Religious leaders call for local support against torture

Jun 24, 2013

Richard Killmer, executive director of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, gave a lecture on the alleged U.S-sponsored torture after the Sept. 11 attacks on Saturday evening at the Islamic Center of Central Missouri in Columbia, Mo. He calls for support from local religious community to act against torture.
Credit Joyu Wang / KBIA

National advocates called for local support against alleged U.S.-sponsored torture during the period following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

This was the main theme of a lecture held at the Islamic Center of Central Missouri on Saturday evening.

Richard Killmer, executive director of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, said torture is illegal and immoral.

"It doesn't only violate tenets of all religions, but torture also has made the country more insecure and unsafe," he said.

Killmer referred to Matthew Alexandra, a former US Military Interrogator, who said that the hatred of the U.S.' involvement in torture has recruited more fighters for al-Qaeda. He said torture is not the only way to provide intelligence information.

"Does torture ever produce information? That is in fact accurate and be helpful," Kilmer said. "I'm sure it has. But I'm also sure that the same information could be obtained by both legal and moral ways."

Killmer said religious people specifically care when human beings experience torture, and that torture denies a person's basic dignity, causing incredible harm to human beings across around the world.

As a result, the National Religious Campaign Against Torture is a joint effort of 320 different religious organizations to support anti-torture movement. Those religious groups include members from all kinds of Christian, Islamic, Jewish, Hindu and Buddhist communities.

"Religions often do not agree with each other, or other important matter, but on this one [torture], they absolutely agree," Killmer said.

Rashed Nizam, chairman of the Shura Council of the Islamic Center of Central Missouri, said he wanted to spread awareness about the torture issue in mid-Missouri. Accordingly, he brought Killmer to Columbia, along with Mohamed Elsanousi, who is the interfaith and community director at the Islamic Society of North America.

"I think this is against our principle, and it is basic human rights violated, so I think we should be involved," Nizam said. "But also in Missouri we want nobody [to receive] torture like this, so that we could eventually take it to the local legislation."  

Killmer and Elsanousi called for local support to sign a petition to release a massive report from the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Killmer says the 6,000 page report shows that torture has been used as an interrogation technique for eight years during the post-9/11 period.

He said he believes making the report available to the public would help the organization to create safeguards to stop torture.