Relations with FBI and Other Law Enforcement Agencies

By Dr. Aslam Abdullah, TMO editor in chief

nihad awad of cair
2004 File photo of Nihad Awad of CAIR

Should Muslim Organizations withdraw from the ongoing dialog with the FBI? The American Task Force, a representative body of Muslim organizations created to have a unified political agenda, supports the idea of Muslim withdrawal. CAIR, a constituent of the ATF, calls the ongoing FBI tactics a smear campaign against Islam and Muslims and describes the dialog with the FBI as a futile effort. Some other Muslim organizations have expressed similar opinions.

This position emerged when it was disclosed a few months ago that the FBI had planted a spy in a Southern California mosque and launched a sting operation to target a few suspected individuals.

The questions that need to be asked, then, are: whether it is legal and constitutional on the part of the FBI to initiate these tactics? Is there some strong evidence to suggest that some FBI officials acted on the basis of personal bias against Muslims and Islam? Is there any evidence that the law enforcement agencies violated any law or acted against the spirit of our constitution? If they did, we must knock every door to bring them to task, no matter what the price.

We are a nation that adheres to law. Even if lies are fabricated, they are done legally. For instance, the legality of Iraq was based on manufactured fears and doctored lies, prepared by the previous administration.

The present administration changed the nation’s Iraq policy legally when it assumed responsibilities after the election.

Were any laws broken? That should be our main concern of conscious citizens. No one is above the law, and no one should be allowed to get away with illegal acts.

Dialog with the FBI, regardless of what its office did in Southern California, must continue for a few very important reasons.

If Muslims are not in direct communication with those whose reports and analysis ultimately contribute to major policy formation, someone else will communicate about Islam and Muslims, and that someone else may not be as passionate about the issues the community considers high on its priority list.

The FBI agents are not very well-informed on everything they are investigating. Their knowledge is based on available resources. The absence of  Muslim resources on issues of importance will hinder their ability to develop a better understanding. Additionally, we must never look at any law enforcement agency as an enemy. This will unnecessary complicate the nature of relationship. The FBI is run by money that we as tax payers give to a government that we elect to serve our interests. If our interests are not served properly, we must always take a constitutional path to ensure that we are not treated roughly.

If we feel that laws are unethical, we must stand up and challenge the constitutionality of those laws.

Certainly, there are situations where we feel that our rights are violated. We must never keep quiet on these issues. But the path of dialog must never be abandoned, In a civil society that is the only way to develop a better understanding.

By being in dialog with the police and FBI, we do not surrender our dignity or our rights as citizens. By sharing  our understanding of our faith or community, we do not serve as an agent for this or that group.

Through the dialog, we must express our concerns and grievances and if they are not heard, we must try to enlist the support of our legislatures and representatives.

Of course, there are government officials who often cross the limits set by law.

They must be challenged and questioned. There are agents who might use state resources to serve their own political and religious agendas. We must hold them to task. But this would be possible only when we engage in a sober and serious dialog. The FBI must also realize that it is dealing with a community whose members have chosen to be citizens of this country not only because of the opportunities available here, but also because of the rule of law that it holds supreme.

They are as patriotic as the law enforcement officials are. If they suspect anyone for any illegal activity, they should take the Muslim leadership in confidence to ensure that misunderstanding can be avoided. But this would happen when both trust each other. Withdrawal from the dialog would close the door for building trust and mutual goodwill.


1 reply
  1. Anisa Abd el Fattah
    Anisa Abd el Fattah says:

    There are more than two options available to the Muslim community. We are not contemplating an all or nothing situation. There are many minority groups that the FBI might take special interest, including African American, Latino, and even Jewish groups. Historically we do not see that they ever sought or involved themselves in special relationships with the FBI. Why? Because the FBI is an agency whose aim is to prevent crime and to capture criminals. Is there anything unique about the Muslim community that requires a special dialogue about capturing Muslim criminals, or preventing crimes committed by Muslims. To pursue these special relationships implies that indeed as the media and others have implied, there is something about Islam that causes terrorism or crimes. It is not true.

    Should Muslims have good relations with all law enforcement? Absolutely. Should Muslims be willing to assist law enforcement in the investigation and prosecution of crimes? Absolutely. Should Muslims act out of fear of the FBI or our government and allow them to contaminate the spiritual and communal environment of the mosque with fear and paranoia and distrust? No.