By Sadaf Ali, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)
Warren-October 30â€”â€œMuslims did not attack the World Trade Center, extremists did,â€ said Andrew Arena, FBI Special Agent in Charge.
Approximately 50 people gathered at the Islamic organization of North America (IONA) for a Town Hall meeting with the Federal Bureau of Investigation to discuss the concerns and fears of the Muslim community in Michigan.
â€œItâ€™s very important for us to hear the Muslim community,â€ said Arena, â€œHopefully we can learn about one another.â€
Six years after September 11th, many American Muslims believe that they remain under siege with profiling, discrimination, raids on Muslim charities and the defaming of local area mosques.
For example, in early March worshippers at a mosque in Hamtramck were attacked with shoes while praying, with two members being physically attacked outside.
The Islamic House of Wisdom, in Dearborn, was also vandalized in September.
Many believe the rising tide of Islamophobia has been intensified by the war in Iraq and U.S. government measures at home. However, Arena says many of the problems are fueled by the mainstream media.
â€œAn FBI agent helping a person is usually not considered a good story,â€ he said, â€œItâ€™s the perception and what is put out by the media.â€
However, a major hot-button issue at the meeting was airport security at Detroit Metro.
Dr. Farah Iftikar, a Southfield resident, attended the meeting and voiced concerns about the way her thirteen-year-old son was treated by airport security.
With a tear-laden voice she talked about how her then ten-year old, was flagged by security on a trip to Hawaii.
â€œI have concerns for my son. Heâ€™s an American citizen and itâ€™s torture for him. He was going on a school trip to Florida and he was singled out by security. All of his classmates had their boarding passes and he was standing and waiting,â€ she said.
Iftikar says that despite repeated attempts there has been no resolution to the situation.
Arena said that although he did not know why Iftikarâ€™s son was flagged, he did say that the FBI does have individuals of interest and airport security helps keep track of those people.
â€œWe are not investigating Muslims. We are investigating crooks who mean to do harm to Americanâ€™s like you,â€ he said.
Another issue presented was the use of wiretaps in mosques.
â€œUnder the United States Constitution we do not have the authority to bug places, especially a religious institution,â€ said Arena.
Assistant Special Agent in Charge William Kowalski says itâ€™s a money issue, as well as, â€œThe FBI does not have the resources to wiretap every other person,â€ he said, â€œIf we did that, the Michigan FBI would have to shut down.â€
Kowalski also says that a mosque would not likely be used for recruitment.
â€œSomeone who is an extremist does not usually come to a facility like this. Their usually recruiting in someoneâ€™s garage or basement,â€ he said.
Besides a physical location, IONA Ameer Mustapha Elturk says the Internet is also posing a huge problem for Muslim youth. Elturk says terrorist organizations are now using the World Wide Web as a tool to propagate their â€œholy war.â€
â€œMany youth are influenced by these websites calling for jihad, especially when they see their parentsâ€™ homelands being shattered,â€ said Elturk.
Although it is useful, if usage is not controlled, Arena says the Internet can be a dangerous place.
â€œThey see what is happening in their homelands and theyâ€™re interested. So itâ€™s easy for them to get sucked in,â€ he said, â€œWatch what your kids are doing and keep the computer in a public space in the house, because once theyâ€™re caught itâ€™s tough to get them out.â€
Arena says the FBI is continuing its efforts to improve understanding within their own organization.
â€œI wonâ€™t tell you we donâ€™t have ignorance on our side. Itâ€™s an education process.â€