Last week the Muslim community of Mobile, Alabama was shaken by the arrest of two 25 year old Muslims, Rasheed (aka Randy) Wilson and Mohammad Abdul Rahman Abukhdair.
Abukhdair, a US citizen of Arab decent, had lived in Cairo, Egypt since 2007. While in Egypt he befriended Rasheed Wilson in 2010 through the internet and offered to help Wilson, a husband and father of two, make Hijra to a Muslim country. Shortly afterwards, Abukhdair’s status as a foreigner and a student of the Arabic language became an attractive prospect to both American and nervous Egyptian intelligence, and the latter abruptly arrested him, along with many other foreign students and journalists, during the tumultuous months that led to the Arab Spring uprising.
Following two months of torture under the tail-end of Mubarak’s tenacious rule, Abukhdair was hastily deported to America in January, 2011. In October of 2011, Abukhdair resettled in Mobile, Alabama on invitation from Wilson, who was unknowingly, by that time, two months into a confident relationship with an undercover FBI agent. With the help of the undercover agent, Wilson and Abukhdair explored various countries to emigrate to when four months later, in February 2012, they allegedly suspected that they were under FBI surveillance and cancelled any plans to travel.
Frustrated by Wilson’s and Abukhdair’s unwillingness to travel and actualize the perceived conspiracy to live in a Muslim country, the FBI then blackmailed a mutual acquaintance of Wilson and Omar Hamami by placing said acquaintance on a No-fly list. In July of 2012, the acquaintance was detained and interrogated at the airport, and eventually agreed to entrap Wilson and Abukhdair.
The informant encouraged Wilson and Abukhdair to rekindle their desire to go abroad, and finally the three allegedly agreed to travel to Morrocco. The ever-helpful undercover agent purchased international airline tickets for all three and their families by the end of October, however, Wilson and Abukhdair were not arrested until the week of their intended departure over a month later on December 10th, 2012.
One important aspect of this recent arrest hilights the use of Islamic lexicology to explain the threatening nature of the perceived conspiracies, a tactic used in previous terrorism related case. The crux of the government’s argument lays in the intent of the men to travel abroad and in particular, around the use of a singular word, hijrah. The word is contextualised and customised convenient to the interests of the investigators in a simplified footnote:
“3. Hijrah is Arabic for emigration. This term can simply mean emigrating to a Muslim country. However a Confidential Human Source, (“CHS”) [informant], who has known Wilson for many years and had previously conspired with Wilson to travel to Somalia to engage in jihad, has reported Wilson often uses the term “hijrah” to indicate violent jihad.”
In other words, everything the public understand from a year’s worth of recordings and Islam itself will be explained by the indispensable insight of a strong-armed informant and a government employee. Similar equations are being made in the cases of Craig Baxam and Ustadh Abu Taubah.
A second point of significance is the decided targetting of first and second degree acquaintances by federal investigators. In this particular case, the focal suspect is acutally Omar Hammami, the center of international attention and public embarrassment for a government keen on profiling Muslims under the guise of claiming preventative counter-terrorism. As in many cases before, a desperate effort to sideline a major oversight results in its overcorrection as intelligence agents target anyone who may have known Hammami, or know of someone who has known Hammami.
However, Wilson’s lawyer, public defender Domingo Soto, said Wilson didn’t live with Hammami about a decade ago, as the FBI claimed in its affadavit, and the attorney questioned how well the two knew each other. FBI agent Tim Green confirmed in federal court earlier this month that the information in the charging affidavit that Wilson and Hammami were roommates was incorrect and he wasn’t sure where it came from.
Other issues of concern harken to those of whether or not Muslims have the same rights to expression, speech or idle fanciful talk as has been afforded to other American citizens and religious groups as most recently brought up in the case of Tariq Mehenna.
A point highlighted by Mr. Soto in a statement made to the press on December 27th:
“There is a question here about whether you can infringe on free speech to the point of an indictment based on some-sort of amorphous intent… can you be put in jail for saying something even though you have no intent to do it?”
This past Monday bail was denied for Rasheed Wilson on the 17th and at his December 26th arraignment he entered a plea of Not Guilty . U.S. Magistrate Judge Katherine Nelson set a tentative trial date of March 3rd. The current whereabouts of Mohammad Abdul Rahman Abukhdair are currently unknown and he may be being held incommunicado.
Please keep these brothers and their families in your du’a and please write to brother Rasheed letting him know he and his family are not forgotten and that remain in your du’a and that they have your support. Additionally, you can help support the family during this trying time through contributions via PayPal.
Randy Lamar Wilson Jr. #201200027922 (DOB 3/30/87) Mobile County Metro Jail P.O. Box 104 Mobile, Alabama 36601 USA