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As salaamu alaykum,
His name is Imam Jamil Al-Amin.
You might also know him by his former name: H. Rap Brown, former chairman of the legendary civil rights organization—the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, or SNCC.
Imam Jamil has been in prison for over 16 years—12 of those in solitary confinement, primarily in a federal "supermax" prison with no human contact, fresh air or sunlight.1
Imam Jamil Al-Amin has maintained his innocence for decades, but has been unable to tell the world his story, after a series of government gag orders have kept him from talking to the press or even other prisoners.
That's why we're asking you to attend an online how-to-help emergency meeting, taking place this Thursday, May 2nd, at 4pm ET, 1pm PT. We'll be talking to attorney Kairi Al-Amin—Imam Jamil's son—on what happened in the Imam's case, and we can do to achieve justice together. Click here to RSVP on Facebook so you can get access to the livestream (or watch it later).
Imam Jamil's story is deeply intertwined with the U.S. civil rights movement—and the persecution by the FBI of its foremost activists.
As a head of SNCC, Al-Amin was explicitly targeted in a 1967 memo by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, calling on FBI officers “expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralize" him as part of the COINTELPRO program.2
Al-Amin's FBI file was over 44,000 pages—and yet the FBI never was able to find a single charge with which to put him in prison.3 At the time of Al-Amin's targeting, he was working to register Black voters in Alabama and Mississippi; some of the most dangerous organizing work of the entire civil rights era.
In the time between the COINTELPRO era and his imprisonment, Al-Amin changed his name, became an Imam, and served as a widely respected mentor in the broader Atlanta community that was his home.
Which brings us to Al-Amin's trial.
Much has been written by journalists about the various deeply questionable circumstances around Imam Jamil's arrest and trial. But here are the most important parts:
- The trial in which Al-Amin was convicted was noted by multiple journalists as a complete travesty, with the prosecution not providing any actual evidence of Al-Amin's guilt, or even assign him a coherent motive.
- Al-Amin has consistently maintained his innocence, despite being unable to share his story with the world for going on two decades.
- Virtually all journalists, filmmakers, and academics who have attempted to speak with Al-Amin and get his side of the story have been unable to do so—their requests all turned down or simply not processed.
When various experts and activists attempt to speak with Imam Jamil, the reason they're given for the request being denied (if they're given one) is that he poses a "security risk."
That claimed "security risk" dates back to Imam Jamil's pre-confinement time at the Georgia State Prison in Reidsville, where after he represented Muslim prisoner interests to the prison administration, the FBI prepared a report called “The Attempt to Radicalize the Georgia Department of Corrections’ Inmate Muslim Population," claiming Imam Jamil's nonviolent advocacy could "promote organized recruitment drives for radical Islamist and collective disruptive or subversive behavior.”
The following story is instructive of the conditions in which Imam Al-Amin has been living:4
Khalil Abdul-Rahman, a close friend of Imam Jamil’s and a leader of a Muslim community in Greensboro, N.C., recalled seeing him in 2013 as a legal assistant to former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, who visited Al-Amin at the ADX supermax prison in Colorado.
Imam Jamil was “allowed out in the yard for a little bit with a few other prisoners ... the [Hispanic prisoners] gravitated toward him, and when [they] were called back in, they asked the guards for Qurans,” Abdul-Rahman said. “[The then-] warden [David Berkebile] was watching the whole time,” and he turned to Al-Amin and said, “‘This is why we don’t want you talking.’”
The story of Imam Jamil's imprisonment shows just how Islamophobia and anti-Black racism are often mutually reinforcing. It is all too frequently an American story. And it's a story we can change.
A coalition of activists and organizers are still working to achieve justice for Imam Jalil Al-Amin. There's a role you can play.
Ishraq, Mohammad, Sadaf, and the MPower Change team
P.S. Please feel free to share with others and invite your friends and family.