Monday, August 03, 2009

More News About Arrests and Open House

Check out today's N&O: Muslims torn between shock, compassion: arrest could undo goodwill efforts.

I for one am tired of reading headlines describing Muslims as "shocked." Thankfully the article doesn't go on to just talk about Muslims being "shocked," but unfortunately veers towards blaming Muslims for not getting a "good" (i.e., sensational) story.

For starters, it actually mentions the Open House! Yay! For a whole paragraph sentence. Sigh.
On Saturday, the Islamic Association of Raleigh threw open its doors for a "Meet Your Muslim Neighbor" event that drew 600 people, including two congressmen, one cabinet secretary and several mayors.
600 people? 600 was my "lowball" estimate. But anyway--the event is mentioned at least. I thought that was good, but then I read on.
On Monday, the association faced its biggest nightmare: Seven men, all of whom at one point worshiped at the association's mosque, were arrested and charged with plotting to carry out terrorist attacks abroad.
That is the association's biggest nightmare? Really? I'm pretty sure some bigot deciding to actually bomb the mosque due to all this scare-mongering is a much bigger nightmare. But apparently the N&O thinks the Muslim community's biggest nightmare is "bad PR." I'd say the N&O is a little bit out of touch. Read on.
For years, the Raleigh Muslim community had worked to improve relations with the wider Triangle population and ease tensions caused by the terrorist bombings of Sept. 11, 2001. Now it faces its biggest public relations challenge and a potential setback to all its efforts. A family respected in the community was arrested and charged with fomenting violence and holy war.
Had worked? They are still working to improve relations with their neighbors. Go ahead and ask me why? Oh, because of the teachings of Islam! That is, because of instructions to do so in the Qur'an and in the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad! (ﷺ-peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)
Worship Allah and associate nothing with Him, and to parents do good, and to relatives, orphans, the needy, the near neighbor, the neighbor farther away, the companion at your side, the traveler, and those whom your right hands possess. Indeed, Allah does not like those who are self-deluding and boastful. (Qur'an 4:36)

Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Prophet (ﷺ) said, "By Allah, he is not a believer! By Allah, he is not a believer! By Allah, he is not a believer.'' It was asked, "Who is that, O Messenger of Allah?'' He said, "One whose neighbour does not feel safe from his evil". [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]. (Rights of Neighbors in Riyadh us-Saliheen)
Muslims being good in their communities is not a PR stunt, it's actually just following Islam. So in reality, who cares about the "bad PR?" There is no setback for work done for the sake of Allah.

The other silly part about the above quoted paragraph is saying the arrested men were accused of "fomenting violence and holy war." Please read the indictment, and see for yourself exactly what the men are accused of doing. I'm pretty sure the words "holy war" do not appear in the indictment, and it should be widely understood by now that jihad does not mean holy war--so why did the N&O stoop to such a ridiculous level to claim that it is? The fact that the indictment mentions "violent jihad" throughout is bad enough, isn't it? I think I might write another post on the usage of that phrase alone--violent jihad, it's technical usage in this case, and its meaning in Islam, for those who are unaware of how wide the disparity is.
Daniel Boyd, a U.S. native and a Johnston County resident, is accused of recruiting young men to join the cause of violent jihad. The 39-year-old father of five was a regular at Friday prayers where worshipers form neat lines for a series of prostrations.
Again we see the indictment terminology "violent jihad," but apparently Friday prayers with "neat lines for a series of prostrations." It almost looks like someone is trying to insert an informational tidbit about Islam here--Friday prayers involve "neat lines" and a "series of prostrations." I guess it's nice to mention something about what Friday prayers are, but the gross oversimplification isn't really helpful. The section goes on to call a Friday sermon a "hutba" (correct term is "khutbah") and describe Muslims as "shocked" among other things.

The second section starts telling us more about the indictment:
The federal indictment against Boyd states that he quit attending the mosque over "ideological differences." He found the theological attitudes at the Raleigh mosque too compromising for his radical brand of Islam, according to a federal indictment.
If we hadn't ever read anything about this story before now, this might be a useful paragraph. It's true--the indictment mentions ideological differences when it says that Boyd stopped attending the Raleigh mosque. Other reports have described the Raleigh mosque as being "too moderate" for him, but I find it interesting that the N&O decides to describe the Raleigh mosque's "theological attitudes" as "too compromising." It suggests that the Raleigh mosque is making compromises in its interpretation of Islam--rather a bold thing for the paper to say, since it was apparently too busy to be bothered to send anyone to the mosque's Open House.

I really want to know how the indictment can make claims like Boyd stopped attending because of ideological differences. It must be from the (FISA) surveillance.

Now what really got me going on this article form the N&O is the following:

In response to the arrests, mosque leaders reverted to old habits. They decided not to allow its two imams, or prayer leaders, to be interviewed by reporters, and returned to issuing tersely worded statements.

"The Islamic Association of Raleigh takes no official position on any pending criminal matters," read the statement on its Web site.

What old habits? Basically the article here is saying that the mosque is no longer the friendly "Meet Your Muslim Neighbor" center that it was at the Open House (which they could not be bothered to attend) but now it's a secretive vault refusing to indulge the media in their frenzy for juicy gossip. I mean, a secretive vault denying the public important information. Whatever.

I support the IAR in their decision to issue such a public statement, and I think it's entirely appropriate. Interviewing the imams, however, would not do the N&O any benefit (except maybe sell a paper or two by claiming that they got to hear what "Boyd's imam" said.) And is that position really a proper place for our scholars and spiritual leaders?

I wonder, if a Christian person, or a Jewish person, or a person of some other religion committed a crime--like conspiracy to harm people in another country, e.g.,--would it be appropriate to visit that person's place of worship, and interview the administration and leadership? Would a person's priest or pastor, or rabbi be expected to provide interviews to the media? I don't think so. And if that priest, pastor, or rabbi refused, would the place of worship (church or synagogue) be attacked in the media?

The imams and the mosque administration, have no part in the accusations or the court proceedings. They don't have any more knowledge about the case than what the public already has available--the indictment, press releases, etc. So why should they have to take sides, submit to an interview, or open themselves to public view for something not related to them.

Muslims, just like anyone else, want to see justice carried out, and with due process. Or maybe not everyone wants due process, which is why the media is so quick to label these men as terrorists and worse (I even saw one headline calling them an "Islamist sleeper cell!"), before even a trial date has been set. This reminds me of how some boys at Duke were labeled rapists a few years ago by the media, only to have the charges dropped later on (because they were completely false, based on DNA evidence.) They had their names dragged through the mud for a year (March 06-April 07), their pictures in the paper and on the news--and they were completely innocent!

Right now, the public and the media do not know whether these men accused of plotting terrorism are guilty or not--and we definitely shouldn't rush to hasty judgments, either.
Over the past few years, mosque leaders made deliberate efforts to establish good relations with law enforcement officials. At its open house, an FBI agent from Raleigh as well as Charlotte attended.
I've had the opportunity to participate in some mosque events with local law enforcement officials, and I have no complaints against them. They have visited the mosque on several occasions, and I even once had the opportunity to present to some officers at NCSU. As I see it, the mosque is doing its part to be a responsible part of the community.

Retired federal agent Steve Miller said he developed such good working ties with local imams, he invited two to participate in a U.S. Army Worldwide Antiterrorism Conference in Orlando in January.

"They were able to give an overview of what it's like to be an American Muslim, and it was very well-received," said Miller, who served as the lead liaison for the Muslim community for the Raleigh Joint Terrorism Task Force.

Isn't it nice to know that actual imams were invited to an Antiterrorism Conference? (And that these are extremely knowledgeable imams, not just random folks from a mosque somewhere.) I got to look at some of the material presented at that conference, which discussed (from the Islamic perspective) the importance of an entire community contributing to its safety and security. But with the article praising the mosque's relations with law enforcement, why is it criticizing the mosque now?

Still, whatever warm feelings the mosque was able to establish, many Muslims across the Triangle harbor deep disagreements with U.S. foreign policy, especially toward Israel and the Middle East. And that means internal discussion about international issues often becomes heated and occasionally harsh.

Not really a good answer, is it? In fact, it's a total distraction. The mosque established "warm feelings" with whom? And Muslims disagree with US foreign policy? Two totally unrelated concepts--law enforcement isn't really responsible for foreign policy, is it? We're talking about police officers, not the State Department, right? Apparently not--because now international issues are the focus. Doesn't it sound like the article is trying to make Muslims seem hateful of America? Many Muslims in the Triangle have relatives who are suffering overseas because of the decisions of American policymakers in regards to support for Israel and the "War on Terror." They might have family living in a refugee camp, family killed in an airstrike, etc. And it's quite patriotic to air one's dissenting views about government policy, isn't it? But still MAPAC rep Waleed Elhentaty had to defend such views:

"This doesn't mean we hate America," said Waleed Elhentaty, vice president of the nonprofit Muslim American Public Affairs Council. "We are using legal means to talk to politicians and educate them on the issues."

The rest of the article talks about Muslim suspicions about law enforcement tricking a few average Muslims into getting caught up in grand scary terrorism schemes, to put them behind bars. And honestly, I think those suspicions are perfectly valid, with "informants" who seem to provide the know-how, the contacts, the finances, and critically all the brains behind such operations. On the other hand, I know that I would like to see behind bars anyone who thinks that blowing up someone's place of worship is the will of God. Just as much as I hate to see innocent people arrested, detained, and sometimes even tortured, just to make the government look tough--and sometimes, I'm pretty sure that's what's going on.


Anonymous said...

Funny you mentioned this, I live in Raleigh and my husband and his family attend the mosque. My brother-in-law just got deported. Out of nowhere they came and took him away leaving his four children and wife with nothing to support themselves.

Amy said...

Sorry to hear that, I've heard about some random deportations taking place. How are his wife and children doing now?

Anonymous said...

They are staying with relatives, but I don't know what will happen with them, it's a lot of kids for them to find a place to stay easily.

Sarah said...

Zaeneb, that is a horrible predicament for your BIL's family. What reason did they give for the deportation?