On the 10th Anniversary of the Conviction of The Holy Land Five


The author during a visit with his grandson Zackaria on Dec. 25, 2015. Shukri Abu Baker doesn’t like to pose for photos when his family visits him in prison because he says it’s too painful for him to look at the pictures. (COURTESY ABU BAKER FAMILY)

Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, January/February 2019, p. 28
Islam in America
By Shukri Abu Baker
SICK, IS ALL I’D BEEN FEELING on that cold Monday night. Some hours earlier, the ominous air in that courtroom, the timid gestures, the awful anticipation, the dreadful verdicts…all was too much to stomach. I cringed every time the judge’s voice rang “guilty” in my head; his gloating only amplified by the claustrophobic compactness in my prison cell. But it wasn’t until bedtime, when, to discern the real from the unreal, I called out to my wife and four daughters name-by-name and heard nothing back but the hum of loneliness, that I finally realized my journey in the underworld had already begun. From that moment I decided to dedicate my life to the forsaken of the world. Exiled, my options were: Give chase to my ideals and arrive—or give over to the devils and forever be lost.

A decade later, what sickness I had in my stomach has turned into a deep-seated comfort in my heart. Allah has picked me for a rigorous refinement. He has walked me safely through the psychological debris of injustice. Thus, I’m not today what my foes had wished upon me 3,650 days ago. I’m not a heap of flesh shriveling on a faltering skeleton, a melancholy progressive, dead weight, dead meat….or toast. No. Today I’m my Lord’s own repurposing for the while I’m behind these bars and for when I’m in front of the line, again, serving humanity.
Yet, what my foes dubbed as Victory on Nov. 24, 2008 was but an epic defeat for the very ideals they were sworn to defend and uphold. It’s never fair and square to surrender the law to a political fondling, mostly foreign, and dismantle innocent American families—all in the name of American Justice—and all under the pretext of saving the world? From what? Is the world, today, any less uncivilized than it was when the “winning team” popped the Champagne 10 years ago? Now that all fragments of the truth have coalesced, everyone realizes my imprisonment was more the product of a moral bankruptcy than it was the consequence of any wrongdoing on my part.
All over, people with a healthy conscience reject the depraved ideology that stated: Not all lives are equal; thus, not all lives are worth saving—only those of the privileged; hence, not all great acts of humanity deserved public accolade—some deserved nothing but years, if not life, behind the walls. Some lost their integrity on that tragic day; not I. All I lost was a mere trial in a kangaroo court. And some woke up with a broken spirit, today; not I. My spirit won’t come down shattering at the feet of some heartless moment. In truth, I feel great today because Allah is the Greatest. I’m ready to embody my higher self: Ready to shine another beam of healing hope into the broken hearts of the world. Ready to forgive. Ready to give. Ready to reimagine more kindness for humankind. And ready to say goodbye to walls—and come home.

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