Fadi Madi and the Suppression of Muslim and Arab Thought
By Genevieve Cora Fraser
He resides in Lebanon, deported from his adopted home in Germany. Though the injustice of his arrest and deportation has been cleared by a German Court, he continues to live in a forced separation from his German wife. He once was a prosperous businessman, today his resources are dwindling and his health is deteriorating. His name is Fadi Madi. What was his crime? He attempted to organize an open conference in his adopted country, Germany, to discuss the problems now facing the Muslim and Arab world.
Yes, the Thought Police are alive and well and living throughout the world. The target du jour is the Muslim-Islamic and Arab point of view. Examples are wide-spread and growing of persecution and even arrest for raising money for Islamic-based charities that deal with the plight of displaced and occupied Arab populations, writings that expose the injustice, and most taboo of all – discussion involving resistance tactics that attempt to secure a just peace. Fadi Madi was captured within the oppressor’s drag-net as part of the so-called global war on terrorism. He now fears for his life though he prides himself on saving lives, not plotting to take them.
Yes, Fadi Madi is not alone in his dilemma. Not too long ago I attended a supper of the New England chapter of Sabeel, the organization of Ecumenical Liberation Theology which boasts Catholic, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Congregationalist and a host of other main-stream religious affiliations. Under discussion was their last conference, held in Massachusetts, where they were turned into Homeland Security for daring to discuss the horrors associated with the Occupation of Palestine and peaceful resistance tactics such as divestment from Israel. In that instance no-one was arrested, perhaps because conference attendees included WASPs (White Anglo-Saxon Protestants) of prominence in their communities. Yes, even in America where free speech is a guarantee, intimidation tactics are rampant and growing.
Last year I wrote an article that began, “Like a carrier pigeon landing on my windowsill, Fadi Madi suddenly appeared in my in-box bearing an urgent message with the subject heading: ‘Struggle with Fadi Madi.’” On September 14, 2005, I received another email but this time it was from his wife, Rabia, asking me to write a follow-up article.
The original message I received a year ago was addressed “TO ALL MY BROTHERS AND SISTERS FREEDOM FIGHTERS – ANTI WAR MOVMENTS – PEACE HUMANITY JUSTICE MOVMENTS.” According to the email, Fadi Madi had planned and advertised an Arab-Islamic conference in Berlin (Germany) and for this activity was arrested, detained, severely beaten and sent back to his native country Lebanon, despite his German citizenship based on his marriage to a German wife. I had no knowledge of Fadi Madi prior to the email and to this day have no idea how he obtained my email address. But after conducting a Google media search I was impressed by his credentials as someone who had managed the release of several Japanese captured by resistance forces in Iraq, and so I decided to further publicize his plight.
It was clear that the title of his conference, “International Movement against American and Zionist Globalization and Supremacy” had triggered his downfall. I also discovered an interesting article published by The Daily Star out of Beirut. “The Web site for the conference posts the declaration of what it calls the Berlin Call 2004, describing American and Israeli occupation of Arab land as terrorist and barbaric,” Cilina Nasser, the reporter for the Daily Star reported. “We say a clear and loud ‘no’ to colonialism, slavery, Zionism, racism, imperialism and American hegemony,” said the Call. “We say a clear and loud ‘yes’ to the liberation of all occupied territories and countries struggling against the American-Zionist hegemony and occupation,” it stated. “Although the statement mentions a call for establishing a ‘worldwide popular resistance movement for freedom and independence and for a just peace,’ it does not specify the methods of such a resistance and whether it supports a military campaign to fulfill its goals,” Nasser stated. “The Call also aims at establishing an Islamic-European dialogue to secure and strengthen the rights of Arab and Muslim communities in Europe.”
According to Fadi’s German wife, Rabia, she recently was made aware of my article as it appeared in the online newspaper, Scoop NZ last October. In her first email to me she wrote, “I am his wife, still waiting, that he may come back after even our highest court decided, that he didn’t do anything wrong and criminal and that he is no terrorist. But that is not enough for politicians and what they (are) doing at the moment is to refuse the Court appointment in his case to come back. It was said, not before 2006.”
Rabia wrote that “he is still sitting in Beirut and waiting and cannot work or do anything. Still he tries to raise his voice for the oppressed but he is himself in bad condition now. With this he is not alone in our western societies. Just in Germany they are not following the law anymore. They are fighting Muslims wherever they can. Close schools, send people away who didn’t do any wrong. But that is the old racism in this country nothing more.”
Rabia Madi is German by birth and converted to Islam eight years ago. She married Fadi about five years ago. “I was political active in my young years until I realized that it is a dirty business,” she emailed me. She wrote that for many years she “lived a typical life of successful businesswoman and spent a lot of money, not thinking much about others.”
Mrs. Madi was a real estate agent. It was from this perspective that she came to realize that her fellow Germans are not ready for foreigners and still afraid of what they perceive to be strange things and cultures. “It is very difficult to find a landlord who accepts a colored person or foreign person from Africa, Afro-Americans or people from Turkey. Most people want only Germans in their flats,” she commented.
According to Rabia, “The racism in Germany as well as anti-Semitism is very high.” It is her belief that racism in her country “is more the fear of foreign culture.” This attitude makes her feel ashamed. But before she converted to Islam, before she “came to know from this side many different people from different cultures I was the same. I didn’t know much about others and I didn’t think at all about problems in Palestine or elsewhere. I just didn’t know,” she wrote. “Now I know that there are many different cultures, but when you come to know a single person from any place in this world, we all have the same ideas, little problems or wishes as everyone in this world. We are not really that different.”
She went on to explain that in Germany there are many people who have emigrated from Turkey to find work, but they have no chance to truly integrate into German society because even when it comes to finding a home they are relegated to the worst flats which “no German would take.” But what is worse they are forced to pay a lot of money for rent. As a result ghettos developed. But as long as they lived there without causing any trouble, “it was ok. We say here ‘Ahmed my vegetable seller may stay, the others can go home.’ Rabia claims that typically Germans have only accepted foreigners as workers. This has held true even when it involved a professor from the “Max Planck Institute or a manager from big firm, it was the same. Even from states of European Union, from Italy or Spain. Now at least that has changed a bit, because no one wants to tell, that he doesn’t want any foreigner, even Europeans,” she wrote. “But still some people make advertisement, that they only want German tenants, although that is forbidden.”
Rabia noted that when she first became a Muslim she spoke openly about Islam and was engaged in activities in the years 1998 to 2000. At that time she believed that people were interested in hearing about the religion and of people from other cultures and many participated in multicultural events. It was possible to wear a hijab and to walk freely on streets without encountering people who responded to her with angry looks. However, as has been said so many times, “after 9/11 it changed a lot. In the first weeks and months after that, it was really dangerous to go as a woman alone with hijab.” Eventually things got better. “But now people look angry at you, they don’t accept Muslims anymore.” She now wonders if the former openness was merely a pretense, otherwise how could such a change occurred?
“It is frustrating to see, that all attempts to start dialogue was just worth nothing. It was only on the surface, that people seemed to change, to learn about foreigners and to accept them,” Rabia stated. “What before was not possible to say in public about foreigners, is now all possible, if they are not Jewish. Judges who should be neutral just tell you that they are against foreigners. I had some policemen who had been looking for flats, but only houses without foreigners there. This would be incredible for other countries, but in Germany it will never change I guess,” she admitted. “It is the same problem as we had before. We only thought it has changed, but that is not true.” Today it is possible again to state clearly that you don’t like foreigners. Rabia believes this is due to the media and the politicians who create fear of foreigners. “But it is not only against Muslims I would say. It is the same for Africans, for Serbs, Croatians etc.”
As for her 44 year old husband, Fadi Madi, he was the chairman of the trade company ULFIT, United Lebanese Finance and International Trade and spent many years working from Kuwait and later from the USA, first in Michigan, then New York. He dealt with financial interests of large trade companies in financing business between companies and countries. His last projects had been “in preparation between a government and bank about a big area for hotels at the seaside of that country, an electrician factory in Sudan and a hospital in an African country.” He had tried to find a bank in Europe for the projects, but they involved long term negotiations. “All has stopped through that act from Germany,” Fadi’s wife charged. “Also the trust is damaged of course, because his clients don t know what is the truth.”
Fadi had also worked from Switzerland, Sweden, Kuwait, and France as well as the United States before he came to Germany.
“He is Muslim, but very open minded and correct with everyone,” Rabia said in defense of her husband. “He is straight in his opinion and not belonging to any group. There had been offers from different groups and states to work for them, but he never gave up his responsibility for his own mind and actions. He pays a high price for that, but he wouldn’t change that.” Rabia believes that it was Fadi’s independence that positioned him to successfully negotiate for the release of the Japanese held hostage in Iraq. “But he never made big thing out of this,” she wrote.
“Now to the case of my husband,” Rabia continued. “Fadi was living in NY as a financial broker before we got married. He was a businessman. I didn’t want to live in the USA so he came to Germany.” After arriving in Germany he started his company but never forgot his people in South Lebanon, the place of his birth and wanted to help as much as he could while remaining outside of Lebanon. After Israel left South Lebanon he even was asked to run for parliament, but it didn’t work and he came back to Germany. He was in business with Arab financial projects, for example big projects to built infrastructure in African countries or hospitals and those things. But after 9/11 it was not possible for him to work in this field, because no one wanted to invest in Arab countries or vise versa no Arab wanted to keep his money in UK or USA. So it was quite a hard time, but he is one who never complains and so he spent more time for the struggle in Palestine and later in Iraq,” Rabia stated.
Fadi took part in many conferences and meetings around the world and from this experience came up with a plan to organize a “congress.” The conference was to have taken place last year in Germany, Rabia wrote. He even believed that German politicians would support him. Rabia admits that his thinking was naive. The case against him developed from a media attack on the conference orchestrated by the Jewish Simon Wiesenthal Centre and their request to Germany’s Interior Minister to stop the congress, because “it would only be a meeting of terrorists. There had been some politicians and activists and well known people who wanted to join,” but the minister used that politically, she claimed.
“They stopped him at the airport and didn’t allow him to enter Germany. They didn’t allow him to see a lawyer, who was waiting in airport and they treated him bad. Fadi also has serious health problems which were made worse by his detention. “He had no witnesses to prove that all what he said afterwards was like that, but we know, that the police in airport treats foreigners very bad. We had even some cases where people died there. He is a very straight person, so he didn’t accept to stop his activities and political work and they expelled him,” Rabia stated. “My husband did all this not as a Muslim, but as an activist for peace. He is Muslim but not a fundamentalist.” Rabia claims that his fault is that he doesn’t understand German and he hadn’t sufficiently realized that the mood in Germany had changed and that Muslims and Arabs no longer had “good cards” to play in such an atmosphere.
The day after Fadi was detained at the airport, German officials prohibited the congress from opening, despite the fact that the other organizers had already canceled it. Some wanted to start a criminal investigation against him. “But our highest court decided, that his website didn’t contain any criminal parts,” furthermore the attorney general was not permitted to start a criminal investigation and was forbidden to search in his personal things and papers. Although our highest court found him innocent, he is still in Lebanon because the court, who has to decide in foreigner affairs whether he may come back” has informed them that a decision will not be made this year. “The German law says clearly, that he has the right to come to his wife,” she claimed. “But they just put the case away to let him wait. We tried to get him in as an urgent case because we need to live together and because he needs medical treatment. The judge refused that and told us that this even would make him think not to let him in anymore because of his health, because he only would use the social system. But we are paying a lot of money for this social system and it is our right to use it, as the judge will do himself.”
“We have a lot of illegal police actions in mosques every week now. Secretly police tell us that it only done to show action and those mosques who fight against in court still get the answer it was illegal, but that doesn’t help and media only report about the actions not that it was wrong.” Rabia also claims that though he was exonerated by the highest court, following the court decision, no statement has been forthcoming that Fadi Madi is innocent, that he did no wrong, and that he is not a terrorist.
As politicians score their political points no one concerns themselves about the fate of innocent people who are affected by the racism, Rabia complained. It is not only hard for her to be separated from her husband, “he cannot work or do anything from there. He cannot travel to any European state.” His personal life has for all intents and purposes been stopped. Today many foreigners have been sent out “without reasons and asked to fight” against it from outside. “This costs a lot of money and many lawyers say we cannot take the case.”
Following his wife’s emails, Fadi contacted me to say that what happened to him at the Berlin and Frankfurt airports has made him so wary he is afraid to step outside in Beirut even to buy cigarettes. He fears that the Israeli Mossad is after him and may want to kill him. This fear is based on what happened to him due to his defense of the Palestinian and Iraqi people, he claims. He is still very shaken by the incident and asks how in Europe and especially in Germany he could have been made to endure such horrific treatment.
Fadi asserts that they first took “my holy book Koran from my hand and they put (it) under the feet of the inhuman lady who issued the statement to send me back to Lebanon… after (that) they did all bad things to me on my way to Beirut to take off all my clothes and keep me naked in 10-degree temperature in a very cold room at the airport.” According to Fadi they treated him like an animal and forced him to collect his clothes by his teeth. He was told that he could return to Germany if he made the statement that “there is no occupation in Iraq and Palestine. Madi states that authorities at the airport allowed agents from Mossad and the US Army to investigate and hurt him “to drop me more then 6 times from the chair to the floor… I ask to see or talk with any lawyer but they refuse even to (let me) talk with my wife.”