"I want everyone to know that the next time I am violated by correction officers or their supervisors I will take my own life. If taking my own life is the only way to expose the evils that are practiced daily by corrections officers then I will be glad to do it," as cited by John Knefel, 2016
These words come from Ahmed Ferhani, a Muslim prisoner who was entrapped by the NYPD, sentenced to ten years in prison and attempted to commit suicide late last week. Ahmed, who is receiving medical treatment at a facility outside of Attica where he was undergoing his sentence was in a place of hell -- a hell that only those who have gone through the American criminal justice system can understand.
While Ahmed's case continues to get little attention, his story represents a systematic effort by institutions in the US government to criminalize innocent Muslims. Criminalization of innocent Muslims has become a way of prolonging the "War on Terror," and represents an effort to prove that the United States is "winning" this war.
Deconstructing the narrative around war and the Muslim body is to realize that Muslims have become a means to an end. Their bodies are devalued and used and abused only to the extent to which they serve national security interests. That's why when 1.3 million Muslims are murdered, there is little, if any outrage.
"Muslims have become a means to an end. Their bodies are devalued and used and abused only to the extent to which they serve national security interests."
In Ahmed's case, his body follows in becoming collateral damage to the safety and security of the American state. Muslims, however have become collateral damage in a multitude of ways by either being put directly in harm's way or putting themselves in harm's way as the only means through which to resist state-sanctioned violence. In other words, Muslims bodies are continuously and precariously located at the nexus of life and death.
In her book, "Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence," Judith Butler asserts that, "one way of posing the question of who "we" are in these times of war is by asking whose lives are considered valuable, whose lives are mourned, and whose lives are considered ungrievable."
Muslim lives have become ungrievable precisely because they have been pitted as existing in opposition of "who we are." The more Muslim bodies we lose, the more we know "who we are"; that is, a country that has relentlessly vilified Muslims to the point where one Muslim prisoner, Ahmed Ferhani, decided to try to take his own life. Remember, this is part of our narrative of "who we are."
"Muslims bodies are continuously and precariously located at the nexus of life and death."
While Ahmed lies on a hospital bed with his life hanging by a wire, former Guantanamo prisoner, Adnan Latif's words come to life. In Latif's poem, "Hunger Strikes, he writes that:
They are artists of torture,
They are artists of pain and fatigue,
They are artists of insults
Where is the world to save us
Where is the world to save us
from the fire and sadness?
Where is the world to save
the hunger strikers?
Where is the world to save Ahmed? Where is the moral outrage? Where are those who stand for justice? Ahmed's attempted suicide is bold injustice met with bold silence. Will we continue to see Ahmed's life as an indicator of "who we have become," or will we become something different; that is a world that values Muslim bodies?