Rounded Up, written from a Muslim-American’s perspective, is a thoroughly researched, well-documented, inside view of the Albany case from its beginning in 2003, to the FBI raid of the mosque and the men’s arrests in 2004, through the 2006 trial, to its tragic end in 2007 with the sentencing of Imam Yassin Aref and Mohammed Hossain, the two Muslims convicted of aiding terrorism who are now each serving 15 years in federal prison.
In Rounded Up, Ahmad and Aref’s volunteer attorney, Steve Downs, who wrote the book’s foreword, leave no doubt that the case was a frame-up designed to advance the post-9/11 “war on terror” and intimidate the Muslim community. To support this conclusion, Ahmad offers inside information about the evidence that has never before been made public. In addition, direct transcriptions of many of the sting tapes used to prosecute the men appear at the end of the book. Most of these conversations were never entered as evidence in court or released to the public, and they allow the reader to “hear” the defendants interacting with the government informant as the deception evolved over a year.
While Yassin Aref’s 2008 memoir, Son of Mountains, details his own experiences both before and after the trial, it is not about the case per se. Rounded Up is the only comprehensive account of the Albany case available to date, and there is only one other book on the market about a domestic terrorism case itself. Thus Rounded Up is an important contribution to the new body of literature about the government’s preemptive prosecution of Muslims in America. An ironic twist is that the same government informant used in the Aref-Hossain case was also used in the June 2009 arrests of four men in Newburgh, New York on charges of plotting a terrorist missile attack––a plot very similar to Albany’s sting. That case has not yet gone to trial.
Ahmad is a physics professor at the University at Albany, and the 2007 recipient of the Jim Perry Progressive Leadership Award from Citizen Action of the Capital District. He has dedicated Rounded Up to the Muslim Solidarity Committee, the citizen advocacy group formed in 2006 after the convictions, which continues to support the two defendants and their families and keep the case alive in the community. In the closing chapters of Rounded Up, Ahmad contends that this activism played a significant role in the men’s sentencing by convincing the judge to halve their recommended prison terms, and in establishing “watchdog” status for other such Muslim “terror” cases nationwide.
Rounded Up is available for sale in local bookstores and online at both Amazon.com and the Troy Book Makers. All proceeds from the sale of the book will go to the Aref Education Fund, established by the author for the educational needs of Yassin Aref’s four children. Shamshad Ahmad and Steve Downs are available for interviews. Book reviews are also requested.