An Urgent Appeal to Free Hostages in Iraq

Editor's Note: Below is an appeal for the release the Italian and Iraqi aid workers abducted in Baghdad by scholars, writers, activists and artists, both Muslim and non-Muslim.

We, the undersigned scholars, writers, academics and artists, and activists, Muslim and non-Muslim, but all strongly opposed to the US-led occupation of Iraq, urge those holding Simona Pari and Simona Torretta, both Italians, and Ra'ad Ali Abdul Azziz and Mahnoaz Bassam, both Iraqis, to release them immediately and unconditionally.
We urge those who are holding them to understand that these four individuals are not instruments of the occupying forces. They are members of Un Ponte Per Baghdad (Bridges to Baghdad), an independent Italian humanitarian organization that has been working in Iraq since 1992 to ameliorate the conditions of Iraqi civilians even when other aid groups refused to stay in the country. Simona Toretta and Simona Pari are not spies.
They are committed peace activists who have risked their lives time and time again to help Iraqis, even in the middle of fierce US assaults on cities such as Falluja and Najaf. They have risked their lives for an Iraq free of occupation and for Muslims to live lives of dignity, respect and a decent standard of living. They have opposed the goals of US, British, Italian and even post-transfer Iraqi governments with great energy and love for Iraq, Muslim culture and the Muslim world more broadly.
We further view the safety and release of their Iraq colleagues Abdul Azziz and Bassam as equally important and urgent as their own safe release. Together, the four individuals you are holding are a crucial link in the world- wide struggle against occupation and oppression, and against US and European imperialism and economic and cultural exploitation in particular. These people are among the strongest critics of the occupation anywhere in the world and have worked to challenge it with their minds and bodies at every possible turn.
The Muslim signatories to this letter are united in our belief that all four individuals, including the two Italians, are Muslims in the purest sense of the word in that they have totally submitted themselves to the will of Allah to work against the occupation and for justice and peace – even at the risk of their lives. We ask our brothers who are holding them, would the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) kidnap or harm people such as this, no matter what a government they have no control over has done to Muslims?
Would our greatest warriors, generals and rulers do so, whether the Rightly Guided Caliphs or Salah ad-Din, who embarrassed the British Richard the Lion-hearted with his mercy? Surely our sacred revelations, history, traditions and law have taught us not to wage jihad against those who are working to help Muslims. We beg you to consider this fact, especially as the Holy Qur'an emphasizes (e.g., Sura al-Ma'un (107)) the importance of helping the unfortunate as among the most important social virtues in Islam: it is one of the arkaan (in the form of zakat), or foundations of Muslim faith.
Kidnapping or otherwise harming these and other aid workers only serves to deflect attention away from the growing struggle within these various countries to end the occupation and bring the leaders who brought it about to justice. It thus advances the aims of the Bush Administration and its allies in London and Rome, who clearly seek an apocalyptic "clash of civilizations" with the Muslim world that would cement the West's control over the region's oil resources while sewing chaos throughout the region.
Simona Toretta and Simona Pari are not enemies of Islam or the Iraqi people. Abdul Azziz and Bassam are not traitors to Islam or Iraq. Rather, they all are enemies of imperialism who are showing citizens of the West and the Muslim world that it is possible to work against the occupation and the large policies of their governments in a positive, creative way. We again urge those who hold them and their Iraqi colleagues to recognize the contribution they have made to confronting the occupation and helping improve the basic living conditions for Iraqis, and to release them to continue their work to help build an Iraq free of occupation and foreign domination and exploitation.

Noam Chomsky, MIT
Cornel West, Princeton University
Dr. Rachid Ziani, National Council Member, FIS, Algeria
Mark Levine, Historian
Jon Wiener, Historian
Mike Davis, Historian
Michael Hardt, Historian
Angela Davis, Historian
Naomi Klein,
Medea Benjamin, Global exchange
Tariq Ali. Writer
Tom Hayden
Tom Engelhardt
Jodie evans, Code Pink
Samina Faheem Sundas, American Muslim Voice
Suzie Weissman
Richard Falk, actor
Susan Sarandon, actress
Viggo Mortensen, actor
Bill Fletcher, Director Transafrica forum
Plar perez, Editor of Perceval Press,
Na'eem Jeenah - President, Muslim Youth Movement of South Africa
Amir Hussein, Professor of Religious Studies, Cal State Northridge
Meisg: Middle east and Islamic studies graduate students
Network of Progressive Muslims Progressive Muslims Network
Qamar al-Huda, MPAC, Canada
Hadia Mubarak, President, Muslim Students Association National
Dr. Hatem Bazian, Near Eastern and Ethnic Studies Departments University
of California, Berkeley
Laury Silvers
Abdul Rashied Omar, Notre Dame
Joyce T. Lionarons
Jamilla Karim
Munir Sheikh, Islamic Studies, UCLA, California
Ahmed Nassef, Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief, Muslim Wake Up!
Omid Safi, Prof. of Religious Studies, Colgate University
Abbas Syed, Canada
Itrath Syed, Graduate Student, Centre for the Study of Women's Studies and
Gender Relations University of British Columbia, Canada
Asma Sayeed, Princeton University
Ismail K. Poonawala
Mona Knock
Barbara Leviten, California
Abdul-Aleem Somers
Shehnaz Somers
Youshaa Patel
Zayed Yasin,
Hassan Hakmoun, Morocco, artist
Paula Cole, US, artist

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