For the next month, the focus for Bay Area Muslims will be on fasting,
prayer and cultural connectedness during Ramadan. Members of the community
say the recent scrutiny placed on them by the FBI will not deter them from
"Ramadan is about being spiritual, making a closer connection to God," said
Lina Akka, a 23-year-old anthropology student at San Francisco State. "You
do good deeds, read the Quran, go to the mosque to pray. I don't think it
will be approached any differently because of the FBI."
"It's very personal," said Ameena Jandali of the Islamic Networks Group.
"It's a once-a-year experience that we look forward to rejuvenate our
spiritual side. It's not taken lightly. People won't stop going to mosque
just because the FBI is there."
Muslims around the world will observe Ramadan by abstaining from food and
drink from dawn to dusk for the lunar month that begins today. The purpose
of the fast is to learn discipline, self-restraint and generosity.
Traditional practices during the observance also include the breaking of
the fast with water and dates, the reading of the entire Quran and social
visits. Nightly mosque services are held about an hour after fast is
But a pall hangs over this year's observance. In recent weeks, Bay Area
Muslims have reported an increase in the number of interviews that FBI
agents have conducted with Muslims and Arabs. The new investigation -- the
latest in a series of campaigns that followed the terrorist attacks of
Sept. 11, 2001 -- is focusing on the possibility of an attack before
election day Nov. 2 or before the presidential inauguration Jan. 20.
"The main message we want to get out is that these interviews have been
going on since May," said a special agent with the FBI in San Francisco,
who spoke on condition his name not be used. "We've been doing interviews
and community outreach all along. It's just getting more attention now."
The agent added that interviews would continue during Ramadan.
"Based on what we know, there is a threat of attack," he said. "The window
of time is shrinking, since it is bracketed by the election time frame."
Helal Omeira, executive director of the Bay Area branch of the Council on
American Islamic Relations, said there was a misconception that the Muslim
community was uncooperative. He said his organization had always stressed
that Muslims and Arabs should report suspicious activities.
Omeira said he knew of at least five instances in the last two weeks in
which FBI agents had conducted voluntary interviews at South Bay mosques
and that no one had refused to talk to the agents.
"What we would appreciate is a little courtesy -- like not showing up at
our Friday services," Omeira said. "Every mosque has a phone. Why not call