[Pnews] Imprisoned Humanitarian Activist Shukri Abu Baker of the HolyLand Foundation - Historical Reflection III

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Wed Nov 28 13:26:49 EST 2018


  Historical Reflection III

November 2018 - Shukri Abu Baker

/*The Holy Land Five are: *Ghassan Elashi 
co-founder and board chairman;*Shukri Abu-Baker 
president and CEO; *Mohammad El-Mezain 
co-founder and California HLF office representative; *Mufid Abdulqader 
volunteer fundraiser and *Abdulrahman Odeh 
New Jersey office HLF representative. 

/*The Holy Land Five were convicted 10 years ago.

*9/11, A Perfect Setting*

The days that followed 9/11 were flashing by quickly, but the mordant 
bitterness persisted. Public rhetoric grew even more bellicose, the mood 
volatile, and the discourse divisive. American Arabs and Muslims sunk 
into a state of self-abnegation, ironically, as the shortest cut to 
self-preservation. I whirled in the midst of it, but I had more than 
self and family to worry about. Rumors were becoming prevalent about the 
Bush Administration intending to add new groups to its list of Domestic 
Terrorist Organizations. My anxiety swelled. Not that I had sensed there 
was something fundamentally folly with the HLF that would have warranted 
a justifiable move against it. Rather, I had an instinct that 9/11 would 
present itself as a perfect setting for the butchers to finally send HLF 
on her way to the slaughter… and there was no better time, because to 
eliminate your enemy without raising eyebrows you must first dehumanize 
if not totally demonize him. But isn’t that exactly what a decade-long, 
media onslaught had already done to HLF?

What’s more, after 9/11 a major shift took place in the doctrine of 
political correctness, where Arabs and Muslims turned into boogeymen, 
called out as enemies of the State, or would- be terrorists who were 
capable of launching another 9/11- style attack on this already 
disquieted nation. People like that with tongue-twisting foreign names, 
as the revised doctrine would suggest, were a threat to society and 
better to not let them walk free. Hence, why not just throw the book at 
them, find them guilty, lock them up, and throw the keys in some deep 
sewer main in NYC or Dallas! After all better be safe than sorry, right? 
Now what jury in what American city wouldn’t fall for an argument as 
such that was elegantly wrapped in the American flag and eloquently 
raised in the collective voice of 3000 innocent victims of “Islamic” 

*Anxiety Builds*

In the following weeks, the DTO list kept getting longer and longer as 
new names were being added. Thus, reflexively, when HLF had survived a 
day, its name absent from that deathly list, it was cause for 
celebration. Still the whole experience of being on the brink started to 
take a toll on me and my family. My stress level hit new heights, blood 
pressure out of whack, and migraines longer and closer together. The 
wife and the girls felt a bewildering loss of normalcy. Parents 
helpless. Things had lost their appeal, from taking the kids out for 
ice-cream to spousal intimacy. Amazingly, though, HLF itself didn’t go 
into a spastic paralysis; work continued to pick up, plans drawn, and 
programs implemented. My staff did not descend into a panic mood, 
either_ but did exhibit signs of fatigue as anxiety piled on anxiety not 
knowing what the next day had in store. Truth be told, it was quite a 
trial for any to function under such mental punishment. For, often times 
a prolonged anticipation of a sudden death can be more dreadful than 
death itself. No one exactly knew when HLF would heave its last breath.

*Judith Miller Knew*

When my aide, Dallel, called me on Monday evening, December 3, 2001, 
sounding like she had just seen a ghost, and told me Judith Miller had 
been on the phone with her and told her she had learned from reliable 
sources that the HLF had been designated a terrorist organization, and 
that a public announcement would be made sometime in the morning__ and 
that she had requested an HLF response. Dumfounded, director of 
emergency relief services answered by saying she was not authorized to 
comment on unconfirmed reports. By 9:00 p.m., Ghassan, I, and a number 
of other executives were gathered in the office discussing the 
authenticity of Judith’s forewarning. Knowing who she was and how 
well-connected she had been, I had no reason to believe she was spinning 
us. In fact, when it came to this particular “journalist” I always 
thought of her as Israel’s most trusted, accessed, and celebrated 
operative in the US. “It’s going to happen,” I told the distraught 
bunch. “If Judith said we’ve been designated, then we are indeed, and 
we’re going under.” “Not necessarily,” objected Ghassan, who had been a 
staunch believer in American justice. “This is a country of laws and a 
constitution. What cause did the government have to list the HLF?” At 
that moment I believed my good friend was simply in denial. “This is not 
coming from Washington,” I said impatiently. “Think Tel Aviv, habibi (my 
dear one). Think Tel Aviv!” Shortly after his position had softened a 
little, Ghassan worked the phone to put the Board on point, while I 
started to write a short statement, which was to be taped onto the front 
glass door of the building as notice to the public in case the next day 
was indeed Doomsday.

However, in the quietness of the short drive home a tearful voice in my 
head was crying: ‘/yaa.rubbis.tor’/, (O my Lord, let it not be).

*I Said Goodbye. No Shame*

On that ominous night, I didn’t exactly know why, but I had been rather 
calm and composed, my thoughts streaming orderly. Perhaps I was finally 
at peace knowing we had reached the end of a very long road after having 
put up a good fight at every challenge, leaving behind thousands of 
lives saved and thousands of hopes raised and countless souls touched by 
some of the most amazing acts of generosity, selflessness, and tenacity. 
Or maybe I had, indeed, resigned to the fact that my charity’s life had 
come to a spectacular finale, and there was nothing I, or anyone, could 
have done to stand between it and its preordained martyrdom.

Yes, sorrow and grief were starting to collect in mass, but no shame had 
ever seen the light. Hard-earned honor; that’s all I had taken back with 
me as I stepped out of my small office- at the right corner near the 
main entrance of the HLF building, got in the car, and drove home. It 
was around 11:30 p.m., less than 8 hour away from the time the men in 
suits would knock at my door, come inside, and hand deliver me the 
Presidential Executive Order that had named HLF a terrorist 
organization. All my personal items: family pictures; framed 
certificates; awards; boss-day gifts; books; personal notebook; even the 
beautiful live plants my wife had bought and decorated my office with… 
All remained uncollected, undisturbed; as though part of me wanted to 
stay behind till the very end,  so in the event my charity had to go I 
would have been there, lovingly, faithfully, and eternally holding its hand.

*HLF Death Certificate, Hand Delivered*

As it turned out: December 4, 2001 (the tenth day of the holy month of 
Ramadan) was indeed Doomsday. At 7 a.m. several federal agents including 
officials from the Office of Foreign Assets Control, OFAC in the Dept. 
of Treasury, had already been in my house serving me an official notice 
authorizing OFAC to immediately seize any and all HLF assets, tangible 
and intangible. When they asked me to sign a document that said I had 
been served the notice, I respectfully asked them to sit down and be 
patient till I had called HLF’s lawyer, and I asked if they cared for 
coffee, to which they said no, thank you. I spoke with the lawyer, who 
had a question for the Feds. I turned the phone over to them. They spoke 
briefly before they handed the phone back to me. Still on the line, the 
HLF attorney told me I could sign the statement. The Feds. left my 
house. I stood in the living area, my wife disturbed, her facial 
expression saying, is this really happening?

My system flowed with Adrenalin. Now, all of a sudden I felt defiant. 
Yes, earlier I had resentfully submitted to the notion that HLF had 
little or no chance of making it alive, but It was very difficult to 
notice ( and accept) the elation on the faces of the executors. It was 
beyond heart shattering to actually see these men walk in and out of my 
house so sanctimonious, so peacefully, so handsomely, so professionally, 
and so indifferently__ when as far I was concerned HLF lay dead and not 
buried yet, and it was my moral obligation to preside over her funeral. 
I felt no animosity towards anyone. Hate was not my thing. I could live 
forever without enemies, because I had no existential need for enemies. 
It was late that night I finally crashed. My wife couldn’t soothe my 
hurting. She too had her own hurting to process; hurting for her great 
charity and hurting for her beloved husband because out of 7 billion 
people on earth she knew more than anyone what HLF had meant to me.

* A Ghostly Visage*

I woke up at dawn, offered my prayers, and drank my coffee before an odd 
feeling took hold of me. I felt as though my feet had sunk into some 
muddy ground and were sucked in so deep I couldn’t jiggle them loose to 
be able to walk, much less run away. Life Now without the HLF was my new 
reality, and I had to face it, fathom it, accept it, and move forward 
past it. This was the only way I could set myself free. Within the next 
3 days everything HLF had would be in government possession. The largest 
American Muslim Charity will no longer have to its name a pencil, a 
paper clip, a desk, a chair, a computer, a printer, a camera, or a 
single document. All will be gone. Moreover, every hard-raised 
charitable dollar HLF had in its bank accounts to fund its humanitarian 
programs will be frozen; All three million of them will sit idle in the 
cold hands of the Feds., while Muslim children and their parents starved 
and withered like stubble. And had you walked into the – now a ghostly 
visage HLF headquarters in Richardson, you would not have believed that 
until a week ago this place was bustling with life, Imbuing with 
vibrancy, bursting with energy, and teeming with men and women, young 
and old: staffers, volunteers, donors as well; all working together as a 
“Helping Hand for Mankind.”

*A Night of Solidarity*

On Saturday, December 8, in solidarity, HLF friends organized a 
community breakfast in the multi-purpose hall, at the Richardson mosque, 
and wanted me to address the crowd and speak on the latest development. 
My wife, daughters, and parents (who were living with me at the time,) 
and I were ready to leave the house. Out of nowhere, my father, now 
lividly gestured, screamed at me, “Shukri? Why are you dressed like some 
miserable pauper?” Stunned by his outrage I asked, “What do you mean, 
father?” He replied, “Are you afraid something? Do you feel shame or 
self-petty or defeat?”  Baffled, I just stood speechless, my eyes 
squinted. The talkative turned-taciturn man (due to his severe hearing 
loss) took a quick breath, raised his right hand and said, “I swear by 
Allah no one in this house- not even you- is going anywhere before you 
change your clothes and put on your best suit and tie.” His voice 
softer, an air of empathy in his breath, he lectured me:

“Son, if you’re afraid they’ll now come for you, you’re wrong, because 
they won’t. That Son of a b***h, Sharon, (Ariel Sharon, Israeli PM at 
the time, who eerily had been in meetings with Bush in the W.H only 3 
day before HLF had been taken out) all he wanted was to end HLF and he 
got what he asked for. Now that the genie is put back in the bottle, 
he’s not worried about you. Everyone is counting on you to lift their 
spirits. There is a reason you have been called a leader, son. You can’t 
be or even look weak, Shukri.” And my father was absolutely right. At 
the time, I was underdressed for the occasion, because I had been 
feeling sick in the stomach, having lost a sense of purpose without HLF… 
and the seasoned man read it as a sign of defeat and shame on my part. I 
walked into my bedroom, changed, and I drove the family to the mosque. 
Over 500 supporters had packed the hall. As I walked to the podium the 
crowd started chanting raucously: HLF…HLF…HLF. I faced the audience and 
spoke for 15 minutes. In closing I said, “At this time, I might seem 
like a wounded eagle, but I promise you I will never become paranoid of 
heights”.  Spirits hit the ceiling…and the night gave me the triumphant 
jolt I so badly needed.

Little did I know then that 11 years later most people in that crowd 
along with many others would gather in this selfsame place, except this 
time they won’t be facing me. Rather at that gathering they would be 
facing a simple plywood coffin, inside which lay a petite body, freshly 
washed and shrouded with three white cotton sheets. Rows upon rows will 
stand behind the Imam who will lead them in the pre-burial, funeral 
prayer. The deceased will be none other but my own lovely daughter, 
Sanabel… and I will be missing from that scene. In the following year it 
will be the funeral of my father, Ahmed— and aging but not bowed, I will 
be also missing.  It really hurts. O God, you know how much it hurts— 
but I at least I had been there for my charity, and thank you God, I had 
been there to the very end lovingly, faithfully, and eternally holding 
its hand.


Days before September 11, 2001. Reflections I 
"Words For Thought"

9/11 Flashbacks, Reflections II 
"Legal Case"

http://freedomtogive.com/the-holy-land-foundation/ ..... History and 
discussion of the case


          Mr. Shukri Baker 32589-177

    POBox 26030
    Beaumont, TX


Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 https://freedomarchives.org/
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://freedomarchives.org/pipermail/ppnews_freedomarchives.org/attachments/20181128/6975880d/attachment.html>

More information about the PPnews mailing list