The web sites of several major Muslim American organizations remained down on Thursday, as FBI agents continued to search the offices of InfoCom Corporation, a Muslim owned internet service provider.
FBI special agent Lori Bailey told reporters on Wednesday that they were executing a search warrant and that the company's servers had been shut down.
The search is reportedly part of an ongoing, two-year investigation being conducted by the North Texas Joint Terrorism Task Force. No additional information on the reasons for the investigation were available because the search warrant application had been sealed by a federal judge.
Agents from the Department of Commerce, the Department of State Diplomatic Security Service, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Internal Revenue Service, the Customs Service and the Secret Service also took part in the raid.
InfoCom hosts a web portal that services the Middle East and hosted servers for several major Muslim organizations, including the Islamic Society of North America, the Muslim Students Association, the Islamic Association for Palestine, and the Holy Land Foundation. As of Thursday, all of their web sites remained shut down.
The Council on American Islamic Relations, a Washington based Muslim advocacy group, just recently moved its server from InfoCom to another location, but a CAIR staff member said that its e-mail service was still being provided through InfoCom.
The campaign to shut down HLF
The raid comes just weeks after two Muslim bashers, Steven Emerson and Daniel Pipes, called upon the federal government to shut down the web sites of IAP and HLF.
Emerson and Pipes wrote in an August 13 column in the Wall Street Journal: "The time has also come for the US to support Israel in rolling back the forces of terror".
"The federal authorities should use the tools it already has in closing down these web sites and organizations," they wrote.
Meanwhile, officers and an attorney for InfoCom went to federal court Wednesday, requesting a judge to allow them to re-open their business while the FBI continues its investigation. No immediate information on the outcome of the request was immediately available.
Television reporters in Dallas said the feds were investigating any links between InfoCom and HLF, which is located across the street. But Dalell Mohammed, a spokesperson for HLF, said she was not aware of any investigation of her organization.
HLF, a relief organization that provides humanitarian aid to Muslims in Palestine, India, Chechnya, Bosnia and other countries around the world, is the target of a six hundred million dollar lawsuit filed by a Jewish family.
The lawsuit aims to hold HLF and several other Muslim charities and individuals, responsible for the death of their son, David Boim, in a 1996 shooting incident in the West Bank.
A copy of the lawsuit, obtained by iviews.com, said Boim was shot and killed while waiting with other students at a bus stop. Boim, who held citizenship in both Israel and the United States, was in Israel studying at a yeshiva.
Boim's parents accuse HLF of funding "Hamas terrorists" and of "soliciting, financing and providing material support" for the attack.
"The front organizations solicit contributions directly through mosques in heavily Islamic areas in Illinois and Texas. HLF also solicits donations over the internet," reported the suit.
The plaintiffs bring the action under the new federal Anti-terrorism law, enacted by the Clinton administration.
Mohammed said the accusations are completely false.
"Holy Land is in the business of helping refugees and people in need. We don't condone any sort of violence as we are a humanitarian organization."
HLF was also the target of a political campaign orchestrated by Israeli sympathizers. In a copy of a letter obtained by iviews.com, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York urged former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former Attorney General Janet Reno to "crack down" on HLF for "raising millions of dollars for the Palestinian cause in the Middle East, some of which has been knowingly channeled to support the families of Hamas terrorists." The letter was faxed to at least several other news organizations, including the New York Post and Jewish Week.
Assistant New York State Attorney General Karen Goldman has also made attempts to shut down HLF. In letters and meetings, Goldman asked the IRS to audit the records of HLF in an effort to "enforce the laws applicable to exempt organizations".
In the past, the State Department has been successful in negatively impacting another Muslim charity. USAID, under pressure from the State Department, revoked two grants totaling $4.2 million awarded to the Islamic African Relief Agency, which is based in Columbia, Missouri. The charity has since challenged the action as unlawful.
Growing tension between Muslims and Bush Administration
The federal raid on the Muslim business comes at a time of growing tensions between US Muslims and the White House. Many Muslims, who supported Bush in his bid for the presidency, have become increasingly critical of his actions since entering the White House. Muslims say they are angered by his mishandling of the Palestinian-Israeli situation and for his support of the Macedonian government against Muslim Albanians.
Adding to the tension was an incident in which a young Muslim activist was ejected from a meeting with Administration officials earlier this summer.
About two dozen members of various Muslim organizations came to the Old Executive Building, which is part of the White House complex, to discuss President George W. Bush's faith-based initiative that calls for providing federal funds to religious organizations involved in charity and community work.
But in the middle of their discussion with presidential assistant Mark Scott, Secret Service agents entered the room and asked one of the delegates, Abdullah Al-Arian, an intern for House Democratic Minority Whip David Bonior, to leave the premises.
He complied. But the rest of the group refused to continue the meeting and walked out of the building.
Abdullah Arian, 20, a Duke University student, told the Washington Post a Secret Service agent said he did not have security clearance to be in the meeting.
"He told me my name checked out on some list," Arian said, "that he made a mistake in letting me in and that now he was rectifying that mistake."
The American Muslim Council, one of the groups that organized the meeting, said in a statement that Al-Arian was found suspicious "due to his father's political activities."
Sami Al Arian heads the National Coalition to Protect Political Freedom, a group that defended among others Mazen Al-Najjar, a Palestinian who was jailed in Florida for three years on suspicion of association with so-called Middle Eastern "terrorism networks". However, the US government failed to substantiate such claims.
Sami Al Arian was among a group of Muslim leaders who attended a political briefing at the White House just one week prior to the incident. But Muslim leaders said they were insulted at that meeting too, when Vice President Dick Cheney did not appear as scheduled.
White House officials were reportedly embarrassed by the incident and Bush was forced to make an apology. Described as "very upset", Bush admitted the Secret Service made a mistake.
"The president is very concerned that an action was taken that was wrong, inappropriate and the president apologizes for it on behalf of the White House," press secretary Ari Fleischer said.
Aslam Abdullah, editor of two prominent Muslim American newspapers, lashed out at Bush in a written statement issued earlier this summer.
"I offer my unconditional apology for asking the community to support Bush. From now on until the next election, I will keep repeating the message that the decision to support Bush was wrong," said Abdullah.