Relations between Muslim American groups and the FBI have approached a breaking point in the wake of news last week that the bureau has severed formal ties with the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the largest Islamic advocacy group in the U.S.
Amid debate over whether such organizations should even work with the FBI, a nationwide coalition of Muslim groups has threatened to break from the bureau because of the agency's treatment of CAIR and allegations last month that the FBI had sent undercover agents into California mosques, pressured Muslim Americans to become informants and used "agents provocateurs to entrap" Muslims.
Rumors had been circulating since last fall in Muslim American communities that the FBI was no longer working with CAIR, which has one of its largest chapters in Chicago. The group was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation terrorism case. . .
CAIR says the FBI allegations were part of a smear campaign dating to the Bush administration. The group's spokesman, Ibrahim Hooper, said the unindicted co-conspirator label, which it shares with 300 Muslim organizations named in the case, unfairly targets CAIR without allowing it to defend itself.
The group has worked with the bureau since the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, leading roundtables between government agencies and local Muslim communities and training FBI agents on religious sensitivities.
But in the Holy Land Foundation case, the FBI alleged that CAIR co-founder Omar Ahmad and CAIR's executive director Nihad Awad participated in a 1993 meeting of Hamas sympathizers, two years before the U.S. outlawed support for Hamas.
"If this has something to do with something in 1993," Hooper said, "then why have we been on such good terms since then?"
The FBI's treatment of CAIR has enraged a number of Muslim American organizations who are now signing onto an effort to consider suspending outreach relations with the bureau.
"After six years of profiling, intimidation, harassment and marginalization, not only by Islamophobes but also by government agencies, the Muslim community cannot be a silent spectator to this," said Agha Saeed, chairman of the American Muslim Taskforce on Civil Rights and Elections, which issued the statement last week threatening a break with the FBI on behalf of 25 American-Muslim organizations. "There's been a systematic dismantling of major Muslim civil rights organizations." (More)