Are Muslim Defendants Getting Special Treatment in Court?
An otherwise unremarkable hearing in the Fairfax County, Virginia, general district court last Thursday marked an ominous trend with respect to the cherished American judicial principles of the rule of law and equality before the law. The hearing on four misdemeanor charges against Dr. Mustafa Ahmed Abbasi featured all of the usual players -- judge, bailiff, clerks, prosecutors, police officers, criminal attorneys, and defendant -- but with one notable addition to the judicial drama, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).
CAIR's intervention in the Abbasi case is a manifestation of a larger campaign against law enforcement to use political alliances and legal threats to intimidate police in cases involving Muslim defendants and to establish separate and preferable treatment for Muslims in the American legal system.
The circumstances concerning the charges against Dr. Abbasi are as unremarkable as last Thursday's hearing. On February 9, Abassi committed an improper turn which prompted a traffic stop by Fairfax County police. After consent for a search of the vehicle was given, police discovered loose pills, needles, and prescriptions written to other individuals in the trunk of the car, violations of Virginia law. Dr. Abbasi admitted that he treated members of his mosque out of his vehicle, also a violation of Virginia medical rules (it should be noted that he is also a U.S. Customs and Immigration Service-approved immigration doctor). Abbasi received a summons for unlawfully prescribing drugs and three others for possession of controlled substances, and was allowed to leave the scene on his own recognizance.
More than two months later, a letter was sent from CAIR national legal counsel Nadhira Al-Khalili to Colonel David Rohrer, chief of the Fairfax County Police Department, claiming that the traffic stop was made on the basis of profiling and that Dr. Abassi's consent to the vehicle search was never given. She also claimed that Abbasi's arrest was part of a pattern of "religious discrimination" by the department.
The CAIR letter made a series of demands, including an internal affairs investigation of the incident, a reprimand for the officer who made the stop, a written apology for Dr. Abbasi, a dash-cam video of the traffic stop, audio of the related police radio transmissions, and the institution of CAIR's workplace sensitivity and diversity training for the entire Fairfax County Police.
An important fact to note is that CAIR's narrative was derived entirely from Dr. Abbasi's own self-serving account. Al-Khalili's letter admitted that they had not even attempted to review any factual evidence that might exist in the case (dash-cam video and police radio transmissions), which could have been easily obtained through an open records request before making their accusations of religious discrimination. Before then, she had not asked for any evidence. It seems that CAIR's demands were clearly aimed at having their "diversity" training instituted by the police department, as there was no indication that Al-Khalili was acting as counsel for Abbasi (she did not appear at last week's hearing), but was rather acting in CAIR's own organizational interests.
CAIR's hysterical claims in this case -- Al-Khalili's letter raises the specter of "the Fairfax County Police Department's repeated and relentless attacks on American Muslims" -- are belied when reviewing the special relationship between CAIR and Fairfax County officials, including the chief of police, Col. David Rohrer, and the County Board of Supervisors chairman, Gerry Connelly.