The faithful who come to worship at the Masjid Al-Ittehad in Vista on Friday crowd the prayer hall and spill over into the courtyard.
At this masjid, or mosque (literally "place of prostration"), Nader Dehani
serves as imam, conducting the service, which opens with a call to prayer.
He stresses to the congregation the importance of adherence to the laws of
Islam, the Shari'a. He offers words of encouragement to all in getting
through the difficult times everyone is facing. He offers blessings.
And on some days, while others share a meal and fellowship, Dehani and
other members of the mosque leadership sit in the building's small office
and politely answer questions posed by agents from the Federal Bureau of
No one protests. No one complains. No one mentions that the free exercise
clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits government
interference with a person's right to practice their religion.
But what if your religion has been taken hostage by politics? What if the
very name of your faith has come to be associated with terror and death?
What if you had to submit to interrogation because your faith fit the
profile of those who are sworn enemies of America and its way of life?...
If the government feels the need to monitor immigrants from certain
countries, there is no other place to find them in concentrated numbers, he
said. It was the same situation during the civil rights movement in the
1960s, Evans said.
"If there was some other place that American Muslims show up every weekend,
the FBI would show up there. But there is no other place," Evans said. "It
was the same thing with the black church in the '60s."
There's an intimidation quality to it, Evans said, and if you're a recent
immigrant, you might not have certain knowledge about your rights…
The FBI visits to the mosque are uncomfortable for some, coming at a time
of prayer. Praying five times a day is one of the five pillars of the faith.
Some people are now staying away from the mosque, afraid to misspeak or
otherwise create trouble for themselves.
"It seems to be cause to be fearful if you speak up and express your
faith," Jebril said. "Worshipping God should be what brings you the most
She understands that the investigators must do their jobs, but there is a
fine line to be walked.
"This is a powerful country," she said. "But there's a lot of
responsibility with power."
FBI agents have made several visits to the Vista mosque, but always after
calling first, said Jan Caldwell, FBI media coordinator. They can ask
agents not to come, she said.
"They have no reason to be afraid of us," Caldwell said. "If they say no,
that's not an issue. That's part of democracy."
Visits to mosques actually began before the Iraq war when agents reached
out to Muslim communities not only to gain information but also to remind
them that the FBI was there to help them should they become victims of hate
crimes, Caldwell said...
CAIR AND ACLU OFFER LEGAL HELP TO FBI INTERVIEWEES