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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, December 10, 2010

The FBI vs. Muslims - what went wrong

The FBI is critically important to our country's war on terror - not in Afghanistan or Pakistan, but right here at home. It is tasked with finding the homegrown terrorists who mean us harm. I know a former regional director of the organization personally. He is utterly conscientious and concerned not only for America's security but also for the integrity of his venerable institution. These days, America's domestic security is very much wrapped up in its dealings with the American Muslim community. What is evident is that the Muslim community and the FBI need to develop a partnership and work toward a common goal.

But if developments in Irvine are to be believed, the FBI has been the one entrapped by its own bungled attempts to entrap supposedly "amenable" members of the Irvine Muslim community.
The affair, recently reported by the Washington Post, dates back to 2006. A convicted felon, Craig Monteilh, who was already an FBI informant, was persuaded (financially and otherwise) to spy on the local mosque's worshipers. Ultimately, Monteilh, who used the name Farouk al-Aziz, managed to get a couple of worshipers to agree to join him in bombing a mall. Unknown to al-Aziz, however, they went directly to the imam of the mosque, who reported al-Aziz to the authorities.

Stories of this nature will continue to surface from time to time amid the nationwide paranoid clamor for some kind of surveillance. They serve to illustrate the slippery slope upon which we appear to have placed ourselves. Moreover, they underscore the kind of unplanned success to which a nearly vanquished al Qaeda is still able to lay claim. Its members must surely be smirking as American society exposes hairline fractures that herald further erosions of liberty, which are antithetical to the country's fundamental values. Weakening these pillars of our democracy fulfills the most desired nihilist objectives of al Qaeda and its ilk.

A 2010 joint study by Duke University's Sanford School of Public Policy and the University of North Carolina identified the positive impact of America's mosques on tamping down tendencies for impressionable young Muslims to become radicalized. The Irvine story provides an affirming data point for this analysis and demonstrates a poverty of intelligence at the FBI. The agency failed to engage the Muslim community through its mosques to better leverage their leaders to continue the good work. Instead, not only is there a concerted effort at furtive infiltration but also a driving away of the very leaders that might have proved a valuable asset in the authorities' much-needed efforts to prevent homegrown terrorism.

What is doubly disturbing, if al-Aziz's accounts are to be believed, is that the FBI handler he worked with told him, "Islam is a threat to national security." If this is indeed more than an isolated sentiment, then it undermines government assertions of the importance of partnering with U.S. Muslim communities (who must be forgiven for responding cynically).

It would be tragic if the opportunity to work together to prevent radicalism is lost through such shortsighted attempts to entrap mosque members.

M. Salahuddin Khan is the author of "Sikander" ( www.sikanderbook.com).

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/12/08/EDGI1GNNDT.DTL#ixzz17jMTv09w

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