Voices from the Inside

Is being a Muslim a capital crime in Ohio?

By: Siddique Abdullah Hasan

In the aftermath of the 1993 Lucasville prison uprising, the state of Ohio was under enormous political pressure to bring to justice the perpetrators of certain violent crimes, especially the senseless murder of prison guard Robert Vallandingham.

With not a single soul coming forth with any concrete information, and being faced with the humongous task of having to investigate the largest crime scene in its history, the state of Ohio did the unthinkable--it fabricated evidence and repeatedly utilized perjured testimony to obtain convictions, notwithstanding the law and disciplinary rules which prohibit attorneys from using fraudulent, false or perjured testimony or evidence.

I am one of those innocent prisoners apprehended in the state's diabolical scheme. Why? Because of my leadership role within the Islamic community, as well as the fact that I was an outspoken critic of the oppressive prison conditions and policies, the state sought to make me its prime scapegoat. Thus, I became the phantom "ringleader" of the uprising, although there's ample evidence to the contrary--most notably, an audiotape.

There is no doubt that the effort to create the impression that I was the person responsible for the uprising and the death of the guard comes from the state's fear and hatred of my religion. This became evident when, during the course of my trial in Cincinnati (a city notorious for its racism), the state repeatedly focused on my race, religion and Islamic attire--all to create an atmosphere of racial prejudice and Islamophobia before a predominately white and Catholic jury.

To fully understand why I became the prime scapegoat, one has to understand what inadvertently prompted the uprising. Well, to set the record straight, there was never any intent to have an uprising. Instead, there was only a plan to have a peaceful protest against the Mantoux tuberculin test--a TB test which contains phenol, an alcoholic substance that is prohibited for Muslims to have injected into their forearm.

Rather than trying to work out reasonable compromises and accommodations of our religious needs, the prison warden was dead-set on forcing us to engage in conduct which was contrary to our religious beliefs and teachings.

While I will concede that the TB test was the last straw which broke the camel's back, the inhumane treatment and the long train of abuses are what induced some non-Muslims to seize the opportunity to instantaneously convert a peaceful protest into a full-scale rebellion. I cannot, and will not, concede that Muslims were responsible for non-Muslims' actions; however, the state feels otherwise. But I can assure you, I committed no crimes, unless being a Muslim in a non-Muslim society is a crime.

My conviction and the death sentence being imposed upon me is a direct result of perjured testimony. Likewise, my conviction and death sentence is a direct result of the state's desire to take away our right to practice our religion.

It is easier to attack someone you do not understand. The fear of the unknown is widespread and contagious; yet, if those who are different--who engage in practices the majority do not fully understand--cannot be protected, then no one can. I believed that the United States was a nation of laws; moreover, I believed that those laws were for everyone, not just a few. Such is obviously not the case.

If this gross miscarriage of justice can happen to me, it can happen to anyone. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." 

Siddique Abdullah Hasan #R130-559
Ohio State Penitentiary
878 Coitsville-Hubbard Rd
Youngstown, OH44505-4635

To learn more about Hasan's case, go to www.freehasan.org. To learn about the Lucasville uprising, read Staughton Lynd's book, Lucasville: The Untold Story of a Prison Uprising. It can be purchased for $20 from the Free Siddique Abdullah Hasan Coalition, P.O. Box 20011, Toledo, OH 43610. Shipping and handling is already included in this price.