The recent revelation that the Federal Bureau of Investigation targeted Muslim mosques in southern California using the old dirty tactic of a criminally-minded individual with a record of criminal behavior as an informant is not only an alarming act, but it also demands an immediate investigation and response from the country’s top law enforcement agency about what exactly was going on and why.
Islam is not the enemy of this nation and there must be an immediate end to attempts to position Islamic groups and Muslim communities as un-American and threats to the internal security of this country. Time and time again during the Bush administration, there were high profile incidents in which Muslims, Islamic groups and charities were accused of wrongdoing. Press conferences were held, pronouncements were made, but when the cases went to court, they often ended with acquittals or in mistrials. Many of the cases that received major media attention never made it to court.
Captain James “Yusuf” Yee, a West Point graduate, was vilified in 2003 and 2004, accused of trying to pass secrets to Al-Qaeda and aiding the Taliban while serving as a U.S. Army Muslim Chaplain at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He was confined in a Navy brig and widely held up as a traitor. Months later the government dropped its charges and left Mr. Yee trying to pick up his life.
In other instances, Muslim charities and groups tried to defend themselves against the might of the federal government, but were no match for the resources of the Justice Dept. and other agencies. With their reputations besmirched, donors afraid to give, and cases winding slowly through the courts, these groups were forced to shut down–though no one was convicted of wrongdoing.
Not only have groups been targeted but speakers have been banned and blacklisted by the U.S. government. The American Civil Liberties Union will soon argue in federal appeals court the case of a Swiss professor and leading scholar of the Muslim world denied entry into the United States based on his political views. Professor Tariq Ramadan was invited to teach at the University of Notre Dame in 2004 but the U.S. government revoked his visa, citing a statute that applies to those who have “endorsed or espoused” terrorism. After the ACLU and other organizations filed suit, the government abandoned its claim that Mr. Ramadan had endorsed terrorism, but it continues to exclude him because he made small donations to a Swiss charity that the government alleges has given money to Hamas, the ACLU said. The ACLU contends the government’s exclusion of Mr. Ramadan was only motivated by his outspokenness against U.S. foreign policy.
“By denying visas to prominent foreign scholars and writers simply because they were critical of United States foreign policy, the Bush administration used immigration laws to skew and stifle political debate inside the U.S.,” said Jameel Jaffer, director of the ACLU National Security Project, who will argue the case for the plaintiffs. “While the government has an interest in excluding people who present a threat to the country, it doesn’t have any legitimate interest in excluding foreign nationals simply because of their political views. The Bush administration was wrong to revive this Cold War practice, and the Obama administration should not defend it.”
The American Muslim Taskforce, a coalition of Islamic groups and institutions, blasted the FBI March 17 for infiltrating mosques and profiling Muslims. “If the FBI does not accord fair and equitable treatment to every American Muslim … then Muslim organizations, mosques and individuals will have no choice but to consider suspending all outreach activities with FBI offices, agents and other personnel,” said a statement from the coalition of 17 Muslim groups from across the country.
The group added that any suspension “would in no way affect our unshakeable duty to report crimes or threats of violence to our nation.” The coalition complained that problems started after a so-called Muslim convert, who was actually a paid FBI informant, started to spout ideas of violence against America. When the man was reported to the authorities nothing was done. The rhetoric was so bad that an Islamic center obtained a restraining order against the man. It was only later that the group discovered the likelihood that no action was taken because the man was working for federal authorities.
The news of FBI spying and double dealing against Muslims isn’t news at all–if one knows the history of this country. These same tactics were employed in the 1980s as officials tried to entrap those sympathetic to the socialist Sandinista movement in Nicaragua and has been seen with stool pigeons placed inside the anti-war movement. But the ultimate script for these despicable acts goes back to government efforts to subvert Black organizations that demanded equal opportunity and justice for the children of America’s former slaves. Whether it was called Cointelpro, which officially existed from 1956 to 1971, or something else, the aim was the same: Disrupt, discredit and destroy organizations, individuals and movements pressing the country to live up to its ideals.
These same tactics have been used against and continue to be used against the Nation of Islam, in particular. Though the Nation has no history of violence and no history of calling for the violent overthrow of this country, a prophetic warning about the country’s failings and the divine consequences of those failings has engendered persecution and attempts to subvert a movement that is good for the country. Members of the Nation of Islam are forbidden to carry weapons or possess weapons in their homes.
Though the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan has condemned terrorism and said the Nation of Islam would not allow terrorist acts in the name of Islam, those words are not widely reported–if reported at all. The right wing has tried to stir up fear by talking about radical Islam in the prisons of America. The Nation of Islam, however, has a stellar record of reforming inmates who accept and follow the Teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. They come out of prison as productive individuals, despite having been destroyed by a racist society. Countless others not imprisoned have accepted Islam and improved their conduct because of a divine word that touched their ears and inspired change in their lives. Just a brush with Islam has inspired many to become better people and more responsible citizens. The Million Man March in 1995, which called Black men to responsibility, reconciliation and atonement was good for the country. This unifying and positive event, which resulted in an outpouring of community and political activism and personal responsibility, was called by a Muslim leader and included a broad spectrum of religious and political support and participation.
Islam is not a threat to America, but could potentially be salvation for a mighty nation that resembles empires of the past that fell because of spiritual and moral failings. Islam is a blessing to America. The enemy of America is loss of spiritual values, an arrogant exploitation of the weaker people of the earth and mistreatment of Black, non-White and even poor Whites in this nation. Islam offers a roadmap to reform that the country could use and would be wise to consider and accept.