an american chinese muslim convert speaks

james yee, an ex army US officer who was station as a muslim chaplain at the infamous guantanamo bay in 1991. (pic  here show  james taken by me during his Q&A time)

he was invited by the islamic propagation society international (IPSI) to talk about his time at guantanamo bay at the caring society complex, penang on 19 may.

i was there with friends christina and janet. i notice there were about 20% non muslim in attendance. (total crowd – can’t really say as i was seated right in front and didn’t actually looked back – but maybe a bit more than 100). it’s good to see non muslim attending talks organised by muslim NGO, and there was no sign like ‘not for non muslim’.

james yee is a third generation american chinese who converted to islam. he spoke in english of course. the MC (from IPSI) also spoke in english… which made the whole session in english. they began with a prayer recited by an iman from a mosque.

james spoke of some of the torture he encountered in guantanamo bay. he said that all prisoners in guantanamo bay are muslim (true kah?) and that the prison wardens (or was it commander or something else) like to use religion as weapon. for example, desecration of the holy koran. and ‘gender’ to lure the prisoners.

interesting what he said. he said that the prison wardens know muslim men are not suppose to touch women other than their wives. and they know that most of the prisoners are young muslim men. so they purposely use women to interrogate the prisoners. sometimes these women will take off their clothes in front of the prisoners. all these were done to intimidate the prisoners into talking.

he also talked about the time he was arrested in place in a prison for 76 days. didn’t really catch much of why he was arrested except something about they accusing him of having classified documents. anyway if you do a google search on him, you will find the story about him (his profile, also his story on his arrest).

the most interesting part was when he showed us slides of the guantanamo bay.  different prison camps were shown.  a prisoner’s cell was also shown. it was so tiny that for sure those who are claustrophobia cannot tolerate it.  at one prison camp, at a glance when the prison cells were shown in a row, we were shocked as a prison cell look like a locker! (you know, the long locker, where usually university or college has).

he also showed us about a 15 years old boy who is in the prison. oh he was 15 when he was first bought in but now he’s about 24 or 27, still in prison. a graphic picture of him with a huge injury in his arm was shown and he said the injury showed that the bullet ‘came out’ and not in. actually he meant the shot was fired from his back, the bullet went in from the back of his shoulder, then went out from the front shoulder.

the Q&A were interesting too.  one person asked why is the guantanamo bny, a US prison, not in US but in cuba.  james said that US had approacehed cuba to request for a place to operate a prison there and they agreed but when fidel castro came into power, he wanted so shut it down but later they made an agreement – US pay cuba US$3000 a month for the prison to be there!

james mentioned about obama saying he will close guantanamo bay in jan. this year but now after 3 months, he hasn’t done anything about it. so one person asked james why didn’t obama do anything.  james said that obama did not have the support of others! (lawmakers and public).  when another person asked if the americans  public knew about the atrocities going on in guantanamo bay, why the didn’t do anything.  he said that most americans couldn’t care less about other people’s rights as they are too involved in sports, movies, music, film stars – well in other words, entertainment!

someone brought up the abu ghraib prison and he told us that the abuse in guantanamo bay happened mostly in the interrogation room while the abuse in abu ghraib happened almost everywhere, include the cells. he alsm mentioned something about the guantanamo bay commander visiting abu ghraib, then 2 weeks later the abuse in abu ghraib started. hmm…

in telling how he was converted (he was a lutheran christian), he said that he find similiarity in christianity and islam, especially the part about mary’s virgin birth… oh i mean mary as a virgin giving birth.  i don’t know… but i feel that the way he recalled how he was converted didn’t quite seem right… like he was not telling something. anyway, doesn’t matter as i was there not to listen to how he converted but about life in the guantanamo bay.

well i don’t mind attending talks/exhibtions organise by muslim organisations, talks on islam, because that will be the way i learn about islam. similiarly i hope the muslim too won’t mind to attend talks on christianity… but it seems that the umno govt. is so scared of muslim attending talk on christianity for fear of them getting converted! me, if i attend hundreds of talk on islam, i’m sure i won’t get converted.

oh this reminds me of something  james said when he was telling how he converted. he said when somebody said to him “you must know first before you can judge” (he must know about islam first before he can judge islam). precisely! if one never want to learn about other religions, how can one judge the other religions?

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