Muslims Against Torture and Political Imprisonment – with the website address AbolishTorture.com – is a fledgling organization started by Wael Abdelgawad to bring Muslims together in speaking out against torture everywhere in the world.

I’ve just brought the website online, so give me some time and I’ll be writing more about our areas of focus, our goals, and how you can be a part of this effort. For now, here is a brief statement of this organizations goals:

  1. To clarify – for Muslims in particular – that Islam is a religion of justice and kindness that stands utterly against torture and abuse of any kind. Allah describes Himself in the Quran as Ar-Rahman Ar-Raheem (The Merciful, The Giver of Mercy). The Quran is described as “a mercy to all the worlds.” The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said of himself that he came not to curse or condemn people, but to save them. This is clearly a religion founded on compassion. Such a religion can never condone the brutality of torture, the crime of terrorism, or the injustice of political imprisonment.
  2. To speak against the widespread torture (and political imprisonment) of Muslims by governments around the world, including the governments of Israel, China, Russia, India and the United States.
  3. To speak against the torture of Muslims by Muslim governments in nations such as Egypt, Morocco, Libya and many others.
  4. To speak against and condemn all torture, no matter where, and no matter whether Muslims are involved or not.
  5. To stand up for anyone who is imprisoned unjustly, including human rights activists, journalists, and politicians.

Question: Why Muslims Against Torture? Why not Human Beings Against Torture? Isn’t it a human issue?

Answer: The focus on Muslims is not intended to exclude, but to include. There are already many major organizations that campaign against torture. These organizations are primarily founded and administered by non-Muslims. I want to bring Muslims into the fold of this area of human rights work. I want to remind them that their religion has always opposed torture; I want to speak against those Muslim governments that employ torture, and speak up for those who are tortured. Of course anyone is free to assist, regardless of religious affiliation.

Question: Why have other Muslim organizations been silent on this issue?

Answer: Muslims have not been silent. My founding of this website, and my statement that I want to bring Muslims into the arena of anti-torture work, is not meant to imply that other Muslims have been silent in this area. Actually, many Muslim organizations have issued repeated condemnations of torture in general, and of specific incidents of human rights abuses as they have occurred.

In addition, there are Islamic organizations devoted solely to human rights issues, both in the West and in the Muslim world. Human rights workers in the Muslim world have showed amazing bravery, speaking up on these issues even as their members have often been arrested, imprisoned, and tortured. Even in the West, Muslims who write too frequently about human rights abuses by countries like the USA, Israel and Russia have been subjected to governmental scrutiny and questioning, on the theory that, for example, any Muslim who is overly concerned by Russia’s human rights abuses in Chechnya may have ties to the Chechen resistance fighters, who in turn are accused of having ties to Al-Qaeda.

The one area that is lacking (and I could be wrong even about this) is that I do not see any Muslim organizations in the West devoted specifically to the issues of torture and human rights, perhaps because of the issues of intimidation that I mentioned. Therefore I have started this website to fill that gap.

Question: Where are you going with this “organization”?

Answer: I’m not sure. For now, I will write, and point the way for people to make themselves heard. I want to change the way Muslims think about this issue. I want to make it an “Islamic issue”, not in the sense of excluding others, but to raise awareness among Muslims that Islam stands for human rights and that freedom from torture and political imprisonment is their birthright. I realize that there are already Muslims working in this field, and I would like to cooperate with them and find out where the need lies, that I may help.

I have a particular interest in Chechnya, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, and the Muslim provinces of China; also in American abuses overseas; and I have an idea to one day send trained individuals to those places to interface with local human rights workers, and document human rights abuses and the mistreatment of human rights workers. In the short term I plan to file for California non-profit status, and then we’ll see what we can do, Insha’Allah.

– Wael Abdelgawad, 2009