Aftermath of Boston police shooting of Usaama Rahim (Associated Press)
On June 2nd 2015, I decided to write on the reported shooting of Usaama Rahim, a young Muslim man by police in Boston, Massachusetts, US, which was just breaking on social media. In checking out initial statements, I came across a Facebook comment posted by Imam Ibrahim Rahim regarding the death of his younger brother which gave a conflicting account of events to that of the police. (I use the first name Usaama to distinguish him from his brother.) A police spokesperson informed media that Usaama had been under surveillance and US terrorism investigators had opened fire when the suspect had allegedly refused to put down a military-style knife and had lunged at police with the knife. There was no evidence presented that Usaama had ever been convicted of a terrorist offence, the surveillance was part of an ongoing investigation.
Imam Rahim alleged the following regarding the death of his brother,
“this morning while at the bus stop in Boston, my youngest brother Usaama Rahim was waiting for the bus to go to his job. He was confronted by three Boston Police officers and subsequently shot in the back three times. He was on his cell phone with my dear father during the confrontation needing a witness. His last words to my father who heard the shots were:
I can’t breathe!”
See link below for full story,
“Boston: Imam’s Facebook page alleges his brother Usaama Rahim was shot in the back 3 times by police on way to work.”
From the start I made it clear within the title of the article that this was “alleged” not proven but given a number of controversial cases in recent times where civilians have been shot dead by US police, I thought the allegations worth documenting with further investigation in mind. The article was written soon after the incident so facts were only just emerging and the picture of events needed to be fully established hopefully with an independent inquiry. I reported both police comments and Imam Rahim’s words as well as friends of the family that left a response. The word “alleged” is used commonly in reporting and encouraged by legal representatives at media outlets. Police themselves have allowed “suspects” to participate in press conferences detailing their allegations though later they have been proven to be false. A well- known example is the Michael “Mick” Philpott arson case in the UK, Philpott who was later charged with criminal offences related to the deaths of his family members.
I gave no opinion myself and was keeping an open mind as to the facts and waiting for more evidence to come to light. I did not however anticipate the level of vitriol and blatant Islamophobia which appeared on my blog in response to the article,
Here are a selection of comments left by a number of individuals that have mostly hidden their faces:
“the cockksucker got what he deserved i hope he rots in pigs blood”
“YOU PEOPLE all need to leave or be shot as well! To lie about the event is the same as trying to incite a race war. I truly believe that is what some of you want. Then bring it on and lets get this over. Go back to where you belong and if you have changed then go to land of the crazy guy allah and stay there.”
“Thank you Boston Police for eliminating this vile, TERRORIST FILTH. Praise Allah! Enjoy your 72 goats…”
“Lying sacks of shit. Terrorist boy got what he deserved. More to come.”
“I’m just glad he has been shot and killed. Everyone who wants Sharia law to be the law of the land in the United States of American should either leave or do something that will give someone else the legal right to kill them, be it death-by-cop or try to attack someone like myself who is always armed.”
“Let’s see the video shall we! Or should we just believe this pig iman liar. We will not be intimidated by liars please leave this country your lies expose you for what u r! I can’t breath bullshit.”
“I hope he’s buried covered in bacon. Good riddance to that sack of shit.”
“Also, the brother’s a fucking liar. Hope someone covers his house in ham.”
More information has now come to light. However as journalist Glenn Greenwald pointed out, in the hours immediately after the killing most US media appeared to accept whatever was stated by authorities without question. This was despite some US police being heavily criticised for their handing of recent cases where suspects were killed during approach by law enforcement officers.
CreditPool photo by David L. Ryan
In the Boston shooting case, we now know the police took a positive decision to allow clergy and members of the Muslim community to view footage of the incident though it is not being shown to the wider community. CCN confirmed, “in a statement, the Islamic Society of Boston said police have invited Muslim leaders Wednesday to watch surveillance video of the shooting.” As the police told media there was a range of reactions. NBC reported, “Darnell Williams, head of the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts, said the video “150 percent” corroborates the police account.” Williams further stated, “what the video does reveal to us very clearly is that the individual was not on the cell phone, the individual was not shot in the back and that the information reported by others that that was the case was inaccurate”.
AOL provided the following account,
“Boston Police Commissioner William Evans said officers confronted the suspect because ‘military and law enforcement lives were at threat.’
The video, which police did not make available publicly, shows that Rahim menaced the officers with a large military-style knife and that they initially backed away before shooting him when he refused to drop it, police said.
Williams said he’s not ready to call the shooting justifiable, and a Boston Muslim leader, Imam Abdullah Faaruuq, said it wasn’t clear from the ‘inconclusive” video whether police had to use deadly force.
“They might have approached him in a different way,’ Faaruuq said.”
Faaruuq was also reported as saying,
“I don’t think that he was shot in the back…However we couldn’t see clearly at all… We can’t say what happened. We weren’t there. We do see a very vague video that is not clear as to what transpired. It wasn’t at a bus stop. He wasn’t shot in the back and there is not detail enough on the video to tell us exactly what happened”.
Allegations concerning Usaama Rahim
The following allegations have been reported against Usaama Rahim and recorded in various US media,
…that he was involved in a terrorist plot to behead “boys in blue” (police), he may also have considered targeting Pamela Gellar an American political activist according to CNN “sources” whose comments have allegedly been described by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) as un-Islamic.
…that Usaama was under surveillance by the FBI, phone calls of conversations were recorded and packages delivered to Rahim’s address were x-rayed before delivery. This revealed knives and sharpening tools which came from Amazon.
Arrest of associate of Usaama Rahil
David Wright from Everett, Massachusetts an associate of Usaama Rahim was arrested in relation to charges of conspiring to destroy evidence, (a smartphone belonging to Usaama) “with intent to impede, obstruct, or influence an investigation.” According to a report in the Daily Beast, “the complaint alleges that Wright confirmed Rahim’s intent to engage in a violent attack during an interview Tuesday.”
Another unnamed person is mentioned related to the inquiry.
Imam Rahim comments
The allegations stated by Imam Rahim, Usaama’s brother needs further investigation. How did he come to make a statement that varied so much from the official police account? What would phone records show? I have sent questions inviting him to comment further on this. The last statement read, “we are deeply grieved by the loss of my younger brother. While we understand the need for information. We ask that the press give us time to grieve. We will have a statement once we have met as a family.”
Protest in Yemen where US has killed many civilians in drone strikes on “alleged terrorist suspects” yet does not use armed drones on suspects on US soil (image National Organization of Drone Victims, Yemen)
The case has in some ways revealed the hypocrisy of American society. The US government regularly launches drone strikes on “alleged terrorist suspects” in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Yemen, if authorities believe so much in the use of drones, why do they not use them on American soil? If Usaama had been under surveillance by the US in another country, it is likely innocent civilians would have been anhilated in the process of taking him out, yet there is no justice for these families. Drones are regarded by many as a weapon of war designed to eradicate Muslims… How many non-Muslim alleged terrorists have ever been killed by US drone strikes?
Boston Marathon bombing
The people of Boston are naturally very angry and distressed over the terrorist attack at the Boston marathon in 2013 in which three people were killed and more than 200 were injured, see link section. In terms of risk for American however, research has shown that people in the US are more at risk of being shot by a toddler accidently than being killed in a terrorist attack.
It is also worth remembering that what happened in Boston in one day happens every day is some parts of the world where the US and allies bomb civilian areas causing mass horrific injuries and mass casualties, I receive the images every day.
Boston double standards on terrorism
The city of Boston has displayed double standards on terrorism, as the saying goes, “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter”. As the Spectator alleged in 2013 following the bombings,
“one of the first world statesmen to send a message of sympathy to Boston after last week’s outrage was Gerry Adams, president of Sinn Fein. ‘Just watching news of the explosion in Boston,’ he tweeted, ‘Sympathy with people of that fine city.’ Mr Adams has every reason to think fondly of Boston. Throughout the troubles, while he sat on the IRA war council, Boston was one of the major American centres which he (through Noraid) could rely on for support and funding. Bostonian money would have been used to help pay for the IRA attack on Margaret Thatcher’s democratically elected government in Brighton, the grotesque Birmingham pub bombings that left 21 dead, and of course the Lisburn van bombing of 15 June 1988. On that terrible occasion six off-duty British soldiers were killed by an IRA bomb just after they had completed a half-marathon for charity.”
I have my own opinions on the role of British military and police in Northern Ireland during the “Troubles” which is now once again in the media however my point is, it was considered acceptable by Bostonians to fund and support what was regarded as a terrorist organisation by the UK government. So its down to defining who is a terrorist? As RT reported in November 2014, “the United States is the “world’s leading terrorist state,” based on its deadly, CIA-run operations in the likes of Nicaragua and Cuba, according to new op-ed by historian and social philosopher Noam Chomsky.”
Usaama was allegedly radicalized according to police statements. Unfortunately the shooting of a suspect has denied society an opportunity to learn more about why individuals might have chosen this route. We must remember also despite being under surveillance for many months he was not arrested or charged though police confirmed they wished to question him. If he was considered such a risk for terrorism, why was he not arrested earlier, were the public at risk from Usaama?
Terrorism and Islamophobia in the US
The double standards regarding investigation of terrorism in the US are clearly evident. Usaama as an individual was under surveillance. There have been numerous accounts of CIA involved in alleged torture of detainees (just check out the torture report) but where are the investigations and convictions which have been called for by a number of human rights groups or is “state terrorism” an issue to be ignored?
Members of my own family and community were unlawfully killed as a result of “biological terrorism” linked to both the US and UK governments which was covered up by many state authorities for years. We were faced with corruption, lies, prejudice, intimidation and death threats as civilians. Families of victims only recently received an apology from the Prime Minister David Cameron but where were the public inquiries, the police investigations and there is still no justice?
Preparing to attend an anti-Islam rally outside a Phoenix mosque
America has become a society riddled with Islamophobia. We saw this recently with an -anti-Islam rally where copies of the Quran were burnt outside a Phoenix mosque and protesters were encouraged to draw the Prophet Muhammad PBUH (this is seen as highly offensive in Islam). Members of the Muslim community alleged they had received death threats. I wrote the following account of the cartoons on a social media site attached to the rally,
“a perusal of the FB page showed cartoon images likely to cause great offence to many Muslims. One entitled “Obama and Muhammad on a prayer rug” shows a naked President in a compromising position kneeling behind Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) who is on all fours wearing nothing but a pakol (Pashtun hat) both bodies are tatooed. Writing accompanying the image reads, “Islam is not a religion. Islam is a stone worshipping cult of hate and oppression.” Another cartoon is entitled the “vile” Prophet Muhammad and depicts the Prophet as a dinosaur carrying a walking stick with Islamic crescents on his ears and a sabre in his right hand with the words, “slay the Kafirs wherever you find them ALLAHU AKBAR.”
The Phoenix Centre and local faith organizations responded with a public message that “love is stronger than hate” and the mosque opened its doors to the local community in what was seen as a successful evening of inter-faith relations.
Stephen Pearce reports that Islamophobia is big business in the US and in a recent article explores who benefits from this, he writes,
“Islamophobia, the fear of Islam is on the rise in America. As a result, a minority group whose numbers are reported between 3-7 million in the United States, are constantly under the suspicious eyes of wary Americans. As a result, violence against Muslim-Americans has risen.”
See following link for full article,
“Opinion/Editorial: The Business of Peddling Islamophobia, And Why It Matters”
Islamophobia has become a self-fulfilling prophesy. The more it is displayed the more likely young Muslims are to feel stigmatized and on the margins of society and the more likely they are to seek out acceptance in groups inspired by Islamic State, Al Qaeda and others with an “extremist” agenda and become radicalized in the process. This increases the risk to the public.
The case for body cameras for police
About 20,000 devices will rolled out to the majority of Met Police officers by March 2016 (BBC)
The BBC has recently reported that, “plans to equip all Met Police officers with cameras on their uniforms have been announced by the Mayor of London” following a trial period with cameras introduced “to boost transparency and speed up conviction”. The decision to trial cameras on police was taken following “criticism of the Met over the death of Mark Duggan, who was shot by armed officers in August 2011, sparking riots across England.”
As Boris Johnson, British politician and Mayor of London pointed out,
“this is exciting technology that will build trust, help the police do their jobs, and allow the public to hold officers more accountable.”
The Boston police shooting case where conflicting accounts have emerged is a good example of where police cameras would have been very useful if not already in use and provide footage from a police perspective of the shooting of Usaama Rahim thus hopefully increasing confidence in decisions made by armed officers. Boston Police Commissioner William Evans has however expressed doubts about the use of police cameras. Boston.com reports,
“according to Evans, Boston police have established a real bond with the community, ‘especially the minority community,’ and police body cameras could prevent people from approaching police.”
Perhaps however in light of the Usaama Rahim case and rampant Islamophobia in the US it is now time to reconsider and check out the study of body cameras in the Metropolitan police if this hasn’t already happened?
“Boston Bombings” (CBSNews)
Carol Anne Grayson is an independent writer/researcher on global health/human rights/WOT and is Executive Producer of the Oscar nominated, Incident in New Baghdad. She is a Registered Mental Nurse with a Masters in Gender Culture and Development. Carol was awarded the ESRC, Michael Young Prize for Research 2009, and the COTT ‘Action = Life’ Human Rights Award’ for “upholding truth and justice”. She is also a survivor of US “collateral damage”.