Dear Friends and Supporters,
Today marks the first day of our Ramadan gift campaign as we remember the Muslim prisoners who are far from their loved ones during Ramadan. One of those prisoners was Ismail Royer, who was recently released after 14 years of harsh incarceration. In the letter below, he describes his experiences.
This year our goal is to provide $100 in canteen money for 197 prisoners. Please read Ismail’s letter, and consider making a generous donation by sending a check to NCPCF, P.O. Box 66301, Washington, DC 20035 or to donate by credit card click HERE.
Thank you for your generosity.
Mel Underbakke, Ph.D.
Ismail Royer (second from left) with Enaam Arnaout, Abdurahman Alamoudi and Mohamed Hammoud at the CMU Terre Haute,, IN.
The words of Ismail Royer
When you go to federal prison, your alienation from your family and your community begins. Your old life is over and you are no longer a part of theirs, you just take a while to come to terms with it. The life you have left behind continues to flow, like a river, but you have been plucked from it and set on the bank. Your family will continue to float further and further downstream while you wait on the side, not accepting at first what you see. Your lives diverge: what is urgent and important and real for you will be meaningless to them; they will have no reference point to understand it. The joy and pain and crises your family goes through, you now only experience at second hand, and you won’t hear about most of them.
So when Ramadan comes, that month when you spent every night with your family, at the mosque praying with them, at home having dinner with them, you now spend with other prisoners, and it’s not strange that you feel some vague loneliness and sadness during what should be a joyous month. This is how I felt every Ramadan in my nearly 14 years in prison. I felt forgotten and isolated and alone.
So when a few years into my sentence I found someone had deposited $100 into my prison account right before Ramadan, I thought there was some kind of mistake. I only realized it was real when I got a letter from the National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms telling me what it was all about. I felt almost guilty about getting it, like I didn’t deserve it, but very happy as well. My family couldn’t afford to send me that, they had their own expenses, especially during that month. And NCPCF kept sending me $100 every Ramadan until the year I was released.
Now I could buy some extra dates, and other good food from the commissary that I normally couldn’t afford on my meager prison job salary. What a blessing that was to have an alternative to the terrible prison food. It was so comforting to be able to eat what I wanted to eat, instead of being limited by the prison menu, and to have some measure of freedom in that way. One year I even bought a pair of tennis shoes, which I could never afford before. And most importantly, the gift allowed me to call my family without worrying about the extortionate phone rates eating up my entire account.
NCPCF’s annual Ramadan gift was important to me in so many ways. It helped me stay connected to my family. It gave me some comfort in respite from dull, bad food, and in being able to get new shoes and other necessities. And it made me feel like I hadn’t been forgotten, that that stream of life outside the prison walls hadn’t completely carried everyone away from me. And I know many, many other prisoners felt the same way.
Now that I’ve been released, I want to thank NCPCF and those who donated for remembering me every Ramadan. And I wanted to share these thoughts with you, because I always thought that perhaps you did not realize what an impact you were having with such a seemingly small effort.
May Allah bless all of you for your thoughts and kind gestures, because they have meaning greater than you know.
Photos provided by Ismail Royer.