Wednesday September 15, Luther’s Center for Ethics and Public Engagement (CEPE) hosted a Zoom talk given by former US Army Chaplain James Yee titled “Torture and Terror at Guantanamo Bay: A Muslim Chaplain’s First-Hand Account of Human Rights Violations in the United States After 9/11.” “ This event was part of the “Never Forget: 9/11 and the Ethics of Remembrance” lecture series, which calls into question exactly who and what people are supposed to remember on 9/11.
Yee worked at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp as one of the first Muslim chaplains the American army. Yee then spoke about his experience of being accused and jailed by the US military for 76 days out costs espionage, espionage, aid to the enemy, mutiny and sedition. During the conference, Yee explained how being in prison affected his religious faith, and his faith in the nation.
“Two days before I was secretly arrested, I had received the best officer appraisal report I have ever had. received throughout my military career, ”Yee said. “My faith has certainly been affected. It was my faith I relied on to get through the worst times, because there were times when I didn’t have anybody. I couldn’t really talk to my lawyer, and I wasn’t really allowed to open phone calls. I couldn’t have contact with my family. I think I’m in the same situation [of the prisoners in Guantanamo Bay] where I have no rights. When you have no rights, who knows if you will never be seen again. It was heartbreaking for me.
Associate Professor of Religion Todd Green was the acting director of CEPE when the lecture series was planned. Green explained that Yee was chosen to speak because he had a unique perspective on the aftermath of 9/11, a perspective that the Decorah and Luther communities would generally not be exposed to.
“Perhaps those who are able to engage with Yee will be able to reshape the way they think about future events when the United States contemplates military action or there is an act of terrorism,” said Green. “I hope the public will think more deeply about the pitfalls
and the dangers arise when the United States government or its military responds brutally to a terrorist attack.
CEPE director and history teacher Victoria Christman explained why she thinks events like this are so important to the Luther community.
“The whole 9/11 commemoration is interesting on a college campus because none of the students remember it,” Christman said. “There are a lot of legal – constitutional, in a way – changes that have taken place in our country in the aftermath of 9/11 that are completely normal for students who were not living before that. I think it’s important to consider the infrastructure we’ve built around how we deal with terrorism suspects and how we interact differently with our Muslim neighbors as a result of this event. I think this is still worth discussing 20 years later.
The “9/11 and Ethics of Remembrance” lecture series will continue in Luther in October. On September 14, the art exhibition “Landscape and Seascape: Escape from Prison through Art” was installed outside the Hovde Room of the Preus Library. This is a series of paintings and poems by artist Wali, and will be open until October 15, 2021. There will also be a concert commemorating September 11 on October 31.
A recording of Yee’s lecture is available on the Luther events page.