Climate of Fear Spreads In California Mosques
The arrest of a man with suspected ties to al-Qaeda has many Muslims worried — about the FBI.
March 3, 2009 - 12:00 am
Charitable contributions at Southern California mosques are down by as much as 30% to 50% over the last few years. Blame the climate of fear.
That’s what Rafe Husain, a board member for the Islamic Center of Corona Norco, is doing. “People feel tense and uncomfortable,” Husain is quoted as saying in a recent Los Angeles Times article. Just another story about the woeful recession we currently find ourselves in? Mosque-goers are feeling jittery about their dwindling 401k accounts and have decided to fork over less money to the needy? Not quite.
What’s got some L.A.-area Muslims in a cold sweat is the recent revelation that the FBI planted a spy in Orange County mosques. Also troubling the Muslim community are the FBI’s interrogations about charitable contributions. Apparently the agents’ tactics are terrifying — at least to the people who find law enforcement officials “asking why were they donating and who was receiving their money” particularly fear-inducing.
Yet again we have a story about Muslims in America upset about efforts to root out the violent extremists in their midst. In fact, the FBI has a good reason to quiz Muslims about their donations. As the Times’ article points out, at least six major Muslim charity organizations have been shut down by the FBI since 9/11 because of involvement in terrorist financing. And just this past November, five former leaders of the Holy Land Foundation, a Dallas-based charity, were convicted of providing more than $12 million to Hamas. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which calls itself the largest Muslim “civil rights” group in the country, was listed as an unindicted co-conspirator in the case. As a result, the FBI finally severed ties with CAIR after several unfruitful years of trying to work with the organization.
How are other Muslim organizations responding to the news of the FBI’s long overdue decision not to work with CAIR? The Times reports that the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California, an umbrella group of Southern California mosques, protested by suspending its contacts with the FBI. Meanwhile, the senior advisor of the Muslim Public Affairs Council in Los Angeles says, “Unless the FBI’s style changes, the partnership with the Muslim community will not be fruitful.” In other words, the FBI could use another “sensitivity training” workshop from CAIR.
Until that day, apparently, the FBI will continue to be enemy number one in the eyes of many Muslims in this country. How else to explain the reaction of Omar Turbi, a 50-year-old member of the Islamic Center of Irvine, to the news of the increased FBI surveillance in the area? According to the Times, this “dismayed” Turbi. But what should have really upset him is the fact that the FBI informant had to be sent into his mosque to spy and collect evidence against Ahmadullah Sais Niazi, who is scheduled for arraignment this month on charges of, among other things, lying about ties to al-Qaeda. Craig Monteilh, the man who worked as the FBI informant, says he recorded Niazi discussing jihad and plans to blow up abandoned buildings. Turbi and other upset congregants should also understand that the FBI had a reason to send a plant to the mosque. Steven Pomerantz, former assistant director and chief of counterterrorism for the FBI, says agents have to have credible and specific information about criminal activity inside a mosque before making such a decision.
Ask yourself the following question. How would you react to the news that a member of your temple or church had terrorist connections? Would you feel betrayed by your fellow congregant or by the informant who helped bring him down? That’s an easy question for Turbi. “It gives you a little bit of apprehension about who you trust,” the elder Turbi said. “Makes you think twice about what you say; what if people misunderstand you?”
You know how it is. One minute you’re talking about taking the kids to the mosque retreat; the next you’re being accused of supporting the destruction of the state of Israel. Or maybe it’s one minute you’re supporting the destruction of Israel; the next you’re being accused of … supporting the destruction of Israel. For too many (not most) Muslims, it’s not the fear that they’ll be misunderstood which worries them; it’s the fear that what they will only say in private will somehow be heard by the wrong people.
That’s what happened back in 2007 at the University of California at Irvine. After one of the Muslim Student Union’s many anti-Semitic events on campus, an organizer gave an impromptu speech which was caught on video. The meaning of his words couldn’t have been clearer:
They have no future. And it’s just a matter of time before the state of Israel will be wiped off the face of the earth. Our weapon, our jihad, our way of struggling in this country is with our tongues. We speak out, and we deflate their morale, and this is the best we can do right now. And our brothers and sisters, on the other side of the world, they’re handling business in their own way. May Allah give them strength.
The MSU responded that the speech — which was greeted with chants of “Allah Akbar” from the other MSU members — had been … misunderstood. That might have been easier to believe if the MSU didn’t regularly parade around campus shouting: “The state of Israel has got to go!”
There have been reports in the past that the FBI is monitoring the MSU at UC Irvine. Just like the members of the Islamic Center of Irvine, MSU students have complained that their freedoms of speech and faith are being inhibited. One can’t help but wonder who is inhibiting the freedom of Southern California’s Muslims to forcefully condemn Islamic terrorism.