The Aafia Foundation held a rally in New York City on Oct. 26, steps away from the United Nations, in support of Aafia Siddiqui, a convicted felon who landed on the FBI’s most wanted terrorist list following 9/11.
Known as Lady Al Qaeda, 46-year-old Pakistani-born Siddiqui has served 15 years of an 86-year prison sentence for the attempted murder of U.S. FBI and Army officials in Afghanistan.
The rally brought around 20 people who held signs and banners reading “Free Aafia Siddiqui” and “We demand Dr. Aafia Siddiqui be repatriated to Pakistan.”
Their primary cause for contention is what occurred in 2008 while Siddiqui was being detained at a police station in Ghazni, Afghanistan. Siddiqui had been arrested by the Afghani police and found to be carrying two pounds of sodium cyanide, a flash drive containing WMD manuals, handwritten notes describing New York City landmarks and instructions on how to shoot down drones.
The government proved at trial that Siddiqui grabbed a rifle mistakenly placed on the floor and attempted to shoot at U.S. troops during an investigation. Siddiqui and her supporters deny this, calling the trial a farce.
“The government-style witnesses contradicted themselves so much under oath that they should have been charged with perjury,” said El-Hajj Mauri Saalakhan, speaker at the rally and director of the Aafia Foundation. “All of these contradictions, and yet, Aafia was still found guilty.”
The U.S. government chose not to bring terrorism charges against Siddiqui, instead opting for assault and attempted murder—charges that were easier to prove in a U.S. court and less complicated to prosecute.
Siddiqui’s supporters similarly argue that her affiliations with terrorists, including her marriage to Al Qaeda member Ammar al-Baluchi, the nephew of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, are fabricated and part of an anti-Muslim government conspiracy.
“Aafia did nothing more than exercise her freedom of conscience as a young Muslim. That became a point of suspicion,” asserted Saalakhan.
When questioned about Siddiqui’s terrorist ties and campaigns for her release by jihadist groups such as ISIS and Al Qaeda, rally participant Abdullah T. Faaruuq, an imam at the Mosque for the Praising of Allah in Massachusetts who knew Siddiqui personally, was not convinced.
“She never had any terrorist mentality or speech about the way she behaved,” said Faaruuq.
But while studying in Boston, Siddiqui collected money for the Al-Kifah Refugee center, a charity that served as a front for the Afghan Services Bureau, the predecessor to Al Qaeda and founded by Abdullah Azzam, Osama bin Laden and al-Zawahiri, and also served as a training base for several individuals involved in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
Attendees at the rally expressed admiration for Siddiqui, frequently mentioning her prestigious academic degrees, which include a B.S. from MIT and a Ph.D. from Brandeis University.
While at MIT, Siddiqui was a member of the Muslim Students Association (MSA) and even authored certain sections of the 1995 MSA National Guide. The MSA was founded by members of the Muslim Brotherhood, some of whom have been linked to terrorist groups. The MSA also received funding from foreign NGOs linked to terror investigations and has been described as an “incubator” of extremism by the NYPD.
Several MSA members themselves have been convicted on terror charges. Other members have been a subject of controversy for their anti-Semitic demonstrations and their choice of jihadist guest speakers.
Absent from the rally was discussion on Siddiqui’s disturbing history of anti-Semitic statements. At her trial, she sought to dismiss Jewish members of her defense team. Siddiqui claimed the trial was orchestrated by “Jews” and called for all jurors to be DNA-tested. She reportedly wrote to the court that Jews are “cruel, ungrateful, back-stabbing people” who brought the Holocaust upon themselves.
Asked about Siddiqui’s anti-Jewish comments, some rally attendees attributed them to mental illness as a result of being tortured by U.S. FBI and Army personnel while held captive at an air force base in Afghanistan. The U.S. government denies these allegations.
Despite the fact that Siddiqui specifically used the word “Jews,” other attendees insisted that she was really referring to Zionists, who apparently are a more acceptable target of hatred.
The Aafia Foundation itself has questionable associations. The husband of advisory board member Karima Al-Amin is convicted murderer and Islamist Jamil Al-Amin, also known as H. Rap Brown. Other advisory board members include Siraj Wahhaj, who has been linked to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing through his connections to the blind sheikh, Khalid Zaman, founding member of the MSA, and Sulayman Nyang, a council scholar of the Institute of Islamic Thought, a think tank linked to the Muslim Brotherhood and subject of several investigations involving terror financing.
Karys Rhea is the senior associate of the International Media Response Team at CAMERA, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, where she monitors the media and facilitates letter-writing campaigns.