American Muslims in the Mosque: God and the FBI are Watching You?
God, for sure. The FBI, maybe.
FBI Director Robert Mueller testified before the Senate in February 2005 on the issue of the "war on terror" stating "Efforts by extremists to obtain training inside the U.S. is also an ongoing concern. Although there are multiple reports and ongoing investigations associated with the paramilitary training activities of suspected extremists nationwide, the majority of these cases involve small groups of like-minded individuals who are inspired by the jihadist rhetoric experienced in radical mosques or prison proselytizing." (my emphasis).
A Google search using "Detroit Muslims FBI" brings up a first page with 10 items, 9 of them negative. One of these items is "Detroit Muslim groups claim FBI coercion" which quoted Imad Hamad, regional director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, stating "We have worked extensively with the FBI and others in the past, and certainly we would provide any information of a national security concern. But the issue now is this: Will they treat us as partners, or suspects, or both? We want to know." The writer quotes John Miller of the FBI stating that the FBI does not "target mosques" and does not "send people out on fishing expeditions. We investigate people … and with probable cause to do so under the attorney general's guidelines." But what is" Jihadist rhetoric"? A "radical" mosque? that FBI director referred to in his testimony?
Evil Israel, Ungodly US Foreign Policy= Jihadist Rhetoric?
The reality is that a tiny group of Muslims have declared an armed struggle on the US and have based this intention on religious grounds. The list of grievances include support for Israel in its occupation and oppression of the Palestinians, support for undemocratic regimes in the Arab and Muslim world, among other claims. The overwhelming majority of Muslims and Arabs condemn the use of violence and/or terrorism against civilian targets. However, the overwhelming majority of Muslims and Arabs condemn the unlimited support that the US provides to Israel, in many instances in harsh rhetoric. Many of the grievances of the radicals and terrorists are seen by many in the Arab and Muslim world as legitimate grievances. This agreement on grievances, however, does not translate into agreement and acceptance of anything else that involves the terrorists. The US considers Hamas and the Hizbullah as terrorist organizations. The majority of Arabs and Muslims think Hizbullah and Hamas are legitimate resistance groups that deserve to be supported. Providing material support for Hizbullah or Hamas is a serious offense. However, sympathy or emotional support is not a crime. Is that how law enforcement sees it too? It is not unusual in the US for a foreign group to be seen as terrorist by the government but not by a visible ethnic group- the experience of the IRA and the Irish American community comes to mind.
The Metrics of a "Radical" Mosque- The Business of Counting Headscarves
What is a "radical" mosque? How do we know one? Is emotional or rhetorical support for Hizbullah and Hamas an indication of hostility to the US? Is a mosque whose attendees express solidarity with Gaza and even with Hamas a breeding ground for terrorists and therefore should be monitored, infiltrated and manipulated? If a board member once said "Islam is the answer and will one day become the dominant religion in the United States, God willing," does that make the mosque radical? Is hoping and praying that Islam will be the dominant faith in the US and in the world an indication of radicalism and hostility to the US? Radical anti Muslim advocates/Israel cheerleaders such as Daniel Pipes are trying to indoctrinate the public and law enforcement through their "research and advocacy" that wishing that Islam become the major faith of America present a clear and present danger. The underlying theme of the anti-Muslim advocacy is indirect Israel support by weakening the other side and painting it as the enemy within? Who is buying this? One self-described expert on American Muslims concluded that a mosque in Chicago is becoming "radical" because over time more of the female mosque goers were wearing head scarves!
Love Me, Hate My Terrorist Designee?
Loving Uncle Sam and Sayed Hassan
Law enforcement is a balancing act between constitutional protections of the individual and the need to provide security. The government has every right to protect its citizens from attacks, preferably stopping them before they materialize. However, Muslims have the right to free exercise of their faith and free association. Emotional and rhetorical support for groups the US deems terrorist should not be taken as evidence of hostility to the US. I recall speaking with an elderly woman from South Lebanon who asked me if I were a US citizen and recounted how proud she was to get her US citizenship. The old woman at the citizenship interview was asked if she would fight for the US and she told the interviewer that "she would hold a machine gun and shoot the enemies of the US." The officer laughed and granted her the citizenship, she told me. But minutes later this proud American citizens told me how she admires Hizbullah [a group the FBI called the A team of terrorism,] and Sayed Hassan Nasrallah for liberating the South from the Israeli occupation and restoring the dignity of the Southern Lebanese. I laughed when she made these seemingly contradictory statements but on second thought I realized that to her it makes sense. This woman loves the US for what it did for her, providing her with opportunities undreamt of in her native land. At the same time, she admires Sayed Nasrallah and Hizbullah for making it possible for her to visit her village freely without Israel and its mercenaries humiliating her and her children in the process. Also, the Israelis used to think that going into South Lebanon, Rambo style, bombing and occupying is a picnic. The Hizbullah, the fact is the sons and fathers of her family and fellow Southerners, made this "picnic" a nightmare. She has no complaint against the Hizbullah and probably right after she watches the fourth of July fireworks on Michigan Avenue and waives the American flag she performs her evening prayers and prays that" God protect the resistance and the Sayed." This is not cognitive dissonance- to this woman and many like her it makes perfect sense.
Would this woman or a similarly situated person incite violence against the US? If the people she goes to the mosque with hold the same values, is that a mosque that needs to be monitored or infiltrated? Is a preacher who calls the occupation of Iraq a crime a person who is teaching hostility to America and encouraging terrorist attacks on the US, therefore there is a need to dig through his immigration file for a pretext to deport him?
Hating America vs. Hating American Foreign Policy/Policies
American mosques are not teaching hostility to America, hostility to America's foreign policy as to Israel maybe but not to America. American mosques are not encouraging terrorist attacks on the US. American Muslims are strongly against US foreign policy- the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan and the US support for Israel. It is alarming to law enforcement that some of the rhetoric used by ordinary Muslim Americans is similar to that used by foreign terrorists/ sworn enemies of the US. While there is some logic for concern, it helps to remember that Timothy McVeigh made arguments about the federal government taking liberties and becoming a danger to the US citizenry and their existence. There is a major political party that has won elections making almost identical arguments about the government being too big and threatening constitutional freedoms.