A Fragile Relationship Between Muslims and the FBI

stock-fbiBy Colin Moynihan, New York Times, 2/28/2013

Early one morning in 2007, Muhammad Chaudhry showed up at the Islamic Center of East Bay in Antioch, Calif., and found seven bullet holes in one of the building’s front windows.

The center was the target of arson in 2007 and several other attacks.

Soon, agents from the San Francisco office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation arrived and documented it and previous incidents at the center. In 2005, someone had left messages including "racial slurs" on the center’s answering machine, the agents wrote. In 2006, a single shot had damaged a window; a few months later, the same window was destroyed with a brick.

In a report written three weeks after the shots were fired, and obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, an agent wrote that no investigation would continue "since there is no current evidence to show this incident as being a hate crime."

Six months later, arson gutted the center. F.B.I. agents opened an investigation, but members of the center wondered whether the fire could have been prevented if the agency had pursued the fusillade that preceded it. ...

Reservations over how the situation at the center in Antioch was handled underscore a sometimes delicate relationship between the F.B.I. and the Muslim population near San Francisco.

About a year ago, a Freedom of Information Act request by the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California and other groups yielded about 15,000 documents detailing interactions between FBI agents and Muslims in that part of the state.

Lawyers and activists said that the documents showed that the F.B.I. had used a mosque outreach program, meant to combat hate crimes directed at Muslims, to gather information about people engaged in lawful activities. News reports followed, along with debates over how the F.B.I. should approach the Muslim population. At the time, F.B.I. officials said those operations were appropriate. (Read full article)