By Mohamed Brahimi
By Mohamed Brahimi
Morocco World News
Boston, February 26, 2012
The idea that Islam is a catalyst of radicalized thought has now acquired an axiomatic force due to certain unquestioned prescriptions dispensed in stealth by several factors. Chief amongst them are our leisurely consumption of information and our penchant for intellectual opulence.
Rocking chair readers are known to lack acumen and insight, and to show willingness to order sound bite over in depth analysis. A petty criminal who professes to be Muslim is brought up on terrorism charges and it is Islam that finds it way on the hot seat. This should come as no surprise if we consider that other groups were at the receiving end of the same blanket indictment campaign that Muslims find themselves struggling with.
History tells us that Anarchist, political dissenters, Modern militia groups, anti war protesters, and even members of the Sierra club the Audubon Society were also put on government terrorism watch list. Indeed, bird lovers and tree huggers were once the convenient enemy until a more appealing one came along. They were infiltrated, spied on and illegally subjected to surveillance. You would be hard pressed to find one Muslim amongst those organizations. In fact, most of them don’t know Islam from didley squat.
This should convince those with short memories and a tiny appetite for serious reading that the government did not only keep tabs on Muslims. An old profane and obnoxiously funny man by the name of George Carlin (May Allah have mercy on his soul) once remarked that governments hate competition. He was dead on. When you present a competing perspective that challenges the one held and propagated by the ruling apparatus, you are likely to put a target on your back.
Few years ago, I attended a meeting that was facilitated by the Boston Office of Homeland Security. I was invited in my capacity as a community activist not a researcher or a Journalist. The meeting brought together Muslim, Arab and Sikh community leadership into dialogue with law enforcement agencies of Greater Boston.
The purpose of these meetings was to establish a forum in which both parties can discuss pertinent concerns in an atmosphere of transparency and mutual trust. The meeting was marked by the great turn out from the Arab, Muslim, Sikh communities. Every law enforcement agency that goes by every acronym registered a strong presence.
I raised the issue of informants and agent provocateurs. I argued that this behavior is ushering in a new McCarthiyistic climate where Muslims may feel more reluctant to cooperate with law enforcement and where the relationship that these meetings are trying to bolster may further disintegrate. I posited that this type of behavior is doing nothing but strain the already suffering relationship between law enforcement and the Muslim community. I emphasized the need on the part of the FBI to pragmatically embrace the reality of the devil being an equal opportunity employer.
The government special prosecutor and representative of the department of Justice explained that there is a fine line to walk between surveillance and entrapment, the former being perfectly legal. If someone was already predisposed to do something radical, then the work of a provocateur may not amount to entrapment.
He was basically saying that the FBI is not in the business of arbitrarily sending people into mosques with the hopes that there is someone there who is inclined to commit violence. He insists that there is always an articulated basis to send informants into mosques. Many in the epistemic community dispute this theory by pointing out that just because someone has expressed radical ideas does not mean that he or she has the propensity to act on them. There is no scientific proof that links ideology to methodology. Harry Truman was ahead of his time when he said that “In a free country, we punish men for the crimes they commit but never for the opinions that they have.”
I had interviewed a Taxi driver who was visited by the FBI six days after the attacks of 9/11. It turned out that FBI were acting on tip from a neighbor who asked them to check into the reasons that would prompt a taxi cab to remain parked in the same spot for four consecutive days. Acknowledging how seriously ridiculous the situation was, the FBI agent explained to my interviewee that he is not in position to dismiss any calls that come in as prank or trivial. The driver explained that business was dead and there was no money to be made.
The Muslim community has always suspected the government of engaging in broad spying on its members. The recent embarrassing story about an informant whom the FBI planted in a Southern California mosque to gather incriminating information did nothing to sway the intelligence community to rethink its ways. The big wigs at the FBI argue that the benefits of national security far outweigh the few awkward situations that the FBI tend to find itself in.
I was able to dig out an incident of agent provocateur that took place in Boston. I found out that an agent was planted at a local Mosque. A white man in his early thirties posed as a Muslim convert, befriended some local Muslims and started instigating ideas like taking up arms against what he called an “abusive government”. The people at the mosque immediately blew the whistle on him and reported him to the FBI. What was amazing about the story is the nonchalant way the FBI responded. The person who placed the call to the FBI was told to pay no attention to this “mentally deranged person”; a radically different attitude from the way the FBI handled the call about what turned out to a case of a badly burned out and economically frustrated Cab Driver.
Those with a shred of intellectual integrity have the uncanny ability to recognize and denounce any idea or thought that is grounded dualism, vilification, scapegoating, and apocalyptic aggression where someone’s race, ethnic group, immigration status, religious belief is portrayed as enemy of “the common good”. Ironic as it may seem, but it’s is modern day seculars who are hawking this Manichean struggle.
Founder of the Muslim American Civic and Cultural Association (MACCA), Mohamed Brahimi has led efforts to increase political and civic engagement among the local Muslim community. He was the Managing Director of a bi-monthly publication that caters to Moroccans and Muslims and propagates the importance of volunteerism and participatory citizenship. He has worked in numerous research endeavors as a voice for the Muslim community with Harvard University and the Institute of Community Health. He is also a Board Director of one of Massachusetts largest non-profit organizations. He has also worked with other immigrant groups on issues of great relevance such as hunger, poverty, toxic loans, and racism. He is currently working on the topic of Bicultural Stress.
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