Friday, December 21, 2012

Javed Iqbal

Javed Iqbal was a Staten Island businessman who sold satellite television services. One of the television stations he offered his customers was Al Manar. Al Manar is the Arabic-language television channel of Hezbollah, a militant organization that is considered a terrorist organization by the US government. For offering Al Manar to his customers, Javed Iqbal was sentenced in April 2009 to 5 years and 9 months in prison. The sentence resulted from a plea deal in December 2008 where Javed Iqbal pled guilty to one count of providing material support to a terrorist organization. Javed’s lawyer says that Javed also offered his customers access to Christian broadcasting and adult entertainment (porn) channels, hardly what you would expect of a Muslim extremist. 

A federal prosecutor in the case said that Hezbollah used the channel to recruit members and suicide bombers and raise money for weapons and operations. Al Manar has also been accused of inciting violence. If these claims are true, and I believe they are, then the US government has a legitimate reason to ban Al Manar. However, I don’t speak Arabic myself, so I cannot be completely sure.
Nonetheless, a satellite service provider should not be punished with jail time, let alone over 5 years, for offering the TV channel to his customers. The government should have asked Javed Iqbal to stop offering the channel and if he refused, he should have been fined. If he was still defiant, the government could have revoked his business license. But to take away 5 years of someone’s life for providing his customers access to Al Manar, a channel they wanted to watch, is inexcusable.

POSTSCRIPT: Decide for yourself if you think Al Manar should be banned. Here is an editorial arguing in favor of banning Al Manar. Here is an editorial arguing against banning Al Manar. NPR did a story on this case with a member of the ACLU and a person supporting the banning of Al Manar. Wikipedia has a entry on the TV channel. Here is a link to the English-language hompage of Al Manar News. The Arabic-language TV channel is available online.

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