The driver honked his horn and waved in approval. 
Standing next to Meah, Allaa Daoud sent out text 
messages to friends and family from his mobile phone.

"Verdict is out: he's innocent. Alhamdulillah," 
read the message, which ended with the Arabic phrase for "thank God."

"After 9/11, there has been a lot of looking at 
us Muslims," Meah said. "This verdict gives us 
hope. It means our voices can be heard. We can have justice."

That evening, Salah came to a celebration in the 
mosque, which was attended by at least 300 people.

"I love you all, honestly. I owe every one of 
you," Salah told the audience at the mosque.

People in the Bridgeview community helped him to 
put food on the table while he was unemployed during the trial, Salah said.

"I have never feared we would lose the case. 
Ever. ... We don't fear anyone, under Allah," he 
said. "We are happy with the verdict. And I'm 
sure we will have more happiness to come later on."

Many at the mosque celebrated the news that he 
was found not guilty of the most serious charges 
of helping to fund terrorism. The jury, however, 
found Salah guilty of obstruction of justice for 
lying under oath when questioned in a suit filed 
by the family of David Boim, an American student 
killed in a 1996 Hamas shooting in the West Bank.

Verdict taken personally

The verdict has a special meaning for members of 
the mosque because many people know the Salah 
family. They saw Salah on a daily basis, and said 
he is a family man who has devoted much of his 
time and energy to the mosque. They do not 
believe Salah would support any kind of violence, 
several members of the mosque said.

Some said they have felt that as he was on trial, 
so, too, were their religious beliefs. And 
because Salah was closely affiliated with the 
mosque, some felt that if he were found guilty of 
supporting terrorism, they would be too.

"Salah is a nice man," Daoud said. "He is 
respected and loved here. I am very happy for his family and for us."

Each day, worshipers gather to pray in the 
southwest suburban mosque, quietly tucked away in 
a residential community. Thousands attend on some 
days, many of them, like Salah, 
Palestinian-Americans. Some of the youngest have 
grown up connected to each other because of the mosque.

For years, their mosque has been a center of 
controversy because, though its leaders denounce 
terrorism, it was known to have some members who 
were considered militant. At times, the mosque 
has been criticized as too political and too 
connected to people who funnel money between the 
United States and countries that are engaged in 
conflict and known for producing terrorists.

But leaders of the mosque insist that the 
membership is focused on helping Muslims in the Chicago area.

Most recently, the mosque has seen attention 
because of its connection to Salah. He was 
accused of using America as a safe haven to 
transfer funds, coordinate operations and provide 
aid to Hamas, an organization responsible for 
many attacks on Israel. The accusations connected 
Salah to murders and kidnappings abroad.

For months, as he was on trial, Muslims in the 
mosque offered special prayers that God would 
show him favor, one worshiper said. They had a special day of prayer for him.

On Thursday, many said they had gotten the answer 
they were hoping for. Word of the acquittal on 
terrorism charges spread quickly among worshipers 
at the mosque. Some whispered their praises and 
smiled at each other. Others hopped and danced in 
the parking lot with excitement.

"It's a great day today for Arab Muslims and 
Palestinians all over the world," said Ghassan 
Abdallah, the vice president of the Mosque 
Foundation. "We are glad that the jury was able 
to see through these false facts and forced 
confessions and render justice. It's a happy day for us."

Dancing for joy

When Amira Daoud got the news in a text message 
from her brother, she hopped slightly and skipped 
in a modest dance in the parking lot of the 
mosque. She was headed to afternoon prayer when she got the word.

"For him and his family to be portrayed as 
traitors or evil people was a tragedy," she said.

"I'm glad to get this off our shoulder," Adli 
Shuaibi said. "We Muslims, we believe in the 
justice system. We've prayed a lot, and our prayers were answered."

The Chicago office of the Council on 
American-Islamic Relations issued a statement 
Thursday evening in support of the Salah family.

"We hope that the suffering of the Salah family 
is over. We also hope that the `terrorism' label 
be reserved in the future for those found guilty 
of that charge in an open and fair trail 
administered in a respected court of law," the group said.

----------

<mailto:lbowean at tribune.com>lbowean at tribune.com

<mailto:gxdoyle at tribune.com>gxdoyle at tribune.com


Copyright © 2007, Chicago Tribune


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