Confronting FBI Abuses

Who can forget the countless stories of persecution that the first generation of Muslims faced among the people of Bani Quraysh? They were persecuted, excluded, driven to pray in secret, spat upon publicly and starved. And yet, faced with such terrible acts of persecution, the Prophet Muhammad repeatedly stood up with his dignity intact and continued to advocate for the inclusion and acceptance of those who believed in one God in his society.

He did not turn back and flee from his persecutors, nor did he stop interacting with them. Who can forget the story of the Prophet's neighbor who would throw trash on his doorstep every day? When one day there was no trash on his doorstep, the Prophet did not rejoice. Instead, he visited his neighbor to inquire about her health.

Faced with the news that the FBI has used paid informants in at least a few Southern California mosques, we must draw on this example to demonstrate a thoughtful, critical and level-headed response, and prevent ourselves from reacting emotionally. The situation must be tackled head-on, and with a long-term view for our community.

I can't help but feel that this news very much reinforces many Muslims' fear about being monitored and erodes from the sense of safety that all people should have in their own houses of worship.

Two decades ago, Muslim organizations demanded a place at the table with federal law enforcement in order to have a forum through which to address our concerns, our communities' experiences, and share our recommendations about fostering greater understanding between law enforcement and Muslim Americans.

We collectively won our place at the table and have consistently utilized these forums to raise community concerns about cases of profiling, hate crimes and stigmatization that follow.

Clearly, the FBI and other federal law enforcement agencies need to hear from us loudly and clearly now more than ever. We may choose to march in the streets over this un-American intrusion into a house of worship, but we must also pursue every possible channel to expose this issue and call for scrutiny of the FBI's actions. Choosing to suspend outreach activities in protest is not enough. Instead, we must use these outreach forums to express our sense of betrayal and call for immediate action. FBI officials need to see our faces and hear the pain and anger this news has caused. We also need to educate our neighbors about the FBI's misuse of taxpayer dollars to monitor mosque attendees' words and "test them for terrorist sympathies."

It would be a grave mistake to assume that even a temporary withdrawal from these public forums would not be celebrated by the opportunistic band of Islamophobes who comb the Internet looking for evidence of American Muslim alienation, and opportunities to formulate new policies that will adversely affect our communities. 

Government agencies must engage with the broadest spectrum of Muslim American organizations, rather than deluding themselves into thinking that tiny splinter groups can hold just as much community credibility and access.

Alongside the Islamic Society of North America, the Muslim Students Association - National, and the Freedom and Justice Foundation, MPAC leaders last week met with FBI officials in Washington, DC, to call for an investigation into the use of agent provocateurs and the inclusion of all Muslim organizations in ongoing outreach efforts.

As our community continues to grow and flourish, so will our opinions and approaches. Following the example of our esteemed scholars, we will continue to respect and work with our fellow brothers and sisters even when our methods differ.

Federal law enforcement agencies should recognize that community-based organizations are their greatest allies in protecting their communities and their country.

Our path as American Muslims is not easy, but we are assisted by the words of the Quran: "Do men think that on their mere saying 'We have attained to faith' they will be left to themselves and will not be put to a test? We tested those before you and will test you and God will mark out those who prove themselves true, and those who are lying" (Quran 29:1-3).

Edina Lekovic is the Communications Director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (

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Older Comments:
Greetings of peace to every reader. Very well prepared ariticle. On the top of everything the FBI brothers need to know Who is their Creator, Sustainer, Nourisher, Forgiver. On the day, they know this all problems surely completely will be resolved very decently. To have an access to that they have to read the life of the most successful man Muhammad, God's peace and blessings be upon him. Thank you for reading.

The FBI's operative view is that all Muslims are suspected criminals and all Masjids are criminal organizations. This operational view will not change so long as the "war on Islam" is a top priority of the US. Accordingly, it is naive to believe that any relationship or interaction with the FBI will be viewed by it as other than an opportunity to surveille and infiltrate. Muslims should not find fault with the FBI for doing what is its nature and mission. But we should correct our naive mind set that leads us to believe that anything beneficial to Muslims can come from interaction with the FBI. If I enter the cage of the tiger, I should expect to be mauled and should not blame the tiger for acting according to its nature. The lesson is simmple. Do not go in the cage. Leave the FBI alone.

So Mosques should be exempt from monitoring by law enforcement? How about Muslims in general? Should they be above the law?

You know where you find a lot of Muslims? In the prison system. What are your thoughts on monitoring there?

I find the following line laughable:
We also need to educate our neighbors about the FBI's misuse of taxpayer dollars to monitor mosque attendees' words and "test them for terrorist sympathies."

Can the author really be that out of touch? Most non-muslims would applaud this rather than think of it as a waste of dollars.

I'm not sure why the author seems to think that she has a right to do or say anything she wants while in a mosque - at the end of the day, that's what she's asking for.

To Romesh Chander:
We never know who is doing the right thing and who is not. I don't believe in the word 'Jihadists'. These are the people have been brainwashed and have been used to attain some political purpose, for example during Russian Afghan war, the Jihadists created by cia.

I'm an American Muslim. Since reverting, I've been called an embarressment to USA and a terrorist. Sad thing is that Muslims can't form community in USA like Chinese because then we'd be under attack by non-Muslims, and the USA would probably just say we're plotting something and don't want to intergrate into western non-Muslim society. The USA has been prejudice against every nationality and race (minus it's own people meaning whites) ever since it was founded. Now its the Muslims and Arabs turn to be persecuted by the white Christian majority in USA. I think it's completly wrong for FBI to be using informants to try to prove something that doesn't exist. Muslims don't talk about bad things in masjid. They talk about problems they are facing in the host country they are living in and around the world, and other things like the hereafter. You shouldn't assume that just because there are Muslims in a mosque means their "hiding" something or want to be differnet from the non-Muslims.

Note to Sahar:

In US, muslims do not form a community. To have a community, muslims will have to live very close to each other; they don't. Rather they are too dispersed among population of other religions. So, stop calling yourself a community in US.

Function of FBI is to keep tab on society; so using paid informants is not considered an abuse by FBI; after all, that is the mechanism FBI uses to nail down Mafiaosi, drug peddlers, 'people who are threat to state and democracy or capitalistic system' like Communists, Jihadists, etc. So, stop crying if informants are used in muslim communities and institutions to keep a tab.

But if they wrongly arrest or accuse somebody, that is an abuse and must be fought against, and fought vigorously.

JAK Sister Edina for your insight. We really need to get on the ball when it comes to bringing our issues to the table. As a community we must stand up to all injustice against not only Islamic Centers and Islamic outreach groups but the kinds of injustices geared to all places of worship and faith based outreach groups. We also need to learn from the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)and his example by making alliances with other faith based organizations who are rallying for similar causes. We need to stand firm for what is right and just collectively as Muslims. We will be asked on the Day of Judgement, what efforts if any we have made to better the communities in which we live and in which we are raising our kids. May Allah (SWT) help us in this endevour. Ameen.