Embrace American Muslims
By Hussam Ayloush
Executive Director CAIR
Greater Los Angeles Area, CA
Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) recently claimed that “all terrorists are Muslims or Middle Easterners between the ages 20 and 35.”
Michael Savage , host of the The Savage Nation, said, “Not all Muslims are terrorists but all terrorists happen to be Muslim.”
Such claims were proven wrong, once again, when Huratee militia members were arrested late last month on charges to “levy war” against the US, and as America observed the 15th anniversary of the Oklahoma city bombing last week.
Additionally, FBI statistics show that the vast majority of domestic terrorists are not Muslim.
So, media pundits, policymakers, and law enforcement – take note.
Terror perpetrators do not embody a single religion, nationality or ethnicity. They only embody an ideology of causing murder and mayhem to drive a political agenda.
Sadly, the ‘terrorist’ and ‘suspect’ labels the American Muslim community has been confronted with are neither new, nor rare.
What is rare, and often overlooked, is a perspective recently offered by a sheriff of national prominence. It might do America well to take another listen.
"Americans, particularly elected officials, should not claim Islam supports terrorism. This is counter-productive to trust. It plays into the terrorist strategy that the West is against Islam. At this time in our history, with billions of dollars being spent on a war against terror, our nation should ask that all Americans follow President Obama's example and be the instrument of goodwill to Muslims throughout the world.
“It is my belief that the average American has the potential to be our best ambassador of goodwill. However, senators, members of congress, governors, mayors, boards of supervisors, sheriffs, police chiefs, scholars, scientists, and laborers and their leaders must set the example with a desire to visit mosques and communicate with Muslims, worldwide, in the quest of better understanding Islam.”
This testimony, given before a Congressional hearing on homeland security last month captures the commitment of Sheriff Lee Baca of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department to the nation’s security while also paying homage to the American values of equality and pluralism.
Moreover, his words follow diligent action in embracing American Muslims and addressing their concerns.
A great example is the local Muslim community organizations’ partnership with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department called the Muslim American Homeland Security Congress (MAHSC). Through this forum, the sheriff’s department has engaged Muslims by addressing community issues, ranging from false arrests, to mosque vandalism, to cases involving Muslim women who wear the headscarf.
Such outreach efforts help foster goodwill and cooperation between law enforcement and the communities they serve, and help ensure that civil rights of Americans are not trampled.
American Muslims, for their part, have answered the call of duty by collaborating on efforts to protect the homeland and contribute to America.
Late last year in Virginia, families of five young Muslim men came forward after the men had disappeared under mysterious circumstances and left behind a ‘disturbing’ video. The Council on American-Islamic Relations assisted the families in quickly contacting the FBI – steps borne out of concern for the young men and to help protect innocent people.
Furthermore, several thousand Muslims serve in the Armed Forces. Many more keep America safe, healthy and informed by serving as police officers, firefighters, doctors, nurses, teachers and journalists.
However, when American Muslims are framed as suspects rather than partners, then the entire nation suffers.
For instance, the FBI - bucking its own statistical trend - has regularly used coercive tactics against Muslims.
Last October, FBI agents fatally shot a well-respected Imam 21 times in Dearborn after he allegedly shot at an FBI dog. The US Justice Department has now opened an investigation into the shooting incident, and the Michigan Attorney General’s office has assigned a special prosecutor to the case.
Early last year, Ahmed Niazi of Tustin, Calif., was arrested on immigration-related charges after he refused to become an FBI informant. Niazi helped catch a suspect who professed extremist views in an Irvine mosque but later was found to be an FBI provocateur.
In May 2009, four Muslim men were arrested in the Bronx in an alleged terrorism plot orchestrated by yet another FBI agent provocateur. One of the alleged perpetrators was mentally ill while another had an ailing brother whose needed liver transplant the provocateur had promised to pay for.
In sum, treating American Muslims as suspect and running the risk of alienating them is a mockery of our Constitutional values and wastes precious law enforcement dollars and resources needed to catch the bad guys.
The right move for pundits, policymakers and police officers is to follow Sheriff Baca’s lead, and embrace American Muslims as well as the values that make America a great nation.