ARABS, MUSLIMS HELP TO COMBAT TERRORISM
Several years ago, an Arab-American woman from Clifton learned that a man she knew had been called up by the National Guard to serve in Iraq. His father, she says, was a known terrorist.
After several restless nights, she swallowed hard and reported her suspicions to law enforcement authorities. Immediately after, while en route to Iraq, the man was brought back to the U.S. and never deployed.
The woman, who didn’t want her name used for fear of backlash, feels that she did the right thing.
“It took a lot of courage. I didn’t even tell my husband,” she said. “But so many of us are very patriotic and very concerned about our security.”
Five years after Sept. 11, Muslims and Arab-Americans toe a precarious line with law enforcement officials. Accounts of racial profiling and intimidation remain a prevalent reality. But some Arabs and Muslims in the U.S. and abroad have begun taking difficult steps to report their suspicions about those involved with extremism or terrorism.
Local leaders, however, say far more community members would provide this invaluable information if they felt they could trust police officials.
“We’re proactive and engaged with law enforcement authorities,” said Abed Awad, a Clifton lawyer who heads the Arab-American Democratic Caucus, on Thursday. “The problem is that they have not built a working relationship with the community.”
A number of recent high-profile instances, however, show that more communication is taking place. In August, the attempted attack of U.S.-bound planes from London is thought to have been thwarted by a British Muslim.
In June, Canadian authorities arrested 17 Islamic men on charges that they planned to blow up buildings in Toronto and storm the parliament. A Canadian-born Muslim man infiltrated the group, monitoring them for months at the request of police.
The Muslim Public Affairs Council, an advocacy group based in Los Angeles, started a campaign in 2004 urging Arab- and Muslim-Americans to monitor their own communities, condemn violence and work with law enforcement agencies. Hundreds of U.S. mosques have signed on, according to the council.
Awad said he has heard anecdotally about local individuals working with police. “A lot of tips are coming from the community,” he said.
But Awad and other local leaders say that discrimination, suspicion and national immigration policies are getting in the way of lasting partnerships.