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Hussam has been a lifelong human rights activist who is passionate about promoting democratic societies, in the US and worldwide, in which all people, including immigrants, workers, minorities, and the poor enjoy freedom, justice, economic justice, respect, and equality. Mr. Ayloush frequently lectures on Islam, media relations, civil rights, hate crimes and international affairs. He has consistently appeared in local, national, and international media. Full biography at: http://hussamayloush.blogspot.com/2006/08/biography-of-hussam-ayloush.html

Friday, April 03, 2009

FBI director questioned about Muslim relations

By IFN Staff
InFocus Newspaper

ANAHEIM, Calif. – The controversy over reports of an FBI informant infiltrating southern California mosques and the FBI’s overall conduct toward American Muslims were subjects of a Senate hearing last month, generating vague answers from FBI Director Robert Mueller and generating even more concern in a community already feeling fearful and unfairly targeted in a post-9/11 era. In the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing held on Capitol Hill, Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) was tough on Mueller.

“Can you determine and report to this committee whether mosques have been entered by FBI agents or informants without disclosing their identities under the authority of the attorney general guidelines and, if so, how many?” Feingold asked...

A highlight of the Senate testimony was a reference to the American Muslim Taskforce statement, released March 17. That statement was part of a nationally-coordinated campaign by Muslims to decisively respond to the FBI’s aggressive tactics.

In the statement, the coalition of national Muslim organizations said they are considering severing outreach ties and public relations work with the FBI unless the agency revamps its “McCarthy-era tactics” that unfairly target the Muslim community, its mosques and institutions.

The AMT statement led Sen. Feingold to ask Mueller if he thought the new attorney general guidelines (implemented Dec. 1, 2008) are helping or hurting the FBI’s relationship with the U.S. Muslim community and in light of the AMT statement, how he planned to improve that relationship...

Major Muslim organizations – the American Muslim Alliance, Council on American-Islamic Relations, Muslim American Society - Freedom, Islamic Circle of North America, Muslim Student Association-National, MSA West, more than 30 other mosques and Muslim groups – have endorsed the AMT statement.

Additionally, more than 50 activists and well-respected academics – including John Esposito, Ali Mazrui, and Hatem Bazian – have signed on to the AMT statement...

AMT Chairman Agha Saeed, however, said the AMT’s effort is not a campaign of disengagement.

“It is instead designed to truly engage top Justice Department officials on these critical issues,” Saeed said. “It is also designed to help restore respect and equal rights for American Muslims after eight years of being treated as suspects rather than partners.”...

On the subject of engagement with the FBI, the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California – an umbrella organization of more than 70 mosques and Islamic centers – polled Muslims in March.

In the poll, 78 percent of respondents said American Muslims should have “no relationship at all [with the FBI] until they stop unfairly targeting” Muslims or “end outreach relationship and limit communication to ‘as needed.’” The remaining 22 percent said Muslims should maintain an ongoing relationship with the FBI, “no matter what.” In February, the ISCSC and many other southern California Muslim groups suspended their outreach work with FBI’s Los Angeles office...

The Orange County Register wrote a biting editorial on Monteilh’s “fishing expeditions.”

“Everyone understands the need for legitimate undercover activities in response to credible evidence. But we cannot fathom the justification for fishing expeditions and entrapment. Nationwide, some of the supposed terrorist ‘plots’ the FBI has claimed to have foiled have simply been cases of entrapment involving Muslims without the intent or wherewithal or to pull off any attacks. Infiltrating mosques without evidence of crime is an affront to the First Amendment.”

Both Mueller and FBI spokesman John Miller say the agency values its partnership with Muslims.

“Limiting honest dialogue, especially when complex issues are on the table, is generally not an effective advocacy strategy,” Miller said in a written release.

However, Hussam Ayloush, executive director of CAIR-LA and an AMT member, disagrees.

“The problem is that many in the Muslim community no longer feel confident that the FBI is pursuing an honest dialogue with the Muslim community,” Ayloush said. “This was the result of confirmed reports that, while the Muslim community engaged in honest partnership building and dialogue with the FBI for eight years, the FBI was paying convicted felons to ‘infiltrate’ mosques to radicalize Muslim youths and instigate talks about terrorism action. Integrity and honesty are the foundation of any relationship.”...

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