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article imageOp-Ed: Muslims and the Law

By Frank Kaufmann     Dec 19, 2009 in Politics
The sad reality of terrorist designs to harm US citizens and destabilize the United States places a great strain on US law enforcement, as well as on those, especially Muslim leaders who seek to support the FBI in its vital role.
Both the New York Times, and the Christian Science Monitor report a troublesome decline in the relationship between Muslim leaders in America and the FBI.
The Times reports:
The anxiety and anger have been building all year. In March, a national coalition of Islamic organizations warned that it would cease cooperating with the F.B.I. unless the agency stopped infiltrating mosques and using “agents provocateurs to trap unsuspecting Muslim youth.
This is a very serious problem. We do not want terrorist activity to succeed on the one hand, and we do not want our most important human right (religious freedom) denied any US citizens on the other. A healthy, mutually appreciative and supportive relationship between these communities is vital
Tensions became especially acute since the Fort Hood shootings. The CS Monitor reports:
The relationship between police and the Muslim community has been strained since 9/11. Many Muslim groups accuse the FBI and other counter-terrorism agents of using overly aggressive tactics to strong-arm mosque attendees into becoming informants. Others say Muslims are often victims of racial profiling.
"The scrutiny has created a siege mentality in some Muslim communities. Many are afraid to talk to newcomers for fear of being entrapped by FBI informants. Some are afraid to express political views, and others have stopped attending mosque altogether
.
There are several important elements and commitments to ponder, as we think of ways to help these groups work well together for the greater good.
One huge problem is that asymmetric war systems became adopted by communities that understand this to be legitimate, religious activity. These acts of terror and the networks devoted to these primitive horrors have gone by a series of names, from the primitively (and problematic) "Muslim terrorism," to politically correct, meaningless term simply "terrorism," (as though sophisticated, international networks carefully and systematically kill innocents utterly non-attached to any ideological design). The very fact of the ever changing name for this phenomenon is evidence of its complexity.
Terrorism inspired by the perversion of religion is especially challenging for the US is due to our strong constitutional commitment to religious freedom, and our belief that religious freedom is the bedrock for a free and healthy society (as opposed to a tyranny).
This foundational principle and commitment combines with the fact of "religiously" inspired terrorism to create a this unique two-fold problem: 1. Americans (meaning in this usage United States citizens) know that religious freedom is paramount to the health of our nation, so says our constitution. 2. There are people in the world presently who interpret religion to affirm as legitimate terror, and killing and maiming innocents.
Unfortunately the religion primarily perverted by these villains is an established world religion.
Muslims face special difficulties in the current climate, and in the US for at least three reasons. 1. Militants who believe religion permits the killing of innocents cite Islam as that religion with vastly greater frequency than they do any other established world religion. 2. Islam has the status of a minority religion in the United States. 3. Islam tends to believe that religious obligation extends more deeply into social and political life than does Christianity (and Judaism generally speaking).
Muslims, like all Americans want to live and work in a peaceful, healthy, and stable society, and like us all naturally seek to support those whose job it is to risk their lives protecting us. Tragically (especially for Muslims), the minuscule number of Americans who mean the country ill, and who are guided by (a sick perversion of some) religion are more likely to be guided by a sick perversion of Islam, than by a sick perversion of some other established world religion.
FBI agents whether "Christian" or not, are more likely to be influenced by traces of Christian social and political assumptions, and are more likely to lack sensitivity and understanding of the Muslim experience and world view.
Muslim frustrations are palpable They claim that there have been several
"high-profile cases in which informers have infiltrated mosques and helped promote plots, [and] have sown a corrosive fear among their people that F.B.I. informers are everywhere, listening... There is a sense that law enforcement is viewing our communities not as partners but as objects of suspicion."
We all can imagine how this feels. How we would feel if we had to live with this as the steady diet of our lives at home, and in our churches and synagogues.
From the law enforcement side the growing distance is also dangerous,
Law enforcement experts warn of a far-reaching consequence: the loss of a critical early-warning system against domestic terrorism. This is a national security issue,” said David Schanzer, who heads the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security at Duke University. “It’s absolutely vital that the F.B.I. and the Muslim-American community clear the air and figure out how to work together.
Efforts to collaborate among these two valuable parts of the American family should be a source of our pride as Americans, a splendid testimony to the American ideal of freedom and equality. It is natural to expect that this effort will become strained at times, but we all must be vested in every way to help both sides see this through, and to encourage improvement wherever we can.
There have been meetings for Muslim and Arab-American leaders to meet with agents both on the local level (in the New York area), and at the federal level (with Eric Holder) to present their "grievances." But this is not ideal. While this is better than nothing, it is far from sufficient to address a problem of this magnitude in importance and complexity.
What is needed is not the hearing or airing of "grievances," but a genuine growth in knowledge on the part of agents about Islam and the Muslim experience. Likewise, Muslims must be given the opportunity to grow in sensitivity and clear knowledge about the unique strains and pressures faced by FBI agents.
A true partnership is one of shared understanding and mutual support. It is not one of imbalance, or exploitation, disinterest, or ignorance. Muslim Americans and FBI should collaborate in an environment of trust defined by accurate knowledge of each other's experience, and confidence in an equally shared love for a healthy America.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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