Whenever I’m asked this question, it always amazes me. This ummah, who are 2 Billion strong and obsessed ( and I mean this quite literally ) with the concept of Freemasons / Secret Societies, and conspiracies, when it comes to our brothers and sisters in prison we accept the words of the Sun or the Daily Express without hesitation. To even accept the word “Extremism” is to accept a loaded term which is entirely concocted by the enemies of Islam in order to create fear and suspicion within muslim communities. Much like the term “islamist”, this term is one which many on a government payroll propagate, but few can define it or understand what it means.
Let me give you the example of one brother. He is Algerian, and was arrested under a flood of publicity and pomp in connection with the “ricin” trial. His case lacked any solid basis, but this did not stop the press worldwide condemning this brother ( and others ) to a trial by media. Tony Blairs administration seized on this and would reel out soundbite after soundbite about “those who hate freedom”, which became quite ironic when this brother and others were detained for over two years before being acquitted.
What then became completely absurd is that this brother was then arrested under immigration bail, the basis being “involved in the ricin plot” and other “secret” evidence that he has never been able to challenge or question in an open court. He is now located in a Chateau-D’if style existence under virtual house arrest. The muslim community on the whole have completely shunned this brother, he went from being a popular businessman to one who appreciates any contact however slight. His area is one devoid of muslims, and he spends every Iftari alone with the threat of deportation to torture hanging over him every day. There is no family here, no friends for 50 miles, and who knows what impact a small letter or phonecall would have on one so isolated?
Then there is the example of the brother serving an indeterminate sentence for organising paintball trips and doing dawah stalls in London. Some of the key “evidence” were items such as “The way this individual is cutting a watermelon is exactly as they kill hostages in Iraq.” This brother is a grandfather who is in his 50s. He went from having over 200 people knowing him and speaking to him regularly to having one or two brothers who write to him. Who knows what one letters impact will have towards that brother?
There is also the case of the brothers in Italy. The Egyptian brother, acquitted in Spain yet jailed in Italy for exactly the same charges (“terrorism”), even though the Spanish authorities (Not one known for being favourable to Islam) say that Italy mistranslated his intercepted phonecalls ( the only evidence). He has spent over 3 years imprisoned and has suffered terrible abuses including physical attacks by guards on three separate occasions. He faces at the end of his sentence indefinite detention in Egypt at the end of his sentence. He wept tears when he heard that one muslim in the UK wrote to him. What impact would another have?
Or what of the Moroccan brother, arrested last year and held in such isolated conditions on the island of Sardinia that he is cut off from his own family, sons and daughters, who cannot afford the travel to the region. He has not seen his family for six months, and has no realistic chance of seeing them anytime soon after being moved to the isolation wing of a new prison in the deepest mountains of Nuoro. He has recently been found to need kidney dialysis, which in Italy means that you have to pay some costs of the treatment.
What about the revert brother, attacked with boiling water in his cell whilst the guards stood back and let it happen. A cowardly attack that left him with burns all over his scalp and torso. What about the Tunisian left in -3 degrees celcius without even a blanket in the depth of winter. What about the other Tunisian whom was arrested and his wife suffered such a mental breakdown that their own children were taken into care? What about the brother left to nearly die when he was refused medical treatment from an asthma attack after the prison block caught fire? There are hundreds of examples like this.
As a final example there is Farid, another Moroccan brother who spent over 6 years imprisoned without a trial to assess his innocence or guilt. He was extradited to a Spanish prison where he was threatened and intimidated, where he knew no-one and where he did not even know a word of Spanish. How comforting to have letters from those in the UK who at least could offer him some support, however small.
I wish I could tell you from the above that it was all a bad dream, and really hundreds of thousands of muslims accepted their obligations and responded to all the above pleas of help. Sadly those who helped I can count on two hands from the muslim community. These brothers were all in need, and many more continue to be in need, and we fail them.
It is an obligation for us to support each other in times of difficulty and ease. The prophet(saw) said , “A Muslim is the brother of a Muslim. He does not wrong him, forsake him or despise him.”, as well as “The faithful believers are as a brick structure, each supporting one another”.
So, to answer the question “Why do I write to extremists?”, I would respond that I do not. I write to human beings, my fellow muslims, who request my (or any other muslims) support and help to allow them to prove their innocence or serve their sentence in peace, to stand firm against oppression and injustice.
I leave you with the words of the prophet (saw), then ask yourself to imagine yourself in those same shoes as those worn in the examples above. “No man forsakes a Muslim when his rights are being violated or his honour is being belittled except that Allah will forsake him at a place in which he would love to have His help. And no man helps a Muslim at a time when his honour is being belittled or his rights violated except that Allah will help him at a place in which he loves to have His help”.