Farouk Abdel-Muhti was a political prisoner, a freedom fighter, a revolutionary, and a political activist who dedicated his life to the question of Palestine and to the attainment of legitimate political rights and independent statehood for the Palestinians. Farouk was at an Anti-War Forum at the Philadelphia Ethical Society, hosted by an assortment of human rights groups gathered together in their opposition to political detentions in the United States and on the repercussions of the post-September 11th government policies on immigrants, on the night he died, July 21, 2004. He had just finished delivering an inspirational speech and message to the progressive community, whom he deemed responsible for his release from immigration detention, when his fatal heart attack struck him. Farouk was pronounced dead less than two hours later at Jefferson Hospital in Philadelphia, around 10 pm.
Farouk was a stateless Palestinian, who came to the attention of Immigration authorities earlier in his life, but more intensely after September 11th, 2001, when he began speaking out fervently for the rights of Arabs and Muslims in the United States and for the rights of his people, the Palestinians, who came under severe attack in Israel after the so called “War on Terror” had begun in the United States, and the Bush Administration turned a blind eye to Ariel Sharon’s brutal policies against the Palestinian People, which were intensified during this period.
Farouk was picked up by the Absconder Task Force in New York at his home, on April 26th, 2002, about one month after he began broadcasts on WBAI, a progressive Pacifica radio station based in New York City, in a program which exposed the plight of the Palestinian People, and the brutality being waged against them by the Sharon Government in Israel. He spent the next two years in nine different jails throughout New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, including eight months and ten days in solitary confinement in York, PA, as punishment for his political activism. It was during this period that Farouk’s health deteriorated, mainly due to the stress put upon his body by the constant moves, mistreatment, beatings and withholding of thyroid and hypertension medication from him by prison officials and guards.
Farouk was never charged with a crime. He was finally ordered released on April 9th, 2004 by Federal District Judge Yvette Kane of Pennsylvania, who ruled that the government’s holding of Farouk was unconstitutional. Farouk fought for social justice for all oppressed peoples, including African Americans in the United States, and indigenous peoples all over the world, throughout much of his life. He embraced the struggles of people in Latin America, Cuba, Puerto Rico (around the issue of Vieques), Palestine, and those of all others deprived of their fundamental economic, social, civil, political, and human rights.
Farouk brought many progressive groups in the United States together around the ideas of human rights, workers’ rights and social justice, linking all of these to the struggle for legitimate political rights and independent statehood in Palestine.
Farouk believed in the extension of rights and justice to all peoples. He was a revolutionary who believed in legitimate resistance to occupation and political repression, wherever it is found, but who condemned terrorism, including the state terrorism waged by states such as Israel against the Palestinian people and the American occupation against the Iraqi people. Farouk always reiterated that he and his people were victims of terrorism at the hands of the current Israeli Government and previous administrations, who had occupied his land and denied himself and other Palestinians the right to return to their country, in spite of United Nations Security Council Resolution 194 and other resolutions signed onto by the United States and recognized as legally binding by the international community. Farouk condemned terrorism against civilian populations in all forms, however, both in the United States and abroad.
Farouk was fervently anti-imperialist, but not anti-American, even though the current US Administration under George W. Bush denied him his freedom and his rights, and even tried to deny him his dignity by imprisoning him without charges, by withholding medication from him, and by holding him in solitary confinement for more than eight months. But this did not stop Farouk's dedication to his work and to the just causes he embraced, namely justice and rights for Palestinians and oppressed peoples all over the world.
Farouk considered America to be his home and New York to be his city. He considered himself and his Palestinian community to be integral members of American society, and as such, a part of the fabric of this society.
Farouk was Anti-Zionist, but not Anti-Jewish. He worked with progressive Jewish groups in the New York area around the question of Palestine, and encouraged all groups to work together on this and other issues of social justice and equality everywhere. He was against racism and oppression in all its forms.
Farouk brought many diverse groups, peoples and struggles together, from the Left, the workers, socialists, liberals, anarchists, those embracing African-American struggles, Latin American struggles, and the struggles of indigenous peoples around the world, in addition to the struggles of his own people for political, social and human rights, justice, and equality. He was exemplary for exposing the true situation of the Palestinian People to the oftentimes uninformed North American public. He never attempted to gain recognition for himself, but always utilized his growing popularity as a platform to speak about and expose the plight of his people, the Palestinians, and others.
Farouk did amazing work and accomplished a great deal in his life, even while imprisoned. He mobilized many inmates together during this time, and took up their concerns and legal problems as his own. His selfless and tireless commitment to human rights should be held up as a model to all of us. We were all honored to have known this man.
His passing is a great loss to the New York City progressive community, and to all those who believe in social justice, human rights, and equality for all peoples. He will be missed immensely however; we must carry on his work to the best of our abilities, in order to adequately honor the life and work of this great man, who will not be forgotten.