The ‘Salam’ Witch Trials: Main Characters, Opening Scene

By Ikhras Friend Roqayah Chamseddine.  This article first appeared on Roqayah’s blog The Cynical Arab where you can find more of her articles and follow all the writings of this radical Lebanese-American journalist, and powerful Anti-Imperialist voice.*

The play is set in Washington, District of Columbia. The year is 2011; growing controversy over the loyalty of Muslims in the United States of America has created a rift within the political and social arena of mainstream American society. In December 2010, US Congressman Pete King announces that upon becoming chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee he would hold hearings on the radicalization of American Muslims. On Thursday, March 10, 2011, the Committee on Homeland Security will hold a hearing entitled “The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and that Community’s Response.”

Character Panel I:
Honorary members of the US Congress; all besides Rep. Pete King will be testifying during the “radicalization” hearings which begin on the 10th of March, 2011.

  1. Hon. Pete King:
    Representative in Congress from the 3rd District of New York, Republican.
    Chair of Committee on Homeland Security leading the hearings, contends that radical American Muslims are to blame for most terrorist attempts and attacks against the United States since 9/11, asserting at one point that “80%” of all US Mosques are radicalized”, and that the Muslim community hasn’t done enough to prevent the growth of radicalization. King was also a vehement US supporter of the Irish Republican Army in the 1980s.
  2. Hon. Keith Ellison:
    Representative in Congress from the 5th District of Minnesota, Democrat.
    Ellison is the first Muslim elected to Congress, is critical of the pending trial claiming that it will “thwart public safety”.
  3. Hon. Frank Wolf:
    Representative in Congress from the 10th District of Virginia, Republican.
    Wolf authored legislation in 1998 that created the National Commission on Terrorism. He is currently chair of the subcommittee overseeing the budget of the Justice Department and the FBI.
  4. Hon. John D. Dingell:
    Representative in Congress from the 15th District of Michigan, Democrat.
    Dingell has Muslim constituents and is lightly critical of the trial.

Character Panel II:
Primary witnesses as of March 9th, 2011; called to testify during the “radicalization” hearings.

  1. Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser:
    The trials’ star witness. President and Founder, American Islamic Forum for Democracy
    Muslim physician and former U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander who has been sharply critical of Muslims.
    Jasser calls himself a “moderate Muslim” and conservative Republican; he supports the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and is an advocate for Israel. Jassers claims that “[J]ihadism is a natural by-product of a political Islam that is incompatible with Western secular democracies based in liberty.” In 2007 he was honored by Frank Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy as a “Defender of the Home Front” for his anti-”Islamist” activism.
  2. Mr. Abdirizak Bihi:
    Director, Somali Education and Social Advocacy Center.
    Bihi’s teenage nephew joined a group of Somali-American youth who sneaked out of their Minnesota homes and allegedly travelled to their native Somalia to fight for the al-Shabaab terrorist organization linked to Al Qaeda.
  3. Mr. Melvin Bledsoe:
    Private Citizen, operated Blues City Tours since opening the business in 1987. Bledsoe’s son, Carlos Bledsoe, a convert to Islam, was arrested and charged with shooting two U.S. Army recruiters, killing one. Bledsoe claims that radicalization ”..is something the American people need to wake up to” as tomorrow they “could be looking for someone with blond hair and blue eyes.”
  4. Sheriff Leroy Baca:
    Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
    Baca has served as Los Angeles County sheriff since 1998, dismisses King’s concerns about Muslim non-cooperation with law enforcement.

Character Panel III:
Expansive list of accusatory political commentators and media jades; claiming to either have been victims of Islamic ‘bewitchment’ or are compelling producers of xenophobic hysteria, specifically towards Muslims and Islam.

  1. Brigitte Gabrielle:
    Author and commentator, grew up in Southern Lebanon in the 1970s; alleges Muslims mercilessly bombed her village, leading her to later find refuge in Israel. Gabrielle cites the ‘bewitchment’ of  America via “Islamofacism”  on all levels “… by radicals who wish to harm America […] at the C.I.A., at the F.B.I., at the Pentagon, at the State Department; in radical mosques in cities and communities within the United States.”
  2. Pamela Geller:
    Political commentator and co-founder of Stop Islamization of America; Geller opposes what she claims to be the growing “…Islamisation of the West.” and has claimed that US President Barack Obama has been commissioned to do the bidding of “Islamic overlords”.
  3. Robert Spencer:
    Self-proclaimed critic of Islam; founder of Jihad Watch, Spencer alleges that “various schools of Islam” unanimously teach “warfare against and the subjugation of unbelievers.”

As the play opens, Rep. Pete King harangues conservative talk-radio host Sean Hannity and his listeners on the enemy living amongst them. King is a foreboding man, suffering from paranoia and bigotry induced hysteria; He believes Americans have fallen prey to Islamic extremism, which he alleges is running rampant in the United States of America.

The trial is set to begin at 9:30 a.m. (EST) in 311 Cannon House Office Building in Washington, DC – March 10th, 2011.

*Roqayah Chamseddine is a Lebanese-American journalist and international humanitarian activist; she was a member of the first Gaza Freedom March which took place in December of 2009 in Cairo, Egypt.  Recently during the winter of 2010-2011 she spent one month documenting the lives of men, women and children living in the Palestinian Refugee Camps of Lebanon including the camps of Sabra and Shatila and Burj el Barajneh.  She is an undergraduate student majoring in Political Science/Pre-Law and Journalism with an emphasis in International Criminal Law.  She will be seeking an MA in Journalism during the coming fall.  Her work has been featured in foreign and domestic news agencies such as: Al ManarMondoweissAll VoicesIkhrasGlobal Voices and a plethora of independent news sources where she is featured as a guest writer or frequent contributing author.  She can be reached via:thecynicalarab [at] gmail.com