From Sara and Tom Spencer (CEO of Austin Area Interreligious Ministries) on Behalf of Safdar Razi

Posted on April 8, 2008 by Sara Hickman. | 1 Comment

Many of you will remember that I am on the Board of Directors for one of the most amazing groups I have ever had the privilege of which to truly serve. AAIM (Austin Area Interreligious Ministries) seeks to bring understanding and peace among diverse religious groups. I am deeply honored to serve with people of Jewish, Buddhist, Sikh, Hindu, Christian, Baha’i, Muslim and many other amazing faiths. As I posted yesterday, one of our board members alerted us to the fact that Safdar Razi, a Muslim, is being held in detention by U.S. officials with no apparent cause.

Following you will find a letter from our new CEO, Tom Spencer, explaining what he has discovered about Mr. Razi, and Tom’s letter to senators Hutchinson and Cornyn and represenative McCaul.
I will do my best to continue to update you as to Mr. Razi’s whereabouts and the actions being taken to reinstate his liberties.


Dear friends,

Below you will find a copy of an email I have sent to Senators Kaye Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn. Likewise, I have shared it with U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul. Earlier today, I spoke with Barbara Budde, a top assistant to Austin ’s Catholic Bishop Gregory Aymond and asked her to request the Bishop’s intervention she said that she would do so.

Just a short while ago I spoke with a representative of The Institute of Islamic Learning in Dallas and they told me that the hearing tomorrow will leave Safdar Razi with three possible choices if it is decided that he is to be deported:

– Accepting his deportation.
– Appealing his deportation (but being held in detention until a new hearing is scheduled – possibly for months.)
– Being released after bail is posted.

Apparently, he has been transferred to a detention facility in Haskell , Texas . My contact at the Institute of Islamic Learning said that Safdar Razi is being held for being “Out of Status” regarding his R Visa – specifically, he was not allowed to travel out of the country, but did. I cannot confirm this report, I am only passing it along for you information.

I promise to keep you posted.


Dear Senator Hutchison,

I am writing today on a matter of grave concern. A much-valued former member of the Austin community, Safdar Razi is being held by the INS at the Haskell detention facility and is facing possible deportation. In fact, a hearing on his case is scheduled for tomorrow morning. When he resided in Austin Safdar Razi established a reputation as being a leading voice among local Muslim religious leaders who preached tolerance and built relationships across religious divides. He was instrumental in facilitating Post 9-11 discussions between the Austin Muslim community and area Christian and Jewish congregations. Just a few moments ago I received a strongly worded letter of support for Safdar from leaders of the Austin Jewish Community. Likewise, my phone has been ringing all day long with calls of concern from many Christian congregations. While we have received no official news of the reason for his detention, we ask that you look into this matter with haste and diligence.

With deep respect and appreciation,

Tom Spencer
CEO, Austin Area Interreligious Ministries

One response to “From Sara and Tom Spencer (CEO of Austin Area Interreligious Ministries) on Behalf of Safdar Razi”

  1. On 12 Sept 2001, I first saw Safdar Razi praying for peace on the south steps of the Texas State Capitol. He was standing should-to-shoulder with Rabbi Baker, whose congregation meets on the grounds of the Dell Community Center. After that nootime prayer service, at which we heard prayers from dozens of clergy for peace, I climbed the steps to meet this remarkable man for the first time.

    His friendship has been one of the greatest blessings in my life.

    He and Rabbi Baker became close, and their congregations celebrated Yom Kippur and Eid Al-Fitr together. In fact, Eid has come to be celebrated by all Austinites who are interested: open to our entire community.

    At my invitation, in late 2001 or early 2002, Safdar spoke during the Sunday School hour at FUMC Austin, and his message of peace and love was unmistakable and pure. The God of Abraham wants his children to love each other, as all three great religions based upon that tradition teach and history has proven numerous times is the only way we can survive together.

    I have never met a man more committed to open communications, “agreeing to disagree,” or loving all of God’s creation — instructed to do so by his faith — than Brother Safdar Razi.

    When he said to call him “Brother” my father, Reverend Doctor D. Orval Strong — a retired Methodist minister — said, “I guess that makes me your uncle.” Safdar said that was okay because his uncle had been killed in Pakistan.

    He often held up the Q’uran and said that it did not sanction killing, that “If you kill one person it is as if you have killed everyone, and if you save one person it is as if you have saved everyone.”

    He once said that like the patterns in wallpaper, diversity among people makes the world more beautiful in God’s eyes. Safdar’s ability to make the teachings of Islam clear is invaluable. There is a lot of misinformation, and to hear from someone who is well-educated and faithful, to be reminded that three of the world’s great religions worship a God who has commanded us to love each other and care for our brothers and sisters is inspirational and uplifting.

    As I said, I have never met a man more committed to peace and love and harmony among people of good will than Brother Safdar Razi. His message of tolerance undoubtedly puts him in danger in many places, including Pakistan. Even Bhutto was unsafe there; how could they protect him?

    His is a brave, kind, intelligent, and energetic man. The USA needs him. I need him, as his friendship has illuminated parts of my world that were a mystery to me since the late 70s at least.

    This nation was built with the strengths of many different cultures, and seeing him and Rabbi Baker and the other members of AAIM meet and talk, rejoice, worship, and pray together reminded me that here in our nation we really do continue to have freedom of religion and it is a very good thing.

    We should not have to fight for what we believe in because we are Americans and can believe anything we want to. Safdar has shown me that those who use Islam for non-loving purposes are defilers of the teachings of Prophet Mohammed (Peace Be Upon Him) and unworthy to call themselves Muslims.

    The Spanish Inquisition did not take place under the rule of the Moors, and our own history has shameful incidents — from the Salem witch trials to the McCarthy hearings — of misguided finger pointing based on fear and ignorance.

    Personally, were it in my power, I would grant Safdar honorary citizenship if for no other reason than for spreading peace and harmony in the bewildering and horrifying days following the tragedy we all witnessed nearly seven years ago. There are enough problems in the world and enough people wishing to do harm that we do not need to be rejecting those who truly do believe in “liberty and justice for all.”

    Beyond that, Brother Safdar is true to his faith. To say he has not always acted as an Imam (or even a pastor) to those who turned to him on questions of faith or personal need is to be blind to reality. If he has transgressed restrictions placed upon him, community service would be the ideal punishment; he has done nothing but devote himself to the well-being of our American community since the opportunity first presented itself.

    It has been thrilling me to see the outpouring of support for him from everyone who has known him well, like my dear friend Sara. Any who think our nation could be served in any positive way by expelling him do not know Safdar or how genuinely he serves and exemplifies the love that binds us all as children of God, without exceptions.

    Love and Peace from David Strong in Austin

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