COPAA, MPAC & Law Enforcement Officials Discuss Partnership

Los Angeles, CA: At a press conference on August 14, the Muslim Public Affairs Council, the Council for Pakistan American Affairs as well as the British Consul General and federal law enforcement officials commended the central role of the Muslim American community in combating terrorism and extremism. Officials from FBI Los Angeles Field Office, the Department of Homeland Security's Los Angeles Bureau, and Los Angeles Sheriff Lee Baca detailed the numerous efforts in which they are engaged in order to build rapport and trust with the Muslim American community to protect the nation and the civil liberties of all citizens.
"I want to acknowledge the crucial tip that came from a worried member of the British Muslim community, and was the primary reason that this alleged plot was disrupted," said MPAC Executive Director Salam Al-Marayati. "It is that unknown hero that we want to acknowledge today as well as those Muslims in America, Europe and throughout the world who are stepping forward out of their Islamic obligation to protect their communities and their societies that we want to raise awareness about. These are people who are serving their patriotic duty in the United States and elsewhere."
The British Consul General Bob Peirce expressed the need to strengthen dialogue between the Muslim community and law enforcement. "In the UK, it has proved very important to create a very strong relationship between the Muslim communities and law enforcement," said Peirce. "What we face in the UK is a large threat from a small minority. There is something of a battle for hearts and minds going on in the Islamic community. It's a battle where the leaders of the Islamic community and the government are very much of one mind. It's very much an international enterprise that we're engaged upon to bring together all of us who are keen to put this terrible terrorist threat behind us."
Stephen Tidwell, Assistant Director of the FBI-LA Field Office, detailed ongoing initiatives to deepen engagement between the bureau and Muslim community leaders and student leaders. "Since 2004, the Multicultural Advisory Committee has been an integral part of our efforts in maintaining a bridge between those leaders and the communities and organizations they represent not only in the fight against terrorism but in our understanding that we need to protect the civil rights of these communities at times like this," said Tidwell. "When their patriotism and their citizenship is called into question and extremists of another type would attack them, their members, their institutions. We're glad that we've been able to maintain an open dialogue that allows to work on developing trust and understanding."
Department of Homeland Security officials also outlined their recently launched efforts to meet with American Arab, Muslim, and South Asian community leaders in LA, which are modeled on efforts in Detroit, Chicago, and Buffalo. "Modeled after a community outreach initiative in Detroit called BRIDGES, these meetings have two purposes: to provide these community leaders with important information about DHS initiatives that they need but probably won't read in the media, and to hear from them about concerns they have and ideas they have for improving our security," said Kevin Weeks, head of the LA Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (CPB). "We will continue to work with our colleagues at the FBI as well as state and local law enforcement to engage effectively with communities."
Los Angeles Sheriff Lee Baca also shared recent developments in the Muslim American Homeland Security Congress, an initiative he formed with local Muslim leaders and may soon be duplicated in other US cities. "I have been asked repeatedly in Southern California and throughout the US, 'Where are the leaders of the Muslim community in the fight against terror?' The answer is that these leaders have been working actively and tirelessly with leaders in my office building a rapport and relationship so we can do more for one another to protect our country," said Baca. "Muslim American leaders are united in the fight against terrorism. The Muslim American Homeland Security Congress was actually formed by Muslim American leaders to bring forward more education, more dialogue and more understanding on the circumstance of extremism and what extremism can lead to."
Ahmed Ali, Past President of the Council of Pakistan American Affairs (COPAA), also reaffirmed the common threat posed by terrorism. "We are thankful to the law enforcement agencies in the US, Britain and Pakistan for their teamwork to foil the alleged plan to blow up fights from UK to US," said Ali. "The combined effort of all three nations reaffirms our believe that these are times when we must all work together and remain engaged at multiple levels on a long term basis for the common good of all nations and their people. We face a common enemy that does not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, or ethnicity."
Al-Marayati ended the press conference by reiterating the need to broaden national awareness around such important programs that create forums for education and outreach.
"We need to raise awareness about these particular programs to the American public, both in order to calm fears and to relay the message that American Muslims are key in playing a role for America's national security and also for bridging the divide when it comes to any talk about a clash of civilizations and alienation of Muslim youth in our society," Al-Marayati added.
Among the media outlets in attendance were CNN, NPR, La Opinion, Univision as well as several LA news outlets (KTLA5, KNBC4, KABC7, Fox11, KNX-AM 1070 and KFI-AM 640).

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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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