[Parvez Ahmed, Ph.D., is board chairman of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy group. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. ]
Former Attorney General John Ashcroft once hailed the arrest of Sami Al-Arian as “a milestone in the war on terror.” Last week, 12 ordinary Americans, none of whom shared the former University of South Florida professor’s religion or ethnic origin found no evidence to back up that claim, declaring Al-Arian not guilty on eight charges, including conspiring to commit murder abroad, money laundering and obstruction of justice.
The overwhelming majority of jurors wanted to acquit Al-Arian of all charges, but were blocked by a couple of hold-outs. “Of course, we hate terrorism,” said one juror. “But the evidence making these guys terrorists just wasn’t there.”
This verdict means a lot to the American Muslim community and should mean a lot to our fellow Americans. The jurors sent a clear message that, even in the post 9-11 era and despite rising Islamophobia, Americans can be fair and are not ready to shred the Constitution.