According to court documents and corroborated by the Felony Division of the Lake County Clerk’s office, former CAIR-Florida representative, Ahmad Saleem, has pled “not guilty” to two charges stemming from his arrest for attempting to have sex with a twelve-year-old girl last month. Now, the question is what will be the excuse(s) for his actions.
On May 20, 2015, Orlando resident Ahmad Abrar Saleem traveled to a house in Clermont, Florida with the intent to have sex with a twelve-year-old girl he had chatted with online. Upon opening the door of the home, instead of finding the girl, though, he found a number of police investigators who quickly brought him to the ground and proceeded to arrest him.
Two days following the arrest, someone put up $100,000 ($50,000 for each charge) to bond Saleem out of prison. Since then, Saleem has been free, awaiting his felony arraignment. Within that time, Saleem had hired a private attorney, who got Saleem’s arraignment moved from the original date of June 15th to June 29th and who entered a written plea of “not guilty.”
The state of Florida defines a plea of “not guilty” as “a denial of every material allegation in the indictment or information on which the defendant is to be tried.” To this effect, Saleem’s attorney, Orlando lawyer Robert I. Mandell, has “demanded” discovery, disclosure of evidence “favorable to the defendant,” and disclosure of criminal records.
One might wonder how Saleem could plead “not guilty,” when the charges against him seem awfully specific and severe and probably have significant evidence to back them up. The two charges against Saleem are as follows: 1. Use of computer to seduce/solicit/entice a child to commit sex act; 2. Travel to seduce, solicit, lure a child to commit sex act.
Presumably, the police have video footage of Saleem entering the Clermont property and transcripts of the Internet conversations Saleem had with the officer, who was posing as the twelve-year-old. To say the incidents did not happen would be near impossible. So he will have to come up with some kind of excuse to offset reality, and considering that he was recently a leader in CAIR, doing so shouldn’t be a problem.
He could say that his state of mind was off, during these events. However, “depression” or “insanity” is most probably an excuse that many of the individuals in his situation resort to, and judges are probably hip to this explanation by now. He could cry "Islamophobia," but being that he may be the only Muslim caught up in the sting, that probably wouldn’t fly with the court either. He could also claim entrapment, making himself out to be the victim and the police, who arrested and surveilled him, the criminals, though this too would be a tough sell for a judge.
No, in this instance, he may have to get creative, and one way to be creative is to admit to the actions but deny any wrongdoing.
He could make the claim that he was not aware of the fact that what he was doing was unethical or illegal. He could claim that he grew up in a closed environment – a closed fundamentalist environment – which taught that such things were acceptable and considered a part of cultural norms.
His involvement with Islamist groups, such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), where he served as CAIR-Orlando Regional Coordinator; the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), where he was a lecturer; and the Muslim Students Association (MSA), where he served as president of his university chapter would lend credence to this.
Further, Saleem could bring up the fact that both his parents are immigrants from Pakistan, where child marriage is condoned and a subculture exists based around (forced) sex with underage girls ("child grooming"). Indeed, having intercourse with girls under age ten is completely justified within Islamic theology.
There is precedent to this line of defense.
In January 2013, Adil Rashid, an 18-year-old Muslim male from Birmingham, England, who had raped a 13-year-old girl he had met on Facebook, was spared any jail time by a judge, after stating he was unaware that what he was doing was wrong. For two months, Rashid and the girl chatted on Facebook and via phone and text messages. Soon, they spent two hours in a Nottingham, England budget hotel room, which Rashid had booked, having sex.
Rashid claimed that he was reluctant to have sex, but the 13-year-old had “tempted” him. He said that he had been taught at his Islamic school that “women are no more worthy than a lollipop that has been dropped on the ground.” He said that he had only become aware that what he had done was illegal, when he had spoken with a family member, following the incident. He said that his schooling had left him ignorant of women and ignorant about British law.
Prior to this, cases heard in Nottingham Crown Court had usually resulted in four to seven-year prison sentences. However, the judge in this case handed Rashid a suspended sentence, saying: “Although chronologically 18, it is quite clear from the reports that you are very naive and immature when it comes to sexual matters.” The judge said Rashid had been “passive” and “lacking assertiveness” and that sending him to jail might cause him “more damage than good.”
Of course, this author does not wish for any decision made by the court on the case of Ahmad Saleem to be based on that of Adil Rashid. Any decision should be based on Saleem’s choices, not on an excuse about what led up to those choices.
Regardless of Saleem’s plea and regardless of Saleem’s strategy, what could be understood by all is the fact that no one forced Saleem to discuss sex online with a twelve-year-old girl. It was his choice. As well, no one forced Saleem to get in a car, on the night of May 20, 2015, and drive a distance to a stranger’s house for the purpose of having sex with a twelve-year-old girl. From his Orlando residence, the drive would have been over half-an-hour.
These were choices made by Saleem and Saleem only, just like when he made the choice to get involved with Islamist groups – those connected to terrorism – like CAIR and ICNA. No one forced him to do those things, both of which are indicative of a sociopathic mindset.
In the end, Ahmad Saleem will be known – and most likely judged – by the bad choices he made.
And hopefully, he will be thinking about them for a long time behind bars.
Beila Rabinowitz, Director of Militant Islam Monitor, contributed to this report.
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