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J. Kurt Roberts: Even in Lodi, we must be vigilant about terrorism

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Posted: Sunday, June 19, 2005 10:00 pm

With the recent arrests of Hamid and Umer Hayat on suspicion of being linked to al-Qaida, we the citizens of Lodi have been forced to consider the possibility that the seeming peace and tranquility that we in Lodi have come to take for granted may not be as we imagine.

It is to say the least, disturbing to have any member of our community suspected of being involved in anything so repulsive as being a part of a terrorist cell. These two individuals will have their day in court, the facts of this case will be presented and our judicial system will render a verdict. The omnipresent possibility of a plea bargain not withstanding.

It must be said that the very thought of an American citizen, post 9/11, actually traveling to Pakistan with the expressed intent of attending an al-Qaida training camp is about as outrageous of an act that can be imagined in this day and age.

Hamid Hayat’s maternal grandfather, who Mr. Hayat has reportedly spent a considerable amount of time with while in Pakistan, is a well known Deobandi scholar and is a chief cleric of the Jamia Islamia madrassah in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. The Deobandi sect has been described by experts to be an “anti-western, militant group” that is nothing if not sympathetic to the Taliban. This new information certainly gives credence to Mr. Hayat’s confession to the FBI of being a trained terrorist.

Hamid Hayat and his father Umer were detained at Dulles International Airport on April 19, 2003, after failing to disclose they were carrying over $28,000 in cash. Federal law requires that travelers reveal if they have more than $10,000 in their possession. Authorities confiscated $27,000 of their cash, which could have quite possibly significantly hindered the younger Hayat’s then-goal of procurring a “wife of quality.” With the matrimonial aspirations of Hamid impeded and the probability that the Hayats were not sure if they’d ever see their $27,000 again, they could have become somewhat embittered to America and then become open to a more extreme form of Islam, even if just temporarily.

There are few if any in the community who really believe that this “cabal” is actually what could be called an overly dangerous lot, as there is no proof of either of them being involved in any way, shape, matter or form in any nefarious plots. But there is the widely held belief that only a handful of the Sept. 11th hijackers actually knew what their ultimate fate would be until there was no turning back. Is it possible that Hamid Hayat was one of an unknown number of “grunts,” sitting in the shadows waiting for a yet-to-be determined sign or message to report for duty? Unfortunately the possibility however remote, is real.

It should be every American’s wish to see the civil rights of every member of society be protected no matter what the charge or cost. That said, the number one job of the federal government is national security, in this post 9/11 world it would be absolutely derelict for the Bush administration to not overturn every stone — yes even in Lodi.

When all the dust settles, there is no doubt in my mind that the people of Lodi will come to realize that the men, women and children of Lodi are much, much, much more likely to be killed or otherwise harmed while driving to work, boating on the Delta, or by being a victim of domestic violence. Being a victim of terror should be way down on the list of things to worry about.

I’ve said it before and it bears repeating: Rooting out terrorism is not an easy task. Terrorists do not readily admit their associations. Techniques sometimes must be employed that some would say are less than noble. To any and all in the community who may have been offended by the search and, or interrogation techniques used, I would like to be among the first to apologize for any inconveniences the national security of the United States may impose.

Post 9/11, it simply must be done.

J. Kurt Roberts is a Lodi resident and occasional contributor to the editorial page. He can be reached at jkurtroberts@sbcglobal.net

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