More humiliation was to follow. He was thrown into a cell in Passaic, N.J., with nearly three dozen other men. The men, all Muslims, asked to hold on to their food trays so they could observe the Ramadan fast and eat after sundown. The guard wasn’t having any of it. “I don’t care about f—king Ramadan,” the turnkey said. The U.S. government never filed any charges against Irshaid. After three weeks, he was finally released. Irshaid says he was so happy he would have jumped for joy, had he not still been shackled and chained in leg irons. “This doesn’t change my love of America,” he told NEWSWEEK. “But with all due respect to Mr. Ashcroft, if somebody wants to accuse you of something, they should tell you what it is.”
Such stories are becoming uncomfortably commonplace. As innocent Muslim men swept up in the post-September 11 dragnet begin to emerge after being held in custody, often in secret, for weeks and months, they are telling embarrassing and sometimes horrifying tales of official indifference and, occasionally, abuse.
Some of the 1,200 men swept up in the FBI’s dragnet since September 11 feel as though they might as well have been sent to a Third World dungeon. On Sept. 18, Hasnain Javed, 20, a Pakistani national who lives with his aunt in Houston, was on his way back to Queensborough College in New York to study computer information systems. In Alabama, he was pulled off the bus by the federal Border Patrol, who discovered that Javed was carrying an expired visa. They sent him to a county jail in Wiggins, Miss., where he was put in a cell with 10 other inmates. What happened next was out of a bad movie.
One inmate, perhaps kindly, perhaps coldly, suggested that he better ring for the guard. Javed rang the bell, but it went unanswered for more than 20 minutes. During that time, several inmates beat him severely, breaking one of his teeth, fracturing a couple of ribs and rupturing his eardrum. As they kicked and pummeled the Pakistani youth, they jeeringly called him “bin Laden.” Then they stripped him naked and beat him some more. “I was crying and telling them I had nothing to do with it,” said Javed. “They were kicking me and punching me and pinned my head to the floor.” Finally, four guards arrived – and watched. Struggling to his feet, Javed begged for help, and at last the officers stopped the beating. Javed was put into solitary confinement and eventually released on $5,000 bail. He is now so traumatized he is afraid to appear in public. “I’ve never felt this way,” he told NEWSWEEK. “I go out and worry if someone is looking at me funny. If I see a police officer, I wonder if he is going to say something to me, question me.”
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