US Must Tread Carefully to Gain Release of Kidnapped Aid Worker

Friday, 02 Dec 2011 10:08 AM

By Tawfik Hamid

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Al-Qaida leader Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri has claimed responsibility for the capture of a 70-year-old U.S. citizen in Pakistan named Warren Weinstein. He described the captive as "a former employee and a current contractor working with the U.S. government in its aid program to Pakistan.”

The leader of al-Qaida listed eight demands that he said, if met, would result in Weinstein's release. They include:
  • The lifting of the blockade on movement of people and trade between Egypt and Gaza
  • An end to bombing by the United States and its allies in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Gaza
  • The release of anyone arrested on charges of belonging to al-Qaida and the Taliban
  • The release of all prisoners in Guantanamo and American secret prisons and the closure of Guantanamo and the other prisons
  • The release of terrorists convicted in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center
  • The release of relatives of Osama bin Laden, the founder of al-Qaida who was killed in May in Pakistan
The speaker also claimed that the United States tortures Muslim prisoners. He also accused the United States of not respecting the Geneva Conventions and claimed that al-Qaida is honoring the U.S. prisoner by not torturing him.

The United States needs to be very wise when they address this issue. On one hand, ignoring al-Qaida or reacting in an arrogant manner can end in the killing of the U.S. prisoner.

On the other hand, showing weakness can encourage further kidnappings.

Recommendations on how to respond to this problem include the following:

1. The United States cannot ignore this message as ignoring it can make the radicals of al-Qaida angrier and thus can threaten the life of the prisoner.

2. The United States must NOT bow to these demands as — if this happens — it will be very difficult or virtually impossible to stop further kidnappings of more Americans by the radical groups all over the world as they will learn that kidnapping innocent Americans is the best way to achieve their demands.

3. Be very clear that if this prisoner is killed the United States must respond in a very strong manner and will make al-Qaida regret causing harm to the prisoner. This is important so that the United States is not perceived as weak by the radical groups lest they become more encouraged to harm more citizens.

4. Thank al-Zawahiri for saying that they will honor the U.S. prisoner. This simple word of thanks can encourage him to keep his word and help save the life of the prisoner.

5. Show appreciation for mentioning the Geneva Convention and maintain that the United States respects its treaties and the Geneva Convention. This is important to stop the delusional loop of thinking in the mind of some Islamists that the United States does not respect the Geneva Convention.

6. The United States needs to ask al-Zawahiri if he can produce one single piece of evidence regarding his allegations that the United States currently tortures the Muslim prisoners. The Koran states, "Bring forth your evidence, if ye are telling the truth! Koran 27:64." The fact that torture is not allowed any more by the United States must be elucidated.

7. The United States needs to clarify to al-Zawahiri that torture has been banned completely and inform him about the day when the president signed this law (to show him evidence and prove to him that he judgment might be incorrect).

8. The United States needs to inform al-Zawahiri that if he can bring even a single piece of evidence that the United States tortures its prisoners, then those who broke the law will be punished. This can challenge the way the United States is perceived in the mind of al-Zawahiri and other Islamic radicals.

9. The United States needs to direct the message to ayman al-Zawahiri — NOT to the al-Qaida organization — as this approach avoids legitimizing al-Qaida and can also touch the remnants of human conscience that might still exist in al-Zawahiri’s mind.

10. The United States can also say to al-Zawahiri that they will take his words to honor the prisoner as a promise as it fits with what the Koran teaches about treating the captives of war (Koran: 76:8) “And they feed, for the love of the Lord, the indigent, the orphan, and the captive.”

11. Ask al-Zawahiri if he would agree to respect and sign the Geneva conventions and instruct his followers to stop killing civilians?

12. Ask al-Zawahiri if kidnapping an aid worker who wants to help the weak and sick in Afghanistan fits in his view with what the Koran mentions on how to deal with others even in war situations, and quote the following verse — (Koran 9:6): “If one amongst the Pagans (who are fighting you) ask thee for asylum, grant it to him, so that he may hear the word of the Lord, and then escort him to where he can be secure and feel safe.”

This can put al-Zawahiri in a very difficult situation and discredit him in the eyes of many Muslims as it shows that he is not even aware of or not applying what the Koran actually teaches.

Some of these recommendations can be used by the U.S. administration and others can be used by parties or humanitarian organizations that are involved in solving the problem.




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