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FREEDOM or FREE-DUMB?

Bismillah Rahman RaheemSalam alaykum wa Rahmatullah: In the Name of God The Most Gracious, Most Merciful! Peace upon you!

Where are we really going with all of this "Patriot-Act?" What is happening to our freedom here in America? Is there in fact, erosion within our system? These are important questions to for all of us.

It truly grieves me to have to write this. The fact is that my country is loosing one of our most precious assets: FREEDOM.

Allow me to give an overall assessment before going into the details. We are being reassured on a constant basis that our new security is in place to protect us from the axis of evil. Yet, with every stroke of the president's pen more and more bills are being signed into law that counter the best security the West has ever known: THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.

I am not writing this from a philosophical viewpoint, not at all. I write as a victim of these new laws and those who claim to be enforcing them here in our country. I also write as one who has just suffered from most distressing manipulation and over aggressive practice of these people. And I write as a a direct decent of the very people who originally came here in the 1600s to settle what was once a wilderness. And I write as a great grandchild of those who fought in the revolutionary war to establish a free and independent country by giving their lives for what right.

My name is Estes. Years ago we were preaching Christianity and had our music business and broadcast the Estes Music Jamboree down in central and south Florida. Today many of you know me as "Sheik Estes" the former Christian businessman who came to Islam more than a dozen years ago. Our websites, videos, TV shows and CDs have circulated all around the entire earth. Maybe you or someone you know has seen our programs on television or listened to some of our many daily broadcasts on radio, Internet and in tapes and CDs. My Texas accent mixed in Arabic is unmistakable as we open our program with; "You are listening to ISLAM TOMORROW broadcasting LIVE TODAY" and our famous closing statement, "Visit our Internet website at ISLAM TOMORROW . COM, we are open 24 hours a day and always plenty of FREE PARKING." Maybe you have even attended some of our programs, lectures, seminars or workshops on, "Understanding the true message of Islam and how to share it with others." Even the immigration authorities have admitted that they have our CD, "WHAT IS ISLAM." But I'll come back to the government agents in a few minutes.

The point in saying this is that if you have heard about our programs and the work we do, then you know we have always worked hard to present the correct message of Islam based on the authentic teachings of the Quran and the traditions of the prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. And you would obviously known how we have insisted on avoiding confrontations and debates with the Christians and Jews about their beliefs and their books (Bible) and have made it clear, as one of our programs is entitled, "ISLAM IS THE ENEMY OF TERRORISM."

Both my country and my religion call for basic rights, privileges and freedoms for the individuals, while at the same time limiting authority of government and restricting the way individuals deal with each other. These are normal and basic understandings in order to establish equity and justice for all. But make no mistake about it, we are rapidly loosing the balance and with it our freedoms.

Consider the front page of today's Washington Post (Sept 12, 2004). The headline blares out, "FLOOD OF GRIEF ON 9/11 ANNIVERSARY" And then goes on to capture the entire top half of the Sunday front page with color pictures and captions denoting a country remembering a three year old event, that has still never been thoroughly investigated and evidences providing as to who, what and how all of this could come about in the world's most powerful nation.

The second half of the front page continues to demonstrate the media's attitude toward whom they consider to be associated with these acts: "ISLAMIC AMERICANS" As a continuation of the very same article on "FLOOD OF GRIEF 9/11..." the next subtitle headline says, almost as a verdict against Muslims: "The World After 9/11 Repercussions at a Virginia Mosque (Dar ul Hijrah) Facing New Realities as Islamic Americans. The article details a cordial evening with a meal of lamb and rice for the head of the FBI's Washington field office and seven of his agents.

According to the article, after dinner they all went to the prayer hall where things got really hot for the FBI. Someone said, "We need to know the definition of terrorism and terrorists." Another asked why the FBI was raiding the Muslim charities that were helping with Muslims in our country. And yet another said the FBI's informants were unreliable. He gave the example of his friend, a taxi driver who works 16 hours a day or more, being told he is 'moving around' too much."

The very real problems facing us in today's world are hardly mentioned or totally ignored. The important story of the police conducting a high speed chase in a residential neighborhood that resulted in the death of two innocent children right in front of their father, and the fact that eyewitnesses said police lied about it, claiming they had broken off pursuit blocks before the accident -- only a part of that story appears in the lower left corner (continued on A17, col.1).

A third hurricane in a row is bearing down on our country pointed toward Florida and the southern coast of the United States and it has reached the intensity of category five (the worst in history) for the third time in a row and millions of Americans are being affected by this. Where is that story? Not page one. Only a teaser "Hurrican Kills 11. blah, blah, continued on page A3.

Now to turn away from the newspaper and look to one of the nation's top magazines, consider Sept. 13 (tomorrow's) TIME Magazine. Again, front page a small boy, likely an Indo-Pak youth with a kufi on his head and his hand covering his heart as in the pledge to the flag, and the words:Special Report: THE STRUGGLE WITHIN ISLAM.The story inside is even worse. A father (Mohammed - it says [not his real name]) has sent his son (Omar) to learn Islam and the values it teaches. When Omar returns from the gulf wherever he was, he is telling his father that smoking is bad, going out to dances and hanging out is not good. The father is upset and wishes for his son to come back to 'normal.' The article continues by describing how the father used attraction for a girl to get his son out of this and bring him back to 'normal.' Let me quote a few lines. "Omar wrote letters to his father, a smoker, lecturing him about Islam's disdain for tobacco (what about the US Surgeon General's warning against tobacco?). He chided his mother for wearing 'Western-style clothes to work."The father's heart sinks when he sees his son wearing a long beard and long robe - TRADEMARKS OF FUNDAMENTALISTS (emphasis added).It goes on to say the son who once loved wild dance parties would now leave the room if they were playing the music channel on television. The father tells his friends "I have to rescue Omar. I have a plan to bring back my son." And it goes on to tell the success of Omar's father by using the idea of making arrangements for him to get married to a girl to return Omar to the fun loving, free caring guy he once was.

Unfortunately, the writer of the article then begins to mix up the reader by making a direct connection between a boy's clean living and the killing and apprehending of hundreds of al-Qaeda terrorists and Bin Laden and the command structure used to plot the 9/11 attacks.

Look at the end of one paragraph and the beginning of the next, and I quote from page 53 (Times: Struggle for the Soul of ISLAM):[begin quote] "The confrontation between the opposing forces of Islam amounts to what Princeton scholar Michael Scott Doran calls a "civil war" within one of the world's fastest-growing religions - a war so tumultuous and far-reaching that, as in Mohammed and Omar's case, it pits fathers against sons. (now watch the very next paragraph)The U.S. and its allies have succeeded in killing and apprehending hundreds of al-Qaeda terrorists and disrupting the command structure that bin Laden used to plot the Sept 11 attacks. But the wider campaign to defuse the appeal of Islamic extremism and win over those who sympathize with al-Qaeda has produced mixed results and has become a central issue of contention in the U.S., presidential campaign." [end quote](at least they got something right - we are still the world's fastest growing religion - Al Hamdulilah)

Question: What is the message being sent out here?Are we to understand from these words that anyone who doesn't like to smoke, dance, party and grows his beard and worries about the safety of his mother's attire while she is working around men, is a terrorist? In that case then, are they making a claim against my grandfathers (and grandmothers) who all sacrificed so much to bring about a safe place for people to practice their religion, grow their beards (and they were very long) and keep away from tobacco and other offensive drugs, and protect their women against the evils of society, and be willing to defend their beliefs and principles even with their lives - are they to be labeled terrorists? May Allah guide us to know the truth, ameen.

Now I would like to come to the point of this whole story. A highly respected organization in the tiny country of Bahrain invited me to come and be a guest speaker for several occasions there including doctors, hospitals and universities. I was to go from my place in Virginia to the Baltimore, Maryland airport and then take a plane (British Airways) to London and then on to Bahrain. The flight was to leave at 8:20 PM and getting there through traffic jams was no easy task. After I arrived however, British Air made everything most easy. They accommodated me by upgrading to business class with no extra charge and were most kind in helping me find the gate and get aboard on time and even ordered a lovely meal of salmon (one of my favorites) for dinner.

There I was in my business class seat with plenty of legroom (a much appreciated bonus for a sixty year old with arthritis in the knees), reading my complimentary copy of the London paper and minding my own business waiting for take off and the coming meal. When all of a sudden a woman comes to me and says, "Are you ECHO-7?"

I have been called a lot of things in my life, but no one ever called me "Echo seven," not ever. Then she said, "Estes?" I said, "Yes." And she said, "Come with me. We want to ask you some questions." What was this all about? There were two people in police uniforms, one a man and the other a woman. They told me to get my things off the plane and then told a crew member to get my baggage out of the cargo hold. While waiting for my bag, I asked them what was this all about. They told me they couldn't tell me. I asked if I was under arrest. They said, "No." I tried to find out what was going on and they would not tell me anything. We when downstairs for interrogation.

Again, I asked if I was under arrest and they again said, "No." I asked the reason for removing me from my flight and canceling my trip, and they would not give an answer. They had indicated to me in the ramp area, that if I answered some questions I might still be able to get back on the flight. I agreed. The first question was, "How much money do you have?" I said, "Two hundred and seven dollars." I know that, because it was basically all the cash we had. They wanted me to take it out. I did. They wanted to see my papers. They did. Then without asking, the man bent down over my bag, opened it and started taking things out and searching through it. Again, I asked, "What is this all about?" No answer. "Where are you going?" I told them. "Why?" I told them I give lectures and do Internet related work. "Where?" I told them there were several different places, but I didn't know the names of them. "Who are you meeting there?" I told them the first name of the person. "What is the last name?" I said that I didn't know.

Finally, they said they were going to take me "downstairs" for questioning. And they did. Now to be fair about this, they were not abusive or mean. They were just secretive. When we reached the "downstairs" they put me in a conference room and began to ask simple questions as before. This time I told them I wanted to know if I am under arrest or what. They said the same as before. They would not tell me why I was being held, or what was going on, or what my status was, or what they even wanted, except the same thing, "We just want to ask you some questions."

Some of you may not know a lot about the Constitution of the United States, and that is a shame. This document insures that all citizens are to have certain basic rights and these rights cannot be violated by anyone, not even the government itself. One of those rights is the right to know what you are being accused of and another is to know your accuser. No citizen has to bear witness against himself and he always has the right to remain silent.

I asked about this and they told me that I was not under arrest, I was being "detained." For those of you reading this, who perhaps have not thought about it before, this is what we call it when we hold suspects of terrorism or anything like it. Evidently there are no real rules for being "detained." They made it clear I could make a phone call, AFTER they were through with their questions. This means I can't talk to an attorney and I have no chance for legal council or to even know what is going on. And here is something real scary: THEY CAN HOLD YOU FOREVER - in this condition of being "detained." Next they let me wait for at least a couple of hours, sitting there in a room with nothing to eat or drink and no bathroom. There was a guard posted at the door starring at me the whole time while I was being "DETAINED." I fell asleep and was startled by another, much bigger uniformed agent who talked very loud at me, telling me to, "Wake up!" I did, trust me, I woke up. And then he very kindly offered me something to drink, my choice, a soda or water. I chose water. And then waited again.

Finally, a very young and enthusiastic lady came in and showed me her badge and told me her name and then began to ask me the same exact questions as the others had asked, only she did so in a much kinder and clearer fashion. I could understand her much better (I'm hard of hearing) and felt that she really knew a lot more about what was going on than perhaps the others did. She did ask about my destination, purpose of the trip, contacts and names of people I was going to visit. And I told her the same as I had told the others. Then she asked how much money I had, and mentioned that it was illegal to carry large amounts. I still had the same $207 I started with and she chuckled at such a small amount. She wanted to know if I was making any money and I said that I did hope I would get something for the 10 days but it was not certain. I listened to her questioning me for a while and then I asked her if I was under arrest or had done anything wrong. She said the same as the others, "No." Then, I asked her what was going on and why was I being "DETAINED?" She said the same as the others, "Just to ask some questions."

She asked for my billfold and I asked her if I was obligated to give it to her or did I have no choice. She said it is their right to investigate anything I have because I am at the border and they have the authority to do this. She took my billfold, my money (they counted it and later gave it back) and my papers and documents and then took them off to be copied, I suppose. Anything and everything I had, they went through it and studied it and then copied the papers and then back to the same questions. Of course I only have the same answers. But I did ask again about the reason for pulling me off the plane, questioning me and "DETAINING" me.

They never came up with a reason for any of their actions. But after leaving me alone for another hour or so, someone came and told me I was free to go. My question was, "Go where?" It was almost midnight and I was an hour away from my home with no car and no idea who to call. I finally went around the airport and found a limo service that would take me home (for a nice price -- and I soon did not have $207 any more). Now is where I would like to go back and bring your attention to the beginning of my writing. Ask yourself a question: "What does all of this mean?"

In order to better understand that, you have to ask what is the common denominator in all these incidents. Let us now consider some essential facts:

1. We all have beards
2. We all wear "Islamic Clothes" instead of "normal" clothes
3. We all are staying away from drugs, filth and nasty environments
4. And most of all, we are Muslims.

So what happened to our freedom to dress as we see fit? Only if we undress like the popular style, is this acceptable? And our freedom to be secure in our persons, is that gone now? The right to know what you are being accused of? By whom? What if we let our beards grow naturally? But we don't tattoo our bodies and we don't pierce our ears and chests and noses and tongues? But most important, what about our faith? Are we no longer free to practice our religion? When does government tell us about our faith? Can we no longer have faith in God? Or must we only believe in the God who speaks to the president?

We better start thinking about this before we go to the polls to vote this year. If we don't, maybe we won't be able to vote next year, because we'll all be "DETAINED." Back to my own story, I was out and now on my way home. I missed my flight, missed my lectures and missed the chance to be in a country where I would have been welcomed and treated most kind, I was assured. And if they held me up there, it would only be because they loved me and didn't want me to leave too soon.

Anyway, when I stopped and called my family and told them I was coming back, they wanted to know what happened. I didn't feel like answering any more questions, after all, I was no longer being "DETAINED."
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Yusuf Estes, is an ex-christian preacher who reverted to Islam. You can read the rest of this story here