In June, a small business lawyer and politician named Farha Ahmed was in a run-off election against Harish Jajoo for a city council seat in Sugar Land, Texas. In the final hours of the election, an anonymous mailer was sent around the town proclaiming that Ahmed is connected to Al-Qaeda. The “concerned citizen” links her to Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, a woman branded as “Lady Al-Qaeda” in the media. She is also questioned for her connection to CAIR.
While these mailers did not necessarily cost her the election, this smear campaign relied on many stereotypes of not only Ahmed, but Siddiqui as well. The mailer charges that Ahmed, a long-time member of the Sugar Land community, was appointed as the lawyer for Siddiqui. The piece of evidence used is an article in The Express Tribune, a Pakistani daily. According to the article:
Less than a month after the sentencing, Siddiqui fired her lawyers and waived her right to an appeal. Siddiqui wrote that she had fired her five lawyers and would be represented by Farha Ahmed, a Texas-based attorney. Ahmed declined to speak to The Express Tribune about Siddiqui.
While the details in the article may be correct, they are not necessarily true. While Ahmed was sent as an individual to represent Siddiqui, this does not mean that she actually represented her. Ahmed is not a criminal defense lawyer, and I would think that her connection to such a high profile case would make it easier to connect her to Siddiqui. According to comments Ahmed made to Fort Bend Now, Siddiqui might have requested her as a lawyer based on her pro bono work against domestic violence, as well as her assistance in recovering missing children:
“Because of my pro bono work with missing and abused children as well as my contacts in the Bush State Department, they believed I could be of help,” she said. “It is inappropriate for me to discuss the details of the case any further other than to state that the children were found. I would also like to humbly request that the identities of the children be safe-guarded for their protection.”
Even if Ahmed did serve as Siddiqui’s lawyer, this does not mean that she is a secret jihadist. Representing an individual that does not mirror your own values is hardly a novel occurrence in the legal profession. It only appears to matter in this case because Ahmed is a Muslim.
The problem here is not that the questions are being asked, but the reasoning behind it. The purpose of the mailer was not to question the connection, but rather about cherry picking facts in order to convey a very simple message: that every Muslim, even the ones that seem to be concerned with zoning and taxes are secret Jihadist robots. While Islamophobes seem to believe that the outcry is based on “political correctness” foiling the system, this is really a witch-hunt, rather than constructive questioning of terror or the government.
What is most troubling about this story is that despite the simple research involved in debunking most allegations in the mailer, few have actually stood up to defend Ahmed. The flier recycles stereotypes, and inspires fear of the Muslim next door.
This story is indicative of a much larger and more frightening phenomenon: how acceptable it is to have open hatred of Muslims. While Islamophobes would strategically cite concerns about ‘Shariah’ being implemented in the United States, or other concerns related to a vague idea of “militant Islam,” what is really at play is a ruthless hate for Muslims and anything related to Islam. Ahmed’s candidacy should be evaluated on her credentials and service to the community, not on fear-mongering campaigns that treat Islam as a dirty word.