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Tarek Mehanna’s Sentencing Statement

Read to Judge O’Toole during his sentencing, April 12th 2012.

In the name of God the most gracious the most merciful

Exactly four years ago this month I was finishing my work shift at a local hospital. As I was walking to my car I was approached by two federal agents. They said that I had a choice to make: I could do things the easy way, or I could do them the hard way. The “easy “ way, as they explained, was that I would become an informant for the government, and if I did so I would never see the inside of a courtroom or a prison cell. As for the hard way, this is it. Here I am, having spent the majority of the four years since then in a solitary cell the size of a small closet, in which I am locked down for 23 hours each day. The FBI and these prosecutors worked very hard—and the government spent millions of tax dollars – to put me in that cell, keep me there, put me on trial, and finally to have me stand here before you today to be sentenced to even more time in a cell.

In the weeks leading up to this moment, many people have offered suggestions as to what I should say to you. Some said I should plead for mercy in hopes of a light sentence, while others suggested I would be hit hard either way. But what I want to do is just talk about myself for a few minutes.

When I refused to become an informant, the government responded by charging me with the “crime” of supporting the mujahideen fighting the occupation of Muslim countries around the world. Or as they like to call them, “terrorists.” I wasn’t born in a Muslim country, though. I was born and raised right here in America and this angers many people: how is it that I can be an American and believe the things I believe, take the positions I take? Everything a man is exposed to in his environment becomes an ingredient that shapes his outlook, and I’m no different. So, in more ways than one, it’s because of America that I am who I am.

When I was six, I began putting together a massive collection of comic books. Batman implanted a concept in my mind, introduced me to a paradigm as to how the world is set up: that there are oppressors, there are the oppressed, and there are those who step up to defend the oppressed. This resonated with me so much that throughout the rest of my childhood, I gravitated towards any book that reflected that paradigm – Uncle Tom’s Cabin, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, and I even saw an ethical dimension to The Catcher in the Rye.

By the time I began high school and took a real history class, I was learning just how real that paradigm is in the world. I learned about the Native Americans and what befell them at the hands of European settlers. I learned about how the descendents of those European settlers were in turn oppressed under the tyranny of King George III. I read about Paul Revere, Tom Paine, and how Americans began an armed insurgency against British forces – an insurgency we now celebrate as the American revolutionary war. As a kid I even went on school field trips just blocks away from where we sit now. I learned about Harriet Tubman, Nat Turner, John Brown, and the fight against slavery in this country. I learned about Emma Goldman, Eugene Debs, and the struggles of the labor unions, working class, and poor. I learned about Anne Frank, the Nazis, and how they persecuted minorities and imprisoned dissidents. I learned about Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, and the civil rights struggle. I learned about Ho Chi Minh, and how the Vietnamese fought for decades to liberate themselves from one invader after another. I learned about Nelson Mandela and the fight against apartheid in South Africa. Everything I learned in those years confirmed what I was beginning to learn when I was six: that throughout history, there has been a constant struggle between the oppressed and their oppressors. With each struggle I learned about, I found myself consistently siding with the oppressed, and consistently respecting those who stepped up to defend them -regardless of nationality, regardless of religion. And I never threw my class notes away. As I stand here speaking, they are in a neat pile in my bedroom closet at home.

From all the historical figures I learned about, one stood out above the rest. I was impressed by many things about Malcolm X, but above all, I was fascinated by the idea of transformation, his transformation. I don’t know if you’ve seen the movie “X” by Spike Lee, it’s over three and a half hours long, and the Malcolm at the beginning is different from the Malcolm at the end. He starts off as an illiterate criminal, but ends up a husband, a father, a protective and eloquent leader for his people, a disciplined Muslim performing the Hajj in Makkah, and finally, a martyr. Malcolm’s life taught me that Islam is not something inherited; it’s not a culture or ethnicity. It’s a way of life, a state of mind anyone can choose no matter where they come from or how they were raised. This led me to look deeper into Islam, and I was hooked. I was just a teenager, but Islam answered the question that the greatest scientific minds were clueless about, the question that drives the rich & famous to depression and suicide from being unable to answer: what is the purpose of life? Why do we exist in this Universe? But it also answered the question of how we’re supposed to exist. And since there’s no hierarchy or priesthood, I could directly and immediately begin digging into the texts of the Qur’an and the teachings of Prophet Muhammad, to begin the journey of understanding what this was all about, the implications of Islam for me as a human being, as an individual, for the people around me, for the world; and the more I learned, the more I valued Islam like a piece of gold. This was when I was a teen, but even today, despite the pressures of the last few years, I stand here before you, and everyone else in this courtroom, as a very proud Muslim.

With that, my attention turned to what was happening to other Muslims in different parts of the world. And everywhere I looked, I saw the powers that be trying to destroy what I loved. I learned what the Soviets had done to the Muslims of Afghanistan. I learned what the Serbs had done to the Muslims of Bosnia. I learned what the Russians were doing to the Muslims of Chechnya. I learned what Israel had done in Lebanon – and what it continues to do in Palestine – with the full backing of the United States. And I learned what America itself was doing to Muslims. I learned about the Gulf War, and the depleted uranium bombs that killed thousands and caused cancer rates to skyrocket across Iraq. I learned about the American-led sanctions that prevented food, medicine, and medical equipment from entering Iraq, and how – according to the United Nations – over half a million children perished as a result. I remember a clip from a ‘60Minutes’ interview of Madeline Albright where she expressed her view that these dead children were “worth it.” I watched on September 11th as a group of people felt driven to hijack airplanes and fly them into buildings from their outrage at the deaths of these children. I watched as America then attacked and invaded Iraq directly. I saw the effects of ‘Shock & Awe’ in the opening day of the invasion – the children in hospital wards with shrapnel from American missiles sticking out of their foreheads (of course, none of this was shown on CNN). I learned about the town of Haditha, where 24 Muslims – including a 76-year old man in a wheelchair, women, and even toddlers – were shot up and blown up in their bedclothes as the slept by US Marines. I learned about Abeer al-Janabi, a fourteen-year old Iraqi girl gang-raped by five American soldiers, who then shot her and her family in the head, then set fire to their corpses. I just want to point out, as you can see, Muslim women don’t even show their hair to unrelated men. So try to imagine this young girl from a conservative village with her dress torn off, being sexually assaulted by not one, not two, not three, not four, but five soldiers. Even today, as I sit in my jail cell, I read about the drone strikes which continue to kill Muslims daily in places like Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen. Just last month, we all heard about the seventeen Afghan Muslims – mostly mothers and their kids – shot to death by an American soldier, who also set fire to their corpses. These are just the stories that make it to the headlines, but one of the first concepts I learned in Islam is that of loyalty, of brotherhood – that each Muslim woman is my sister, each man is my brother, and together, we are one large body who must protect each other. In other words, I couldn’t see these things beings done to my brothers & sisters – including by America – and remain neutral. My sympathy for the oppressed continued, but was now more personal, as was my respect for those defending them.

I mentioned Paul Revere – when he went on his midnight ride, it was for the purpose of warning the people that the British were marching to Lexington to arrest Sam Adams and John Hancock, then on to Concord to confiscate the weapons stored there by the Minuteman. By the time they got to Concord, they found the Minuteman waiting for them, weapons in hand. They fired at the British, fought them, and beat them. From that battle came the American Revolution. There’s an Arabic word to describe what those Minutemen did that day. That word is: JIHAD, and this is what my trial was about. All those videos and translations and childish bickering over ‘Oh, he translated this paragraph’ and ‘Oh, he edited that sentence,’ and all those exhibits revolved around a single issue: Muslims who were defending themselves against American soldiers doing to them exactly what the British did to America. It was made crystal clear at trial that I never, ever plotted to “kill Americans” at shopping malls or whatever the story was. The government’s own witnesses contradicted this claim, and we put expert after expert up on that stand, who spent hours dissecting my every written word, who explained my beliefs. Further, when I was free, the government sent an undercover agent to prod me into one of their little “terror plots,” but I refused to participate. Mysteriously, however, the jury never heard this.

So, this trial was not about my position on Muslims killing American civilians. It was about my position on Americans killing Muslim civilians, which is that Muslims should defend their lands from foreign invaders – Soviets, Americans, or Martians. This is what I believe. It’s what I’ve always believed, and what I will always believe. This is not terrorism, and it’s not extremism. it’s the simple logic of self-defense. It’s what the arrows on that seal above your head represent: defense of the homeland. So, I disagree with my lawyers when they say that you don’t have to agree with my beliefs – no. Anyone with commonsense and humanity has no choice but to agree with me. If someone breaks into your home to rob you and harm your family, logic dictates that you do whatever it takes to expel that invader from your home. But when that home is a Muslim land, and that invader is the US military, for some reason the standards suddenly change. Common sense is renamed “terrorism” and the people defending themselves against those who come to kill them from across the ocean become “the terrorists” who are “killing Americans.” The mentality that America was victimized with when British soldiers walked these streets 2 ½ centuries ago is the same mentality Muslims are victimized by as American soldiers walk their streets today. It’s the mentality of colonialism. When Sgt. Bales shot those Afghans to death last month, all of the focus in the media was on him—his life, his stress, his PTSD, the mortgage on his home—as if he was the victim. Very little sympathy was expressed for the people he actually killed, as if they’re not real, they’re not humans. Unfortunately, this mentality trickles down to everyone in society, whether or not they realize it. Even with my lawyers, it took nearly two years of discussing, explaining, and clarifying before they were finally able to think outside the box and at least ostensibly accept the logic in what I was saying. Two years! If it took that long for people so intelligent, whose job it is to defend me, to de-program themselves, then to throw me in front of a randomly selected jury under the premise that they’re my “impartial peers,” I mean, come on. I wasn’t tried before a jury of my peers because with the mentality gripping America today, I have no peers. Counting on this fact, the government prosecuted me – not because they needed to, but simply because they could.

I learned one more thing in history class: America has historically supported the most unjust policies against its minorities – practices that were even protected by the law – only to look back later and ask: ‘what were we thinking?’ Slavery, Jim Crow, the internment of the Japanese during World War II – each was widely accepted by American society, each was defended by the Supreme Court. But as time passed and America changed, both people and courts looked back and asked ‘What were we thinking?’ Nelson Mandela was considered a terrorist by the South African government, and given a life sentence. But time passed, the world changed, they realized how oppressive their policies were, that it was not he who was the terrorist, and they released him from prison. He even became president. So, everything is subjective – even this whole business of “terrorism” and who is a “terrorist.” It all depends on the time and place and who the superpower happens to be at the moment.

In your eyes, I’m a terrorist, I’m the only one standing here in an orange jumpsuit and it’s perfectly reasonable that I be standing here in an orange jumpsuit. But one day, America will change and people will recognize this day for what it is. They will look at how hundreds of thousands of Muslims were killed and maimed by the US military in foreign countries, yet somehow I’m the one going to prison for “conspiring to kill and maim” in those countries – because I support the Mujahidin defending those people. They will look back on how the government spent millions of dollars to imprison me as a “terrorist,” yet if we were to somehow bring Abeer al-Janabi back to life in the moment she was being gang-raped by your soldiers, to put her on that witness stand and ask her who the “terrorists” are, she sure wouldn’t be pointing at me.

The government says that I was obsessed with violence, obsessed with “killing Americans.” But, as a Muslim living in these times, I can think of a lie no more ironic.



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About Tariq Mehanna


  1. Aw, this was a really nice post. Spending some time and actual
    effort to make a very good article… but what can I say… I hesitate a lot and don’t manage to get nearly
    anything done.

  2. Islam Pakhtoon


  3. The Best Speech
    The best speech I have ever heard about terrorism, jihad and American imperialism.

  4. MashAllah, Our brother speaks the truth. May Allah send blessings and mercy on our brother and may he cause the people to have compassion and open hearts and minds and actually listen to what he is saying and Insha’Allah let him walk free. Ameen.

  5. Excellent speech
    Alhamdulillah, this brother has spoken with haq (truth). It takes courage to speak and stand by the truth!

    May Allah, grant you the highest heaven.

    Amazing brother and what an eye opening speech for anyone with an iota of common sense to realise the difference between right and wrong. Allah be with him and all our brother and sisters that suffer in silence.

  7. Shaheen kauser

    Dear Brother,
    You have been picked up because of your intelligence, just like many others. An intelligent Muslim who will speak his mind is far more dangerous than an kafir armed.
    My prayers are with you, I fully support your thoughts. Allah will
    Bring justice to the oppressed, patience is the virtue to success. A time shall Befall on these people and they will not be able to run or hide. Allah is the greatest of planners.

  8. WRITE TO TARIQ! If you are a brother, why not put perfume on your letters too so that he may smell something pleasant in comparison to the prison he’s in? Freeing the Muslim prisoners is an [u]obligation[/u], so writing to him and making du’aa’ for him is the least we can do as Muslims!

    This is brother Tariq’s current address:

    Tarek Mehanna
    Unit G
    Wyatt Detention Facility
    950 High St
    Central Falls, RI

  9. In Allah Subhan hu Taala’s Perfect Words do We take comfort from the Horrors of this life – Aameen
    Patience and Deep , Responsive, Reactive Soul Searching is Required of us. How and Where can We be of Help? Subhan Allah , May Almighty Allah (SWT) grant ‘Sakeenah’ to this Brother and make ‘Miserable’ the lives of those inflicting him with pain, inorder they reflect on their actions and Free this Brave Man in this Day and Age – Aameen , Thumma Aameen

    The Noble Quran – Surah Al- Abasa – 37 To 42

    Aaoudhu billahi minnash shaytan nir rajeem
    37. Li kullum Ri im Youma izin Shanui Yughneeh
    38. Wujoohui Youma izim Musfirah.
    39. Dhaahikatum Mustabshirah
    40. Wa Wujoohui Youma izin alayha ghabarah
    41 Tarhaquha Qatarah.
    51. Uulaaikahumul Kafaratul Fajarah

    37. Everyman, that Day, will have
    enough to make him careless of others. 38. Some faces that Day, will be bright
    (true believers of Islamic

    39. Laughing, rejoicing at good news
    (of Paradise).
    40. And other faces, that Day, will be
    dust-stained; ﴾
    41. Darkness will cover them,
    42. Such will be the Kafarah
    (disbelievers in Allah, in His Oneness,
    and in His Messenger Muhammad
    (Peace be upon him), etc.), the Fajarah
    (wicked evil doers).

  10. In Allah’s Words do we take comfort from the horrors of this life – – Subhan Allah.
    Patience & A Sincere, Responsive, Soul Search is what is required – What, Where and How do We Act? Subhan Allah. May Allah (SWT) grant this brother ‘Sakeenah’, May Almighty Allah (SWT) make the lives of all those who (even think) of troubling him Miserable – Aameen – May Allah (SWT) make them Reflect on the Consequences of their current actions – Aameen. Subhan Allah, La illaha IllAllah Wa La howla wala Quwwata illah BillAh.

    Aoudhu Billahi mina shytaan nir rajeem…Li kullim riim minhum youm izin Shanui Yughneeh.Wojuhui youm izim musfirah. dhahikatum mustabshirah. wa wujuhui youm izin alayha ghabara. tarhakuha qatarah. ulaaika humul kafaratul fajarah – (The Noble Quran Surah Al-Abasa_37-42)

    37. Everyman, that Day, will have
    enough to make him careless of others.

    38. Some faces that Day, will be bright
    (true believers of Islamic Monotheism).
    39. Laughing, rejoicing at good news
    (of Paradise).

    40. And other faces, that Day, will be

    41. Darkness will cover them,

    42. Such will be the Kafarah
    (disbelievers in Allah, in His Oneness,
    and in His Messenger Muhammad
    (Peace be upon him), etc.), the Fajarah
    (wicked evil doers).

  11. Muslim_Always

    Ma sha Allah
    Alhamdu lilah, it is refreshing to feel that there are Muslims who is very attached to the ummah at large.

  12. This dunya is truly a test. May Allah grant all the opressed freedom

  13. Muhammad Shameem

    Tarek Mehanna’s Sentencing Statement
    Subhanallah,Dear brother, you sincerely deserve praise for your whatever you did ,felt and think.May Allah Subhanahu Wa Taala reward you immensely in this world and the hereafter. May your wishes comes true Insha Allah.

  14. Never were truer words spoken
    I read this and struggled to keep the tears from flowing. Every single word written in this statement struck a cord and is true beyond words. May Allah guide and protect such brothers and sisters. May Allah open the hearts of non-muslims to the truth and justice only Islam offers.

  15. Allah ho Akbar!!
    May Allah shower you with all His blessings, Ameen!

  16. My heart bleed!
    Oh,Allah! my Heart bleed for beloved brother, Masha Allah! be patient with Allah Decree and your reward is with Allah.

  17. Be Patient
    I pray Allah Ta Ala makes it easy for you my brother. I pray he gives you the iman,strength and patience to endure successfully. In surah Mulk we are told by Allah that He has created death and life that He may test us. Everyone will get the rewad for his or her deed.

  18. Subhaanallaah
    I ask Allaah to grant my brother tarek steadfastness, to ease his burdens, and to free him from the hands of these oppressors, Aameen.

    As he said, anyone with the least bit of sense can see the truth of his words, but his words fall on deaf ears, ears which are deaf because they have plugged it with their fingers so that they do not hear the truth.

  19. Abdullah Ibn Masood

    When I see great men like this being sentenced and locked up, it makes me not want to live on this planet anywaymore

  20. The great gift
    I would like to convey a message of comfort to Brother Tarek. Dear brother, Allaah is well aware of your sacrifice and acceptance of this life test placed on you and your family. Rest assured that no sacrifice will be done without a greater recompense from the Almighty being realized.

    May Allaah accept the sacrifices that you have made and include you among the souls closest to His great self.

  21. The big pic
    The truth is that the aggressor will always choose politics over fact. This situation is no different from all the political trials that are taking place. The zionist(jewish faction) media are carefully indoctrinating the minds of people by always referencing some anti muslim sentiment in most if not all of their outlets be it the news, “fiction” movies, newspaper, radio and all other available media sources.

    It’s clear to see that it is “they” who are drawing the battle lines.Sadly, all this muslim bashing is a resolution that is based on taking control of the energy resources of Arabia and has no significant basis. This house made of cards will be quick to topple.

  22. Jazaakallaahu khayran

  23. Munira Shabir

    SubhanAllah! Very heart touching. May Allah swt make the Brother’s affair easy and grant him justice. What makes me really angry is myself and the Muslim Ummah. Why have we become so weak that others can just pick us and do whatever they please without any consequences. Why have we allowed this injustice to take place? We are so involved in our cushy lives, worrying about insignificant things that we have become so oblivious to what is going on around us. We expect change yet we are not prepared to change ourselves.
    I see no difference between us and Bani Israel. Bani Isreal suffered as they had left the teachings of Allah swt and the Prophets and this is exactly what is happening to the Muslim Ummah, we have left the teachings of Allah and Prophet Muhammad (saw) and therefore suffering. Our Brothers and sisters are suffering around the world and non- of the Muslim leaders care to even take an interest and do something. Unless we practice the Message Allah swt sent us, obey his commands, follow the sunnah of Prophet (saw), we will remain in this situation of being victims of injustice. We will remain weak, allowing others to do whatever, whenever, however they please! It’s time for a change. Allah says,
    “Has not the time come for the hearts of those who believe to be affected by Allah’s Reminder (this Qur’an), and that which has been revealed of the truth, lest they become as those who received the Scripture before (i.e. Jews and Christians), and the term was prolonged for them and so their hearts were hardened?” [Al-Hadeed 57:16]

  24. Great Speech
    Mashallah, it is the best speech anyone could have given in his shoes. May Allah secure his quick release. May Allah unite the Muslims upon Quran and Sunnah so that they can resist these injustices. Indeed Allah will reward the Patience without any Limits. What can My enemies do with me !!! To put me in Jail is Khilwah !!! But we will seek Allah’s protection from trial as big as this Brother is been put through. Ameen.

  25. Mohammed Hossain


  26. May Allah reawrd the brother
    May Allah reward the brother immensely and free him and the whole ummah from these unjust ignorant fools, may Allahs curse be on them. may Allah increase his status in the hereafter for every second that he, and others like him have been tested,ameen.

  27. Possibly one of the greatest speechesI have ever read in my entire life after the Qur’an (obviously!)
    Mash’Allah and insh’Allah will grant him his freedom and Janat Al Firdous Al A3la. To be honest, in everyone’s heart they know that what he is saying is true, but stubborness and tyranny are grave sins and leave one with a hardened heart. I ask ALLAH, al Wahid, al Ahad, al Samad to keep all Muslims on the straight path and I ask him to grant us all a world of peace and salaam where no one harms anybody and where people can live in harmony. Ameen ya Rab al 3alameen 🙂

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