FBI – the “Friendly Brotherhood of Islam”

My friend, Ronin, sent me the following article exploring the FBI’s National Outreach Program in Muslim communities.

It’s indicitive of the ignorance that abounds in the government when it comes to Islam. One of the comments (among many!) that I found alarming was this one:

“We’re asking the Muslim community to do what we ask every other community to do, which is to take a proactive role in protecting the community.”

Gee, just what we need… Another excuse for Muslims to shoot, “Unbelievers.”


(FBI raids the Islamic American Relief Agency Headquarters)

Fear, mistrust hamper FBI outreach to U.S. Muslims
The FBI is struggling to win the trust of the nation’s Muslim and Arab communities in its effort to improve terrorism intelligence.
Miami Herald

RICHMOND, Va. – When a local FBI agent wanted to make contacts in this city’s tight-knit Muslim community, he started knocking on doors.

The agent didn’t look, much less act, like a typical investigator. He spoke Arabic and he wore casual clothes, not the suit and tie favored by many in the bureau.

”He seemed really friendly,” said Muhammad Sahli, a U.S. citizen approached at his home last month by the agent. “So I invited him in.”

But the agent’s questions about international terrorist organizations unnerved Sahli. The agent wanted to know if he knew anyone with ties to extremist groups. Sahli, a Muslim married to a Christian woman, said he didn’t.

‘You ask yourself, `Why me?’ ” said Sahli, a 71-year-old retired chemist. “When you’ve never had a visit from the FBI before in your life, you feel a certain amount of anxiety, even though you’ve done nothing wrong.”

For many Muslim and Arab Americans these days, meeting an FBI agent can be an unsettling, even terrifying experience.

Beginning almost immediately after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the FBI began to root out suspected terrorists, and Arab and Muslim communities became the bureau’s top targets. Agents rounded up hundreds of people for questioning. They raided Muslim charities, monitored mosques for radiation and held refugees for months because of security checks.

To regain the trust of Muslim and Arab Americans, the FBI has embarked on an aggressive national outreach program. The bureau’s efforts, which include mosque visits and one-on-one meetings, have become so pervasive in certain cities that some young Muslim Americans refer to the agency as the “Friendly Brotherhood of Islam.”


Yet across the country, many participants wonder what the interactions achieve when mistrust remains the biggest obstacle. Some community activists compare the tone of the current encounters to those during the Red Scare of the 1950s, when U.S. citizens were singled out as suspected communists and expected to prove their loyalty to the United States.

”You never hear the FBI say that part of the reason there has not been another terrorist attack in this country is because radical extremists have not found a home in American mosques,” said Rebecca Abou-Chedid, the director of government relations for the Arab American Institute in Washington, D.C. “It’s as if they believe that we know about terrorist cells and we’re not telling them.”

In Detroit, the home of an estimated 200,000 Arab Americans and immigrants, agents and activists sometimes argue for hours over terrorism-related investigations. Many Muslim leaders think the bureau has targeted the wrong people in its effort to root out extremists.

”It is very difficult,” said Daniel Roberts, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Detroit field office. “To be honest, I sometimes wonder why we do this when we so often are beaten up in a verbal sense.”

Agents aren’t apologizing for their tactics and respond that they have a duty to pursue any possible U.S. ties to terrorists. More than 260 defendants have been convicted of terrorism-related charges in the United States and trials are pending for 150 more, according to the Justice Department’s latest estimates released in June.

But agents also recognize that the alienation that Muslims and Arabs feel could undermine the bureau’s hunt for domestic terrorists. If the fear subsided, more citizens might come forward with tips, agents believe, at a time when the bureau is under mounting pressure to collect better intelligence.

Muslim and Arab-American leaders said they, too, are eager to improve their relations with the FBI. If that happened, many of them said, they would urge their children to join a federal law enforcement agency that wants to recruit them. Now, most don’t.

Muslims and Arabs also hold out a small but persistent hope that if FBI agents trusted them more, other Americans would, too.

Despite their misgivings about the FBI, Muslim and Arab leaders said they’re more than willing to provide any information that could prevent a terrorist attack.

After London authorities in August uncovered a plot to blow up planes, Miami community leaders called the FBI to ask for a briefing.

”As an American I am very concerned about what is happening elsewhere and I don’t want it to happen here,” said Altaf Ali, the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relation’s Florida chapter in Pembroke Pines.

Since then, agents have been assigned as contacts for imams at almost 40 mosques.

”We saw this as an opportunity to provide consistency for them,” said Stu McArthur, an assistant special agent in charge of the FBI in Miami. “If one of the imams thinks that radical elements are infiltrating the mosque or trying to recruit people, he would know someone who could help him.”

But experts said the bureau’s mission is made more difficult because of outreach techniques that often differ by region.

Michael Rolince, former head of the FBI’s International Terrorism Operations Section, said the bureau remains divided over how to approach Muslims and Arabs when it’s not in the context of a terrorism investigation.

As a result, the FBI’s 56 field offices don’t have a uniform way of handling outreach, Rolince said.

”It’s not in the best interest of the community or the FBI to deal with each organization in 56 different ways,” he said. “It sends a mixed message to the community and to the agents.”

According to a study released earlier this year by the Vera Institute of Justice, seven out of 16 U.S. cities with significant Arab and Muslim populations didn’t have active FBI outreach programs. The institute, a nonprofit organization in New York, wasn’t permitted to identify the cities as part of its pact with the FBI.

But more contact isn’t always better. Although the FBI met more often with community leaders than most local police departments did, Muslims and Arabs trusted them less, the Vera Institute of Justice concluded. Community leaders said local police officers were less likely than the FBI to assume they had links to terrorism.

In South Florida, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, New York and Detroit, agents meet regularly with groups of Muslims and Arabs. The larger community gatherings help the leaders feel less singled out, agents said. Agents said they want leaders and activists to feel comfortable telling them about hate crimes allegations, as well as any suspicious activity connected to potential terrorism activity.


”I’m an American talking to Americans about protecting America,” said McArthur, the special agent in charge of the FBI in Miami, where agents meet with leaders several times a year. “We’re asking the Muslim community to do what we ask every other community to do, which is to take a proactive role in protecting the community.”

Although Muslim community leaders said they appreciate the meetings, they said they have become frustrated with the FBI’s inability to solve many of the hate crimes they report.

”They tell me these cases are hard to solve,” said Ali of the Council on AmericanIslamic Relations. “But it appears to me like they’re not a priority.”

If the FBI could demonstrate more success in solving hate crimes, Muslims and Arabs said they would see the bureau in a more positive light.

Explore posts in the same categories: FBI, politics, War on Terror

One Comment on “FBI – the “Friendly Brotherhood of Islam””

  1. […] Shibly focused on relations with the government, especially US Customs and the FBI (“definitely not the Friendly Brotherhood of Islam”). […]

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