Another Who Wanted to Teach the Qur’an

The work of writing about the prisoners still incarcerated and tortured in the US torture camp at Guantanamo has made me wish I knew Arabic and other Middle Eastern languages.  I wish I could search for information about these people in places where I now cannot, though I am not sure I would find more about them specifically.  I might, however, understand them better.  So often, I find myself wanting to know more.

The case of a third Yemeni prisoner Abdul al-Razzaq Salih who was in Afghanistan to be a missionary is a case in point.  Andy Worthington’s account of him says that he went to Afghanistan before the attacks of September 11 feeling “compelled to go to Afghanistan to teach the Koran to the Afghans, ” even though  “he was not formally trained in the Koran, but wanted to go just recite what he could.”

Having grown up in the American South, I am acquainted with Christian missionaries whose general education, at least, seemed scanty to me, but whose sincerity was not in doubt.  Was this young man, seized at age 28, somehow like them?  We posted the story of Saad Iqbal Madni, a scholar in the Muslim tradition, imprisoned at Guantanamo and now fortunately released, though continuing to suffer from his long ordeal that you can read about here.  Madni, like those of his tradition, could recite the entire Qur’an.   Apparently, from his remarks, Abdul al-Razzaq Salih could not recite the entire text, but knew some of it.  As many of these prisoners do, he apparently wanted to offer what he could to the Afghans whose society was more religious than some other places.

Worthington’s account says that Salih reported that a certain sheikh said to him that “it was forbidden to fight for the Taliban” and the he personally “doesn’t like violence and was not fighting in Afghanistan, but was seeking a job teaching in a mosque.”  Unsubstantiated accusations by the US officials at the torture camp are that Salih “was accused of training at al-Farouq, and was also ‘identified’, by an unknown source, as ‘a jihadist’ in Tora Bora.”  Like many of his fellows at the torture camp, his own remarks deny the accusations against him categorically.  He has never been charged, nor tried; no credible evidence has ever been presented in his case to show he is or ever was a danger to the US.

Another of those who took part in Guantanamo in the mass hunger strike in 2005, Abdul al-Razzaq Salih went from 160 pounds to 110 pounds as a result.  He will also have endured the tortures that the US imposes on those who strike and that are reported in the post before this one.

I want to see Abdul released and sent home to recite the Qur’an and teach or indeed to do whatever he most authentically desires to do.  What can we do to secure his release from the hell of Guantanamo?


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