Another US policeman has walked free after shooting dead an unarmed Arab student – am I supposed to feel safe?

A few days ago, Trump encouraged police officers to rough up criminals they arrest as though police forces were made for exacting vigilante justice rather than handing people over to the legal system and letting that system do its impartial work. Where exactly is my country headed? It's as embarrassing as it is frightening

Officers handcuffed Ahmed Al Menhali after reports of someone 'in full head dress'  pledging allegiance to Isis. He had not, in fact, mentioned Isis at all
Officers handcuffed Ahmed Al Menhali after reports of someone 'in full head dress' pledging allegiance to Isis. He had not, in fact, mentioned Isis at all

In December of 2016, a student by the name of Saif Al Ameri was shot and killed by a police officer in Ohio. After a few months of paid leave, the officer was acquitted. Ryan Doran was given a clean bill of legal health a few days ago. Nothing will stitch the life back into Saif.

Some reports say that Al Ameri was driving under the influence. Others say that he was driving erratically. The officer says that Al Ameri reached for the officer’s gun. And he "felt afraid" for his life.

The grand jury acquitted this officer as they have acquitted literally hundreds of other police officers who have attacked unarmed young men in America. If it seems crazy that this 26-year-old young adult with no previous criminal record and who had no weapon constituted a real threat that was serious enough to make a fully trained and lethally armed police officer fearful for his life then it’s because it is crazy to think that. Totally crazy.

There are situations where it is easy to imagine officers fearing for their lives; situations like those where weapons of war are made available to civilians. But Saif was in no position to outgun the police. Far from having automatic weapons, Saif Al Ameri was – I’ll say this once again – unarmed.

What's even crazier is that we're also supposed to buy the narrative that this officer could not stun or neutralise a threat from his victim with a single bullet. He had to shoot the gun five times over.

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But here's the deeper force behind this incident; the issue that has played a hand in shaping each and every one of the hundreds of incidents in which police officers in America kill unarmed people. It doesn't matter if Al Ameri was driving erratically. It doesn't matter if he was smoking marijuana. It doesn't even matter if he was acting in a disorderly way (he wasn't, according to every US report I've read).

What matters here is that the officer isn't there to judge Al Ameri using a hunch based on the way his victim-to-be was acting. If the officer assessed that Al Ameri was doing something illegal, his job would've been to arrest him, read him his rights and bring him to a court of law.

Ryan Doran is a foot soldier. His job is to be an officer and enforcer of the law. Instead he acted as judge, jury and executioner. He undermined the rule of law by making a judgement to take drastic action in the heat of the moment. He based his judgment on gut and instinct.

And let's make no mistake: these gut instincts that inform officers to go after innocent people are not spawned in a vacuum. They're born of the worst human impulses.

Just a few months before Al Ameri was killed, the Emirati businessman Ahmed Al Menhahi was standing outside his hotel, wearing the clothes that Emirati men wear in the UAE, when he was brutalised by Ohio police. The police assaulted and savaged Al Menhali to the point that the beatings landed him in a hospital bed.

While searching for alternate accommodations during his stay in Cleveland for medical treatment, he was wrongly accused of pledging allegiance to Isis by a hotel clerk who didn't speak the language that he was speaking on his mobile phone and didn't know that the clothes he was wearing have nothing to do with Isis, but are rather the national dress of one of the United States’ key allies in the fight against that terrorist group.

Al Menhali tried to explain that he was not a terrorist with the words: “These are the clothes that Jesus wore.”

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But the people who rang the false alarm in Al Menhali’s case as well as the police officers who assaulted Al Menhali and killed Al Ameri have a limited view of the world. Their narrow fields of vision saw clothes they didn't know about. They heard a language they didn't understand. They saw people who looked like they came from somewhere they didn't want to know about or want to understand.

Fear of the unknown is a powerful thing.

There are complex forces shaping the world that many Americans are simply ill-equipped to comprehend. An alchemy of paranoia and violence is causing Americans to turn against each other at home and away from the world.

You'd think that the president of a country like this would try to reassure his people by sizing up challenges and outlining ways to overcome them. Instead, Donald Trump, our “law and order” President, offers bleak fantasies of “American carnage.” In the first interview of the Trump era, he stated that “the world is a mess. The world is as angry as it gets.”

A few days ago, Trump encouraged police officers to rough up criminals they arrest as though police forces were made for exacting vigilante justice rather than handing people over to the legal system and letting that system do its impartial work.

But a tempered and just legal system requires respect for the judiciary.

In the summer of 2016, when Al Menhali was being beaten by police, Trump was busy denigrating a federal judge. Now he is shaping the judiciary into something unrecognisable, with appointments of judges who lash out against sitting Supreme Court justices.

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When America elected the man whose rallies produced the mobs who chanted “lock her up” and who threatened his political opponent with imprisonment, we took a confident step in the direction of looking like a dangerous banana republic. Today we’re not simply looking the part. We're acting it too. Many of our closest friends can hardly recognise us.

If America is seen to be a nation that cannot uphold the rule of law then even our friends will not feel confident visiting the United States. This includes citizens of countries who come here for study, healthcare and business; people who the United States wants (and needs) to deal with. The day when we have to question whether America can guarantee safe passage to its guests is a wake-up call that demands we take a long hard look at our national transformation.

From the Supreme Court down to the officers tasked and trusted with enforcing law and order, America has witnessed a steady unravelling of the rule of law. There were roughly 30,000 people in the United States who fell as victims to gun violence last year. Over 900 of them were killed by police. The vast majority were American citizens.

But one fatality in the United States last year was a 26-year-old Emirati who was executed by police and whose death was not atoned for in the courts. He had nothing to do with the fears and divisions plaguing America today and should've been left out of the vile crossfire of this nation’s conversation about gun violence and law enforcement. He didn't sign on to be a part of that conversation.

He was just a student at Case Western University in Ohio. He came over to the United States to study law. The irony shouldn’t be lost on anybody.

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