Last night at Tampa Theatre, a panel spoke after the screening of USA vs. Al-Arian. No-last-name Ron, a juror from the trial that found Al-Arian not guilty on all eight counts, talked about the "just for show" security measures that were put in place during the trial. "From who? It was made to look like something large."
Anyone new to Tampa in 2005, like I was, would have been led to believe
danger abounded. It was a time when fear permeated the air of our country, like a Dixie Chicks tune wafting out of the radio. Or not.
Now thoroughly rooted in this community, I was eager to find out more about the case. I knew it would be from the family's perspective, but that was the one side I had yet to hear from.
I ran into Amber, a young Muslim woman and former colleague from Americorps in 2006. She was with her friend Maryam, who I profiled in my day-in-the-life-of column Curiouser earlier this year. Plenty of WMNF folk were there, including Rob Lorei, who led the panel, and the Council on American-Islamic Relations' Ahmed Bedier, who was jovial throughout the evening. People I knew from being active and aware in the community.
When Bedier introduced the "Dream Team" of lawyers who represented Al-Arian
and the three other co-defendants, he laughed, saying, "These are the people you want representing you if you are accused of being a terrorist."
Bedier pointed out that the legal team and most of last nights' audience were not Muslim (one lawyer was Jewish) but all "believe in the American
When the Q&A opened, the first questioner asked if any one of us can be
treated the way Al-Arian has been (found not guilty, imprisoned anyway,
Al-Arian attorney Linda Moreno answered that this story is a cautionary tale. "We are all at risk. We need to care about our civil rights. We need to pay attention."