Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Chelsea Manning vs. Noor Zahi Salman

President Obama will commute the sentence of Chelsea Manning. I'm a little conflicted hearing that, because it comes on the heels of the news that Noor Zahi Salman, the wife of the Orlando shooter, will be prosecuted.

On one hand, maximum security prison as a trans woman would be more dangerous for Manning than many others, and she's served seven years already. In principle, I'm against a justice system which is all about punishment with no chance of rehabilitation.

But also. Also, also, ALSO.

Chelsea Manning is a white woman and a veteran who acted independently. While history suggests that some good came of her information leaks, she also endangered lives. She took her actions of her own free will, knowing full well what she was doing. She clearly believed enough in her cause to do so despite the consequences.

She gets clemency.

Noor Zahi Salman is a Muslim woman who claims to have been unaware of her husband's plans for the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. 49 people were killed and 53 were injured. The Pulse massacre was the deadliest terrorist attack since 9/11, the deadliest LGBTQ+ hate crime in American history, and the deadliest massacre by a single shooter in American history. Noor Salman did not fire a single shot in this massacre, but she has been charged under anti-terrorism laws.

Salman was allegedly in an abusive marriage and feared for her safety if she did not obey her husband. This story is supported by the fact that the shooter viciously beat his previous wife as well. Even if she did know or suspect what her husband planned, she was likely coerced into whatever actions she did or did not take.

She gets prosecuted.

The Orlando police chief has also said that he's "glad" she was arrested, because at least now someone will be prosecuted for the crime. In other words: the shooter is dead, but we still need someone to blame. Is this about justice, or vengeance? Finding the truth, or making ourselves feel better?

Additionally, the government has been trying to extend the definition of "material aid and comfort" for a while. If they succeed in prosecuting Salman, we could see those definitions stretch. It's hard not to see this as a witch hunt -- another symptom of Islamophobia in society generally and within a government which has engaged in systemic persecution of Muslims. I can't be happy about Chelsea Manning being pardoned by the Obama administration when I'm reading about the upcoming trial of Noor Salman under the Trump administration.

She does not deserve this. And I wish people would get as mad about this as they did about Chelsea Manning. I'm hearing liberals up and down the aisle voice their opinions about the Manning decision -- good, bad, neutral, and mixed. I wish more people were talking about Salman the same way.


  1. Wow I had no idea about this and I bet I'm not the only one who had no idea Noor was being prosecuted. For me this does not take away from Chelsea's release as I've heard too many stories of wives and girlfriends getting prosecuted in crimes that their other half died in committing or trying to escape. This is more gender prejudice to me that Islamophobia. The women I recall come from all backgrounds and races. It is sad that women are still considered the half of reason to the point that they must prevent men from doing wrong and simultaneously paying the price when men do what they want. It is a ridiculous structure that needs to be torn to shreds.

    1. You have a good point! I didn't consider that. But now you mention it, there was a wife of a serial killer who was forced to leave town because no one believed she didn't know about her husband. I think realistically, people are very good at hiding things from each other. Apparently she knew he watched propaganda videos online, but even so, that's not an indication that he's going to DO something. He bought ammo, but so many people in America have a gun that that means nothing as a warning sign either. I think it may have something to do with people believing she should have had "a woman's intuition," but like you said, that's an outdated way of thinking.

      I think this signaled Islamophobia more than gender to me because politicians have a terrible habit of only evoking the defense of LGBT+ rights when it excuses Islamophobia, such as to justify American military intervention abroad, oppression of American Muslims, and a platform denying entry to Muslim immigrants. Donald Trump did this in his convention speech (even though he is anti-LGBT rights in almost every other area). Meanwhile, LGBT+ activists have sought Manning's release because her imprisonment was inhumane and she was in danger. Manning's also white, pretty, a veteran, and something of a "principled rebel" in her actions, so she's received a lot of sympathy. In Noor Salman's case, a hate crime against one group is, I believe, being used to persecute a likely innocent woman. I'm still glad Manning doesn't have to suffer in prison anymore, but the news came one after the other and kind of soured the entire thing for me, I think.


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