The news that the FBI was monitoring masajid, Islamic centers, Muslim businesses and homes for radioactive material was rather shocking. We, in the Muslim community knew it even before 9/11 that our homes, mosques and businesses were under surveillance and our phones and public meetings were wire taped. We knew that many in the federal law enforcement agencies had found informant from amongst Muslims to spy on us and to record our deliberations in various conferences and conventions. This is nothing new. Intelligence gathering agencies indulge in this sort of activities all over the world. They are paid to do this job and they enjoy doing it.
However, what was shocking is the fact that Muslim places of worship were being monitored for explosive or dirty bomb material. Those who have engineered this campaign reveal the biases and misconception about Islam in their mind. By organizing such an investigation, the federal intelligence agency has raised several questions about the nature of Islam and the Muslim American community. It certainly has given legitimacy to ideas promoted by some fanatic Christian evangelical leaders including Franklin Graham that Islam is a religion of terror and Muslim places of worship are a source of danger to national security. It certainly has strengthened the notion found among many Islamophoists including Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell that Muslim Americans cannot be trusted regardless of their overtly expressed commitment to patriotism.
Needless to say that this goes against all those basic values of justice and freedom that lured many immigrants including Muslims from all over the world to this land. During their exercise of their rights as citizens of the United States of America, Muslim Americans have proved beyond doubt that they are a law-abiding community. Crime rates among Muslims are the lowest in the country. Hardly one percent of their community members is involved in over 12,000 murders that occur annually in our country and hardly .3 percent are involved in rape that occurs every four minutes. Rarely one finds a Muslim name in over 670 gun violence related deaths every week. Moreover, the presence of Muslims in law enforcement agencies and in the military speaks of volumes of their commitment to defend the country risking their lives.
On issues such as suicide bombing, terror against innocent civilians and using violence for sociopolitical changes, their perspectives are principled and peaceful. Not only they have condemned senseless killing of innocent people, but they have also challenged the theological foundations of those that advocate and justify violence in the name of their religion.
Yet, those who have been monitoring Muslim places of worship for radioactive material neither take these facts into considerations nor accept the Muslim claim of patriotism seriously. Rather, through their action many in the law enforcement agencies promote the already existing stereotypes that have hurt Islam and Muslims seriously in the social and political arena.
This is a matter that should be viewed seriously by our Congress and Judiciary. It is the responsibility of our Representatives to ensure that legislation they approve is not misused to promote a specific religious or political agenda. Perhaps a congressional inquiry in this issue would set records straight. Such an inquiry may reveal the true nature of the ongoing investigation. If there is a basis for such an investigation, then the Muslim community must know about it. If not, then the community must be spared from such a trial that is no less than imposing collective punishment for the crimes committed by some 19 foreigners who had little to do with either Islam or Muslim Americans.
Dr. Aslam Abdullah is the director of the Islamic Society of Nevada and editor of the Muslim weekly Muslim Observer published from Detroit.