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Aafia Siddiqui: nothing more to al-Qaeda than a recruiting tool

So Ayman al-Zawahiri has decided that it was time for al-Qaeda to take up the cause of Aafia Siddiqui. Thanks a lot for this timely endorsement.

Aafia was dragged from the streets of Karachi with her three small children in 2003. Not a sound from these defenders of Islam.

Persistant rumors about the "Grey Lady of Bagram" began in 2006 and still the silence was deafening.

Dr. Aafia reappeared in 2008 with a story that would have made Franz Kafka proud. Al-Qaeda chose to remain mute.

An American jury convicted her after a three week trial in February 2010. Again, no reaction from al-Qaeda.

Now, nearly two months after an American judge sentenced Aafia Siddiqui to eighty-six years imprisonment Ayman al-Zawahiri finally notices that there might be some benefit in climbing onto the bandwagon. Does he have any words of consolation for Aafia, her children, her brother, her sister, their mother? No, all he had were tired cliches of Jihad! Kill! Revenge! Destroy! It seems that Aafia is nothing more to al-Qaeda than a recruiting tool.

At her sentencing hearing Aafia specifically asked that no violence be done in her name. Her brother, her sister and their mother have repeatedly told me over the years that they did not want people killing or dying in Aafia's name. Since her kidnapping in 2003 the family has maintained that all they want is the return of Aafia and her children.

In the years following the kidnappings the Siddiqui family and a small band of supporters have managed to recover two of the children. They forced Aafia's captors to move her from a secret prison in Afghanistan where she was subjected to torture to a public venue where they have to justify holding her through the American courts and treat her according to American law.

The Siddiqui family and that small band of supporters have done this without killing anyone, without hurting anyone, without violence. Consider al-Qaeda's decade and a half of mayhem and murder and tell me that they have come as close to achieving their goals.

That al-Qaeda has only now raised its voice in Aafia's defense indicates that it is afraid her calls for calmness, non-violence, and forgiveness may resonate farther and more effectively than their never ending demands for bloodshed and destruction.

Ayman al-Zawahiri with his al-Qaeda endorsement sounds like a third rate politician trying to hop onto Aafia's boat after it has sailed, standing on the pier waving and shouting that we should be following him. If any of us choose to look backwards we might be inclined to wave goodbye.

Andrew Purcell

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