Choice: Act against the Father

Despite the trauma of his father’s violent and hateful thinking, Chuck Ebrahim grew up to be a pacifist fighter. This article is taken from his book The Terrorists Son.

November 5, 1990, Cliffsud Park, NJ

My mother woke me up from a deep sleep in my bed. “Something happened,” she said.

I was only 7 years old and a chubby kid. I was used to being woken up to pray before dawn, but it was always my father who did it. Mother never cares.

At 11 o’clock that night, my father had not yet come home, and lately he had been staying late at the mosque in Jersey City. But he was my dad after all—a warm, funny, kind of guy who liked me a lot. Just that morning, he was trying to teach me how to tie my shoelaces. Did something happen to him? Are you injured? Still dead? I can’t figure it out because I’m so scared.

The mother then spread a white, cloud-like mushroom sheet on the floor. “Look at me, Chuck,” she said. At this point, her entire face was so deformed with anxiety that I could hardly recognize her. “Hurry up and put on your clothes, put the things you need in the sheet, and wrap them up, OK? Your sister will help you.” After the mother said, she walked towards the door.

“Wait,” was the first word I spit out. “What should I pack in the sheet?”

I am a good boy, usually shy and submissive.

My mother stopped, stared at me, and said, “Take whatever you can, I don’t know if we’ll be back.”

She turned and walked out.

After wrapping up some clothes, I walked quietly to the living room with my sister and brother. The mother was on the phone with her father’s cousin, Uncle Ibrahim, who lived in Brooklyn, and she sounded excited. The TV in the living room was playing the news. My mother found out that we were watching TV, so she hurriedly turned off the TV. As soon as the call to Uncle Ibrahim was hung up, the phone rang.

The call came from a friend of my father’s, from the mosque, trying to find my father. “He’s not at home,” said the mother.

The phone had just been hung up when the phone rang again. This time I don’t know who is calling. I just heard my mother say, “Really? We were asked? The police?”

I lay on the carpet in the living room and gradually dozed off. But after a while, he was awakened by the noise. All the things to take away were piled up at the door. Mother paced anxiously around, taking her own pulse with her hands. She has the birth certificates of all our children, and if anyone comes to check, she can prove that she is the mother of these children. My father, El Saeed Nosal, was born in Egypt, but my mother is American and born in Pittsburgh. She was called Karen Mills before she became a Muslim—that is, before she was named Khadija Nosal.

“Your uncle Ibrahim is coming to help us move.” My mother looked at me as I sat up rubbing my eyes.

In fact, the mother did not say what happened. And here’s what happened: In the conference hall of the Marriott International Hotel in New York City, the founder of the Jewish Defense League, the radical Rabbi Mel Kahani, was shot by an Arab gunman after a speech, another elderly man His leg was also injured. The gunman fled the scene and rushed into a taxi parked in front of the hotel, then jumped out and ran down the street with a gun. A U.S. Postal Police officer happened to pass by and saw the scene and exchanged fire with the gunman. The gunman fell on the street after being shot. Television news reporters at the scene captured some brutal details: the Jewish speaker who was shot and the Arab gunman were both shot in the neck. Both of them looked like they couldn’t survive.

At this time, various TV stations continue to report the latest developments on the scene. An hour ago, while my sister, brother and I were still dozing off, my mother had just heard the name of Mer Kaani on the TV and looked up at the continuous footage of the Arab gunmen on the screen. She was shocked. Yes – this shooter is my father.

Gunman Nosal was rescued, but Kahani died. Nosal, who is awaiting trial at New York’s Adica State Prison, maintains his innocence, a belief strongly believed by his wife and children. During this time, U.S. federal agents searched Nosal’s home, and the Arabic documents obtained from the home took years to translate alone. At the same time, bin Laden, who was unknown in the world at the time, became one of those who paid Nosal’s legal fees. In 1991, a jury acquitted Nosal of murder. He was sentenced to seven to 22 years in prison for illegal possession of weapons and other charges. The Nosal family lived in poverty and homelessness after several years of death threats. Sadly, Nosal’s career as a terrorist was not over.

February 26, 1993, Jersey City, NJ

I’m turning 10 this year and I’ve been bullied by my classmates at school for several years. I can’t claim it just because of who my father was. I seem like a magnet for abuse. For some reason, I have spent my entire life clarifying this issue. For example, in the most recent personal attack, someone suddenly slammed my head into the box while I was opening the storage box, and ran away quickly. Whenever this kind of incident happened, the principal always said that there would be “punishment on both sides”, so both me and the person who hit the person would be locked up. Fear and anger have been lingering in my heart. It’s Friday, and my mother told me to stay home and not go to school to dispel the sullenness that has accumulated in my stomach.

I was sitting on the couch watching a video on TV when, suddenly, an image of important news popped up: an explosion in the basement of the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City. Various police officers from federal law enforcement agencies have gathered at the scene. The first news came that the transformer had exploded and the destroyed site was a mess.

Soon, however, FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) agents cleared the site of the bombing. They disproved the transformer explosion theory after discovering the remains of a van, and concluded that the explosion was caused by explosives carried by a car. FBI agents tracked down the van and tracked down Mohammad Salami, a courier who had promised to marry my sister when she was of marriageable age. On March 4, Salami was arrested when he went to the rental car company claiming that the car had been stolen and demanded the return of the $400 deposit. In the following months, the entire American society was astonished at the terrorist acts taking place in the country, and at the same time, it was deeply dissatisfied with the failure of the relevant departments of the federal government to give early warning.

The startling facts emerged: My father was in prison planning the attack, then using the visitors to pass the plan on to the executors outside. According to federal intelligence, among the co-conspirators of the operation was the so-called “Blind Sheikh”, namely Sheikh Omar Abdul Rahman. This man, an old friend of my father’s, not only supported the implementation of the “World Trade Center” bombing plan, but also planned a much larger operation himself: if his plan was actually implemented, in the United Nations headquarters in New York City, the Lincoln Tunnel, the Holland Tunnel , the Washington Bridge and the FBI’s offices in New York City (the federal government’s offices in New York City are all in one building) will explode in a series of bombs within 10 minutes.

The actual organizer of the 1993 “World Trade Center” bombing was Kuwaiti-born Ramzi Youssef. The man studied electrical engineering in Wales, England, and later went to a terrorist training base in Pakistan to make bombs. He was detained on entering the United States using a forged Iraqi passport, and then applied for political asylum by falsely claiming to have been jailed in his country of origin. A court set a hearing date for him.

Because the detention facility where Yusuf was being held was overwhelmed, he was released on bail and was temporarily living in New Jersey. There, he and his accomplices collected the materials and components needed to make the bomb. Ramzi Yusuf fled the United States just hours after the World Trade Center bombing.

I wish I could do more to honor the 6 victims of the World Trade Center bombing than to just list their names here, of course if I didn’t do even that, I would Ashamed: Robert Kirkpatrick, William Marko, and Steffen Knapp were all three maintenance managers for the “World Trade Center” building. They were having lunch together when the explosion happened. Monica Rodriguez-Smith, a seven-month-pregnant female secretary, was working on documents when the explosion occurred. Wilfredo McAdor was working in the display window of a restaurant in the “World Trade Center” as he checked the arrivals. John DiCiovani, a sales rep selling dental instruments, was parking his car in an underground garage.

By the fall of 1995, the federal government had finally translated 47 boxes of documents seized from my house at the time of the Kahani assassination, confirming that the assassination was part of a conspiracy. My father was then tried again as a murderer and co-conspirator in the “World Trade Center” bombing.

My father still maintains his innocence, which I believe because I was only 12 years old. My mother has been skeptical. Every time I went to visit, my father always scolded my mother loudly, and asked her to write to the judge, asking her to call Pakistan and ask her to go to the Egyptian embassy for help. “Have you written these questions down?” he asked commandingly. The mother always responded with silence on such occasions.

On October 1, the father was found guilty of 48 counts along with “Blind Sheikh” and eight other accomplices. His sentence was life in prison with no possibility of parole for 15 years. Killing the fetus in Monica Rodriguez’s womb is also part of the sentencing calculation.

After the new round of sentencing, we visited my father once at the “Metropolitan Correctional Center” in New York. The mother fears the future fate of herself and her children. Even now, my father has not admitted his guilt. When the father wanted to hug the mother, the mother ducked, it was the first time she had done such a move. For years, our mother tried to comfort us that our father loved us. But she will never forget that it was after that visit that she had lost all hope of my father.

My father was transferred to several of the highest security prisons in the United States for a phased sentence. Even if our family wanted to visit the prison, we couldn’t afford to travel. My mother couldn’t even pay for the “collect call” from my father. I’m actually not reluctant to talk to him because he’s always going to nag like, “Are you praying these days? Are you causing trouble for mom?” And what I want to ask him is, “Dad, Are you doing this to Mommy? You know she’s crying all day?” But I didn’t dare to ask him these words out of fear. So I had a pointless conversation with my dad, always wrapping the phone line around my hand because I just wanted to end the conversation.

Mother also wanted to stop this conversation, she filed for divorce. We all changed our last names.

That was the last time our family saw our father.

After several moves in the United States over the years, and even a brief stint in Egypt, the family moved to Tampa, Florida. Chuck got a job at a theme park when he was 18. The young man made a lot of friends during this period, and got along well with these people from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds, benefiting a lot.

The road to peace in life

I spent all my energy trying to understand what made my father embrace terrorism, and I struggled mentally with his blood running through my veins. For many years, I have buried in my heart his terrorist acts. I was suffering from fear, anger and self-loathing that I couldn’t understand and couldn’t get rid of.

Now I understand that cruel hatred exists because people are misled — not just misled, but indoctrinated. It’s not a naturally occurring phenomenon, it’s enforced with a lie. It’s a form of indoctrination with lies and deceit over and over again. Those who deny that the world is changing without a source of information are especially fooled. My father was the one who believed this lie and at one point tried to instill in me that it was only because I was incarcerated that I couldn’t influence my mind with hatred. He couldn’t stop me from keeping up with the people he’d demonized, nor could he stop me from realizing that they were good human beings — people I should care about and they care about me. Blind obedience and prejudice cannot prevail over human experience. My worldview rejects ignorant knowledge.

My mother’s faith in Islam never wavered, but she’s not a fanatic like most Muslims. When I was 18, I told her that I would no longer judge people based on whether they were Muslim, Jewish, Christian, gay or straight… I would judge myself based on who they were. My mother agreed and said the most powerful statement I’ve ever heard in my life: “I’m sick and tired of hating people.”

Everyone has their own choices, even if someone feeds you hateful thoughts, you can still choose to tolerate and choose to sympathize. Frankly, I still have some thoughts about my father, some pity and guilt about some unbroken connection between us. It’s almost unimaginable how the man I used to call “Dad”, now living in prison, feels when he learns that we’ve all changed names that have been associated with terror and shame.

I occasionally receive official emails from a federal prison in Marion, Illinois, that my father wants to communicate with us. However I understand that this does not lead to good results.

Kahani’s assassination wasn’t just hate, it was an outright murder. My father tried to intimidate the Jews, shut up their leaders, and present the so-called glory to Allah. What he did, however, was to throw shame and guilt on all Muslims and incite more worthless and despicable acts of violence.

The good thing about cutting the word with my dad is that I don’t have to hear his brash talk about the evil 9/11. He must see the destruction of the twin towers of the “World Trade Center” as a great victory – even as his own assassination, the evil plan of the “Blind Sheikh” and the man made by Ramzi Yusuf and others years ago. The pinnacle of the subsequent “career” of the bombing.

In April 2012, I had a fantastic experience speaking to hundreds of federal government agents and staff. At that time, a department of the federal government wanted to establish harmonious social relations with Muslim groups. A person in charge of this work invited me to speak when he learned that I was advocating for peace and understanding at his son’s school in order to eliminate hatred and conflict between religions and nations. I was both honored and nervous after getting the information, so I did some preparation in advance. In the speech, I told my story one by one, and I used my experience to prove to the world and society that it is possible to say “no” to those who promote hatred and violence, and the most feasible way is to use Peaceful and negotiated means to deal with all difficulties.

After my speech, a group of agents and staff lined up to shake hands with me. The first few people held my hand tightly and said sweet words, and the third woman even sobbed.

“You may not remember me, I was one of the staff on your father’s case,” she pauses embarrassingly, and my heart rises. “I never knew the fate of Nosal’s sons and daughters,” she continued. “My greatest fear is that you will go down your father’s path.”

I am proud of the path I have chosen. I believe my attitude can represent my brothers and sisters. Rejecting my father’s extremist stance both saved us and made our lives more valuable.

Finally, to answer the staff member’s question, I told the community again that the solemn decision of the children of El-Saïd-Nosal is that we will never be his followers again.

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