Pubdate: Sun, 07 Jan 2007
Source: Naples Daily News (FL)
Copyright: 2007 Naples Daily News.
Author: Tom Hanson, Naples News
Bookmark: (Policing - United States)
Bookmark: (Marijuana)
Bookmark: (Cocaine)
Bookmark: (Ecstasy)
Bookmark: (Oxycontin/Oxycodone)


James Muwakkil respects the criticism. But he's not retracting his

Speaking about the death of Christopher Hernandez and what Muwakkil
views as excessive use of Tasers by Collier County Sheriff's Office
deputies, the leader of the Fort Myers Coalition for Justice shocked
some with his outspoken candor.

A State Attorney's Office probe concluded that Hernandez died from a
combination of cocaine, marijuana and Ecstasy, not the electric waves
from the Taser during the police stop.

Once again, Muwakkil stands by his statement: "They violated his human
rights. He has a right to live. Most young people use recreational
drugs. That's just a fact of life. We cannot give somebody a death
sentence just because they use recreational drugs." readers called Muwakkil "stupid" and his statement

Muwakkil understands if someone wants to question his support of a
person who used drugs. Hernandez admitted to hospital nurses that he
swallowed a "bag of cocaine" and smoked a marijuana cigerette.

Muwakkil, 45, said his group normally doesn't get involved in cases
that involve drug use or criminal activity.

What the man who is known simply as Brother James doesn't understand
is why someone would question his statement about drug use.

"Drug abuse is a problem in America," Muwakkil said. "You can love or
hate what I said. But what I said is a reality. Many young people are
abusing drugs. That's a fact and if you have a problem with that
statement you have a problem with reality."

Muwakkil isn't condoning drug use. But he's facing the

According to the 2004 National Household Survey on Drug Use and
Health, 110 million Americans reported that they have used illicit
drugs at least once in their life. And smoking pot, snorting crack and
drinking beer isn't even the new trend in drug use. A Partnership
for a Drug Free America study released in 2006 found some alarming
teen abuse numbers:

. Nearly one in five (19 percent or 4.5 million) teens have tried
prescription medication (pain relievers such as Vicodin or OxyContin;
stimulants like Ritalin or Adderall) to get high.

. One in 10 (10 percent or 2.4 million) teens report abusing cough
medicine to get high.

"If they don't think there is a drug problem, go into any store,"
Muwakkil said. "You can get beer or alcohol or these over-the-counter
drugs to get high. It's a problem. And one person isn't going to
solve that problem."

Muwakkil said the cure to drug abuse starts with parents talking about
the risks, schools educating and churches preaching the

And Muwakkil stands firm like he does on many causes.

He went to Dunbar on Friday urging brothers and sisters to stop using
guns and killing each other. He said he called other black leaders to
help in his fight to stop the bloodshed. Once again, Muwakkil stood
alone. None of the other so-called community leaders - black, brown or
white - showed up.

Muwakkil reminds people that he doesn't get paid. He doesn't
received donations. He and his organization only get involved in cases
that he truly believes in.

"I respect their criticism," Muwakkil said. "I'm not a leader
because I want to be popular. I'm not a leader because I want
attention or money. I'm my own man and that's what makes me a leader."
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake