Muhammad Ali and Muslim Leaders Call on Iran to Release US Hikers
By Georgia Jewett
Washington , DC : Boxing legend Muhammad Ali joined prominent American Muslim leaders along with the families of Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal at the National Press Club to entreat Iran to release the detained hikers.
Imam Mohamed Magid of the All Dulles Area Muslim Society opened the conference by calling on the Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamene’i to free Bauer and Fattal on the grounds of Islamic mercy and compassion.
The two young men, along with Bauer’s fiancé Sarah Shourd, were taken into custody in July 2009 while hiking in Iraqi Kurdistan. Shourd, who was released on bail last year, expressed gratitude to the Muslim leaders for coming together on this issue.
Speaking on behalf of her husband Muhammad Ali, Lonnie Ali emphasized that Bauer and Fattal were citizens of the world who were simply trying to understand other cultures through travel.
Secretary General Dr. Parvez Shah of the Universal Muslim Association of America reiterated that the American hikers aimed to promote dialogue, understanding and harmony between nations, not animosity. And Ambassador Akbar Ahmed personally extended support to the families of Bauer and Fattal, calling the hikers’ imprisonment “a metaphor for suffering across the world.”
The press conference confirmed the Muslim community’s continued commitment to the release of Bauer and Fattal as they attempt to strengthen and unify their leadership in the United States. The projected message was fundamentally hopeful and followed two days after the third phone conversation between the detainees and their families.
Muhammad Ali and Ambassador Ahmed among others have written letters to the Iranian Supreme Leader on behalf of the hikers; however, the conference was the most significant display of Muslim American solidarity on this issue to date.
Ali, who suffers from Parkinson’s disease, traveled across the country for the conference. He extended his support to Bauer, Fattal and their families in conjunction with the signatories of a newly released letter to Iran. The signatories included members representing the Islamic Society of North America, the Muslim Public Affairs Council, The Council on American Islamic Relations, the Islamic Circle of North America, the Universal Muslim Association of America, the Fiqh Council of North America and the Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation (MAS Freedom).
Though the signatories represent organizations with differing values, they share the common goal of bringing Bauer and Fattal home in the name of justice and kindness. As a united front, they imparted a new urgency to resolving this issue, which has far reaching implications for the United States-Iranian relations.
Mr. Ibrahim Ramey, Director of the Civil and Human Rights Division of MAS Freedom, noted that cooperation on the release of Bauer and Fattal could serve as a catalyst for peaceful interfaith talks.
Yet family members of the hikers quickly diverted political questions and beseeched Iran to view the young men as humans, not Americans. Iran now must choose to approach this issue from the humanitarian standpoint supported by Muslim American leaders, or continue to perpetuate antagonism between the two nations.