ArtRage: The Norton Putter Gallery

505 Hawley Avenue Syracuse, NY

SPC Event, February 26, 2009

Muslim Solidarity Day Film: Waiting for Mercy

ArtRage has as part of its mission a commitment to becoming a community resource and catalyst for discussion and change. To this end, we often host events and meetings for other organizations at the gallery. This event was an example of just such an event and was part of an ongoing commitment to the Syracuse Peace Council to provide a space for their monthly programs free of charge. This event was a celebration of Muslim Solidarity Day marking the date of February 26, 2003, when the Muslim and Arab community in the Syracuse area was awakened to the reality that they were suspect in the eyes of the US government.

Between 6-10 am federal and local law enforcement agents aggressively interrogated 150 Muslim and Arab families in the Syracuse area as part of the investigation of the Help the Needy charity, to which many of the families had made donations in good faith. The agents were intimidating, intrusive and insensitive, acting as if every Muslim family was under suspicion. The agents asked inappropriate questions about religious beliefs and practices, and attendance at religious worship services. The experience was frightening for members of the Muslim and Arab community. We continue to mark this day to make a statement that selective, insensitive and discriminatory treatment is not acceptable in our community.

“Waiting for Mercy”  was a film about an FBI sting operation that took place in Albany, New York in 2004 that was designed to entrap two Muslim men (who had no prior criminal history) and portray them as potential terrorists. In 2006, Aref (the imam of a mosque), and Hossain (the owner of a pizza shop), were each convicted of supporting terrorism and sentenced to 15 years in prison. Using the actual material recorded over many months by the FBI informer (a Pakistani facing criminal charges in the US), the film shows the documents and the lawyer’s responses to the charges and asks the audience to judge for themselves.

Sponsored by the CNY Bill of Rights Defense Campaign (in coalition with SPC)

All photos of this event are by Katherine Hughes.