New book scrutinizes Muslim case

Sunday, October 4, 2009

By Carl Strock, Gazette columnist

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Allow me to plug a book. It is “Rounded Up: Artificial Terrorists and Muslim Entrapment After 9/11,” by Shamshad Ahmad, concerning the case of the two Muslim men in Albany who a few years ago were manipulated by the FBI in such a way that they could be accused of supporting terrorism.

Shamshad Ahmad was in a unique position to view this case. He was the founder of the storefront mosque on Central Avenue that the two men belonged to — one was the imam there — and was personally involved from the initial raid and arrests through the trial and appeals, negotiating with lawyers, supporting the families, and often serving as spokesman to the news media.

He is a Muslim, of course, and he views the case through that lens: what it means not just to the two men and their families but to the Muslim community in Albany and to Muslims in America generally that such an elaborate and devious plot could be devised by the United States government to bring down two ordinary guys who were not doing anything remotely related to terrorism.

But he is also an American, and a highly educated one at that — a professor of physics at SUNY Albany, resident in this country for the past 30 years — so he can see things from that angle also, can see the legal and constitutional questions and mourn for what has happened to his adopted land.

I won’t attempt to summarize the case for those who might be unfamiliar with it. Suffice it to say that the FBI, under pressure following 9/11 to stop terrorists before they could strike again, resorted to manufacturing terrorists when no genuine ones could be found, and Yassin Aref, a Kurdish refugee from Iraq, and Mohammed Hossain, a Bangladesh-born pizza-shop owner, were two of those manufactured, or artificial, terrorists.

Aref was the primary target, based on the flimsiest of suspicions, and Hossain got roped in. The FBI deployed a Pakistani criminal who was facing deportation to set the two of them up, and it worked. Aref and Hossain were convicted and sentenced to 15 years each, which they are now serving.

Introducing the book Friday at a press conference at the mosque, Ahmad noted that the FBI deployed the same criminal in a more recent operation in Newburgh and said he expects such entrapment of Muslims to continue.

The book is a very able review of the Albany case, with an analysis of the evidence that should be useful to a newcomer and with many fresh insights and tidbits for the connoisseur.

Reading it, I got mad all over again at the misuse of government power, and I couldn’t help thinking, not for the first time, where were all those self-proclaimed foes of big government when this was going on, the ones we have heard so much from on the subject of health care?

If they want government out of people’s lives, why weren’t they protesting at the federal courthouse in Albany when the government was grinding two workaday family men under its gargantuan heel?

Where were the “Don’t Tread On Me” people with their nostalgic coiled-snake flags? Where the self-described conservatives who object on principle, or claim to object on principle, to big government?

Well, don’t get me going. You’ve heard this before, but Shamshad Ahmad’s book did get me stirred up again, that’s for sure.

The book is published by The Troy Book Makers and is available from their Web site, from, and from local bookstores, at a cost of $17.50, the proceeds to benefit Yassin Aref’s four children, who are in particular need.