An Anatomy Class on Usama’s Mind
A True Story, narrated by a participant,
Dr. Maimul Ahsan Khan,
I was so ashamed for not being able to keep my words to Prof. Simon, who came to see me from the Illinois State University. I read his book "Law and Philosophy" and gave him an appointment to see me in my office at the College of Law, University of Illinois (UIUC) at 8 P.M., May 22, 02. He found my office room closed and all the doors of the Law Building were closed just 8 P.M. on this date. I did not know that the Building would be closed so early that day.
A computer scientist of Arab origin was up set with me when I proposed him to leave the dinner party just ten minutes before 8 P.M. He was my guest at the dinner party and expressed his astonishment when I proposed him to leave the party with me a bit early. How one can leave a party of so many distinguished professors and judges? Arab friend said. I told him that they said that the party would be finished by 8 P.M. and I have another important appointment with a professor-friend from another university. I could not continue to convince him to leave the table as we were sitting with the Dean of the UIUC.
I was feeling terribly bad. Another reason why we could not leave early was that without walking just in front of the dais we could not leave the big dining room packed with law professors and judges. I know very well Prof. Nowak and never could imagine that he would gave so long and interesting speech at his friends retirement dinner.
It was not a speech, but a presentation through over head projector. Prof. Nowak explaining his ten points with all kinds of jokes why no one should miss Prof. Rotunda after latters retirement. Prof. Rotunda, who became very famous because of his contribution to the impeachment case of the President Clinton and the dinner party was organized on the occasion of his retirement.
These two law professors (Nowak and Rotunda) are now regarded as a living legend on the US constitution because of their five volumes of work on constitutional law. Every one was enjoying Prof. Nowak jokes about Prof. Rotunda, who along with Kenneth Starr narrowly missed the ethical and legal grounds of unseating the President Clinton. But nobody really could understand the real purpose of all those jokes and points until Prof Nowak reveal his last point, which was named as FIRST point.
All points were arguing that there was really no reason why some one should remember Prof. Rotunda after his retirement. But explaining his last point Prof. Nowak himself refuted everything what had said before in his other nine points and every one was happy with the substance of the speech. But I thought that I missed Professor Simon.
In my view no American Professor could wait for me for forty minutes extra after all that happened. Not only that my room and the doors of the Law Building was closed, he did not know where I lived and how I could be reached without any tel nos. at my residence. This was our second scheduled appointment, so Prof. Simon was wondered what really happened with me. I did not know that he drove all the way from Bloomington with two other professors and still were waiting for me.
Anyway I came to the Law Building and opened the main door of the building with my key and found them inside. Seeing me Prof. Simon was laughing with his full volume. It appears that he was relieved and I though maybe they were also late. But they informed me how they could entered the building just before 8 P.M. He did not even gave me an opportunity to seek an apology for being late. He hurried said: "thats o.k., my friend."
I felt so embarrassed that for a while I felt empowered by him emotionally. But I did not understand why I had to stay at the guest house of the Illinois Wesleyan University just to attend one talk. He argued that the "TERROR IN THE MIND OF GOD" and its relevance to the "Mind of Usama" was a serious issue and could not be dealt within an hour and two. I was trying to know the detailed arrangement of his talk, and found that it would be like a workshop to be held in four different places on May 24, 02. I really did not see any point in arguing things and decided to go with them.
By mid-night we reached to the guest house of the Illinois Wesleyan University. Prof. Simon advised me to sleep as much as I can as I might find the next day very busy with different groups of students knowledgeable about the "Mind of Usama" and anatomy classes on terrorist organizations might be very demanding. I said that I finished the book "TERROR IN THE MIND OF GOD" and knew most of the arguments in support of the ideology of Usama. At this point he told me that I have to argue against the viewpoints of Usama-side.
I thought that it would not be all a difficult job to refute his students arguments in favor of the terrorist organizations and Usama. From 9 A.M to 12 P.M. I was given an opportunity to teach the students how Muslims think about Islam and the West. I was encountered with a number of difficult questions, but that was not too bad.
Then from 1 P.M. to 2 P.M. I was allowed to check some of the background knowledge of the students about I.R.A., Jewish Defense Council, White Racist Movements, and Al-Qaida. I was impressed by their home works. From 2.30 to 4.30 a informal discussion was held to understand the different sides of the same arguments. This is the first time I understood the seriousness of the project of Prof. Simon.
I was told that I would be able to use students to make my case stronger against Usama and his strategy. Moreover, the case of the Usama would be presented from Islamic perspective, while I would be free to use any logic to refute all those arguments. The debate was scheduled to be held right at 7 P.M. The Assembly hall of this private university is very close to their guest house where I was staying. At 6.15 P.M. I fall a sleep. It was good that I could sleep for a while.
But it was already 7 P.M., I was still in their guest house. I thought that they might have started the case of I.R.A. and decided to go slow. I found a student at the door of the guest house and was informed that everybody was waiting for me. A number of Professors were there and a good number of students were still engaged in rehearsal. Seeing all the arrangement now for the first time I felt that it would not be easy to face the situation.
Apparently it is a very easy job in an American university to refute the arguments for terrorists and Usama. But the anatomy of the Usama-study was done thoroughly by the Wesleyan students. This is relatively a very small university and very costly university. For one academic year an undergraduate student has to pay a tuition fee of 26 thousand dollars. They call it quality education. From outside it is really unbelievable that what facilities they have inside. I heard that many of the Wesleyan Professors received a better salary and facilities than many famous American universities. They are not allowed to use T.A. (Teacher Assistant) to teach the students.
More than 95% of the Wesleyan professors have Ph.D. degrees from the most reputed American and European universities. There are a number of Wesleyan universities in the USA. John Wesley Powell Led the expedition to map the Colorado River at an age when no appropriate safety measure could be taken for him or his associates. Some of his associates at the expeditions died. Wesley used his students for expedition and traveled several hundred miles from Bloomington, Illinois, to Denver, Colorado on foot for the sake of expeditions, which he regarded the most important way of acquiring real knowledge. At present almost after one and a half century later today no American student needs such physical hardship to learn, as they call, real knowledge.
Prof. Simon in his spirit is really a true Wesleyan professor. I was surprised to observe how thorough his students were abut the mind set of different terrorist organizations and their arguments. The so-called defenders of I.R.A., Jewish Defense Council, and White Racist Movements at the debates were cornered rather quickly.
So I was accepted a quick victory against the "Usama people" at the debate. But Prof. Simon himself led the case of Usama against me. He was assisted by another two professors. At one stage I was accepting an easy victory in the debate and used "All American" emotional arguments against Usama-side. I also thought that I was doing well to argue that American unilateralist approach under present administration is less harmful that the extremist strategy of the radical Muslim groups. At the face of the track record of the American foreign policy put forward by three professors against my arguments against Usama-strategy I expected more help from students.
A student used the argument that Modern Muslim societies are more brutal to their adversaries than any American administration. He cited Iranian example of the persecution of Bahai-people, who simply wanted to reform Iranian Shiism.
In a comparison between Bahai Internationalism and Muslim universalism the audience were lost and ultimately I withdrew that logic. It was really difficult to defend a position that only foreign or domestic elements are to blamed solely for the enduring stagnation of the Muslim societies during last several centuries. I tried my level best not to allow my opponents to blame squarely on colonial past for the impoverished condition of many Muslim states.
My argument was that Muslim rulers and elites have been doing too little to solve problems of the Muslim world; even the Arabs are not doing enough to solve the Palestinian issues. The opposition argued that Palestinians have been facing the same holocaust in their own land as the Jews had faced in Germany. And this time the Americans and Israelis are to be blamed fully. I tired to use the Bosnian and Kosovo cards of American foreign policy against my opponents. The opposition argued that those American cards were used for the long terms goals of Washington in the European continent.
As a last resort I mentioned that it is only possible in American court to win a case on behalf of the twenty-five thousand Bosnian raped women against the Serbian criminals. Prof. Simon did not buy that argument because winning a Bosnian Womens case in American court is meaningless as that did not bring any good to the Bosnian women. Using the same logic I argued that the Al-Qaidi activities also did not bring any good to the Muslims. But opposition strongly argued that without al-Qaida strategy the Bush administration could militarily occupy Iraq. My point was that there was no unity among the Iranian-Islamists, Afghan-Talibans and Iraqis under Saddam, and a stronger Taliban regime could wage a war against Islamic Iran.
Thus whatever American government is doing in Afghanistan ultimately beneficial for the Muslim world. They put me a Question: Do you think that we Muslims then accept President Bush as our Caliph? I refused to answer the question and termed it irrelevant to the case. But did not forget to mention that separating Islamic causes from Al-Qaida and other terrorist groups President Bush served a historical necessity for the Muslim world because modern Muslims are like a thick cloud in the way of "Islamic Wisdom and Light."
The opposition shifted their focus of ongoing India-Pakistan conflict and real possibility of nuclear war, and squarely blamed on president Bush for this terrible situation. Their argument was that using the Bush-strategy of military intervention against terrorist organization in foreign land Israel killed many innocent Palestinian people and now new Delhi wants to use same logic against Pakistan.
If tomorrow a nuclear war broke out between India and Pakistan, not the al-Qaida would be held responsible, but President Bush would be held responsible for that. My argument was that dividing British India the Muslim leadership in India did a great mistake and now they are paying for it. I was challenged that my view was rather sympathetic to Hindu Fundamentalism, while I was aggressive to Islamic fundamentalism.
According to the opposition this double standard in American foreign policy is the root cause of many international problems. I was sarcastic to say that at least the Western leaders and governments have some standard, double or triple, but the Muslims have no standard and standing at all in international and regional politics.
The game of logic and arguments was so heated that after three hours of debate I lost all of my "Warrior-students debaters," but another professor came forward to rescue me. It was almost established that lack of democratic institutions and absence of freedom of speech in the Muslim world is the root cause of the rise of the Muslim extremist groups. My argument then was that the Usama-strategy should be confined in the territories of the Muslim countries and it should be targeted only against the Muslim rulers. I thought that I was winning the case by telling that why Muslims should not find any other alternative to suicide-missions to heard their case around the world.
The Usama-side refuted my argument telling the stories of miseries of hundred of millions of Muslim who even starve on daily basis while American major ally in the Middle East, the Saudi regime have been spending hundreds of millions dollars for advertisement to create false Saudi image in the West and USA. Moreover, they tried to establish that Usama family and Bush family also were closely connected in their business and financial transactions and interests.
But that thesis could be somehow neutralized arguing that it was a mere baseless propaganda. The opposition used an argument called the "Myth of the Western Free Press" and tried to establish that the activities of CIA around the world do more harms even to the genuine American interests. We were about to finish almost in a tie in our argument against and for al-Qida and Bush-strategy.
A dramatic shift of balance had occurred when the representative of the "Civil Liberty Groups" spoke in favor of the Usama case. The lady presenting the civil liberty groups told the audience that it was not only illegal but also immoral to use most of the Muslim rulers against their own people and their national interests, and to try to kill all so-called Muslim terrorists in the name of democracy and freedom. She was asked whether she would like to see these groups function openly in the Western countries including the USA. Her argument was very clear: let all groups with all ideologies and religions work freely side by side until they resort violence. According to her view even the group like al-Qaida could be absorbed in a genuinely practiced democracy and freedom of speech in US and Saudi Arabia. In fact the audience agreed that not the Islamic or democratic principles are the root cause of problem, main problem is the hypocritical behaviors of all kinds of rulers Western and Muslim alike.
Dr. Maimul Ahsan Khan, Professor of Law, University of Illinois, USA E Mail :MKHAN@LAW.UIUC.EDU
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