[Marxism] Guantanamo Bay Prisoner Sues U.S. to Get a Bible

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Tue Nov 22 06:45:56 MST 2005

While sometimes I like to kid people by responding, when they ask
about my religious preference, "I am an atheist, and, God willing,
I always will be." But you know, this is a very revealing story in
relation to Guantanamo and the prison conditions there. The fact
that the United States government, which wants to impose its own
version of Christianity on the world, and which wants to impose
its own version of everything on the entire planet, should find
the Bible a threat has a powerful message, doesn't it? You will
remember, the terror which slave-owners in the United States felt
over the possibility that their chattel would learn to read, and
you will further recall how desperately the United States tried 
to frame up and destroy the Chinese-American chaplain of Muslim
faith, James Y. Yee who was at Guantanamo, once they found that
they had absolutely nothing that they could really charge him
with. As we can see, these prisoners think that they have some
sort of human RIGHTS. The role of religion in organzing struggles
against oppression, from South Africa to the US South and from
Malcolm X to Camilo Torres is one we all need to understand. 

At last I've now come to understand why my old friend and at times
friendly antagonist from Los Angeles, Dorothy Healy, used to say
that "religion is the opium of the people" was a too-simplistic
and one-sided way to look at the role of religion in society.
Dorothy pointed out that Marx also said religion represented 
"the sigh of the oppressed" against an unjust world, or words
to that effect. Washington's fear that the Bible would encourage
their prisoners to revolt really tells us a lot, doesn't it?

Who'd a thunk it?

Walter Lippmann, CubaNews


Guantanamo Bay Prisoner Sues U.S. to Get a Bible
The government says certain books are withheld 
because they could 'incite' inmates.
By Richard A. Serrano
Times Staff Writer

November 22, 2005


WASHINGTON - At the U.S. prison for suspected terrorists at
Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, everyone can get a Koran, but no one gets a

Saifullah Paracha, a 58-year-old former Pakistani businessman with
alleged ties to Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, has been in U.S.
custody since 2003. Like the other inmates at Guantanamo Bay, he has
a copy of the Koran. But he also wants an English translation of the
King James version of the Bible.

Paracha believes that because the Bible is one of the scriptures
accepted in Islam, he is entitled to a copy to read in his small
wire-mesh cell. But after his lawyer shipped him a Bible, along with
two volumes of Shakespeare, prison officials confiscated the package.

Paracha's American lawyer filed suit in U.S. District Court in
Washington, demanding that Paracha be given the Bible and copies of
"Hamlet" and "Julius Caesar." The government responded that certain
books were kept from prisoners because they could "incite" them.

Whether the Bible or the Koran, prayer might seem appropriate for
Paracha. The allegations against him are serious.

The government contends that through his international packaging
company, Paracha conspired to ship chemical components to the United
States to help set off an attack by Al Qaeda terrorists. His son
Uzair Paracha, 25, is on trial in New York on charges that he tried
to help an Al Qaeda operative enter the country and plan the intended

The son, if convicted, faces as much as 75 years in prison. The
father could receive a life sentence. Both men insist they are

At his status review hearing last year, Saifullah Paracha conceded
that he had met Bin Laden socially, and that the terrorist leader had
given him a copy of the Koran.

"He was a prophet," Paracha said.

The practice of religion has been a sore point for the Guantanamo Bay

This year, tempers flared and hunger strikes were launched over
allegations that copies of the Koran had been desecrated at the
prison by U.S. guards. One account alleged that a Koran was flushed
down a toilet. The U.S. government denied the report, but it set off
riots in Muslim countries.

Paracha's Washington lawyer, Gaillard T. Hunt, said he met with
Paracha in September and learned that his client had "been in
solitary confinement with very little communication with anyone for
most of the last year. I learned that he has been requesting a Bible.
>From my general knowledge, I knew that the Bible (the Old and New
Testaments) is accepted in Islam as one of their holy texts, so I
interpreted this as a religious request."

On Sept. 30, Hunt said, he purchased a Bible and mailed it, still in
the publisher's shrink-wrap cover, to a chaplain at the naval base.
He included a cover letter explaining it was for Prisoner No. 1094,
at Paracha's request. Also in the package were the two plays and an
English dictionary.

When Hunt visited in October, Paracha told him nothing had arrived.
Hunt said one of the military lawyers "explained to me that Paracha
would not be allowed to have a Bible, as that would violate prison

Last week, a government lawsuit filed in response said none of the
more than 500 prisoners was permitted special treatment.

Government lawyers said Paracha had not shown that the practice of
his religion had been "substantially burdened" because he did not
have a copy of the Bible.

They also argued that letting Paracha have a Bible would set off a
"chain reaction" among the other 170 detainees who are suing the
government in Washington courts, asking for relief from prison
through some sort of court hearing.

Although a judge has not sorted out the dispute, the prison has
recently "cleared for release" the Shakespeare plays. But still no
Bible for Paracha.

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