Proceed with caution in Pino allegations

Chris Kok

Kent State became the focus of a major controversy last week when Mike Adams posted a blog on linking history professor Julio Pino to a jihadist Web site. It is too early to know with certainty whether this Web site is Pino’s. Either way, the allegations against Pino must be taken with caution.

Adams wrote that Pino “deserves to be arrested and sent to an island off the coast of North America, stripped naked, interrogated, and, if necessary, tortured.”

We must remember that all people deserve certain rights. All people have the right to a public trial in which they can see the evidence against them. The Eighth Amendment protects Americans from cruel and unusual punishment. This is something that Adams must have forgotten. The people who called in threats to Pino and the university have also forgotten this right.

In a post-Sept. 11 world, we must remember people still have the rights guaranteed by amendments. Targeting a group of people based on race, religion or political beliefs is unjust. In this era, all Muslims have been treated with suspicion and seen as criminal. The same sort of discrimination existed against Japanese citizens during WWII and socialists during McCarthyism.

The internment camps of WWII took Japanese citizens away from their homes, destroyed their businesses and, in many ways, destroyed their lives. This was all because they came from Japan; there was no questioning if these people were dangerous to America.

The witch-hunts of McCarthyism were an attack on another amendment – the first. People were not allowed to believe in communism or socialism, nor could they write or read about it.

Political action such as signing petitions against creating the atom bomb were seen as subversive, and thus a reason to be dragged into court. People who didn’t commit a crime had their lives ruined because they chose to exercise their right to free speech.

History shows us that innocent people were harmed by the internment camps and communist witch-hunts. The same thing is happening today, but this time it is happening to Arabs and Muslims.

The consequences of this sort of scapegoating are severe. Maher Arar was returning home to Canada from a trip to Tunisia in 2002 when he was picked up by customs agents as he was transferring planes in New York.

Arar was deported to Syria where he was imprisoned for a year and tortured. Now Arar is suffering Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. All of this happened even though he didn’t commit a crime; he just happened to be a Muslim.

Another case is that of Sami al-Arian. Al-Arian, a former professor at University of South Florida, was charged with aiding terrorism. Al-Arian was acquitted of these charges. When threatened with retrial, which is in violation of his protection from double jeopardy, he plea-bargained a lesser charge of providing material support for non-violent activities of a Palestinian charity. Having not committed a crime that a jury could convict him of, al-Arian is in his fourth year of imprisonment in solitary confinement and is facing deportation.

Regardless of the facts, we must make sure that the allegations against Pino do not spiral out of control, creating an environment of racist discrimination against Arabs and Muslims here at Kent State.

Chris Kok is a senior political science major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].