Apr 08 2019

Muslims and Law Enforcement Agencies: A Response

REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Source: https://bit.ly/2VxToL0

Sept. 2018

By: El-Hajj Mauri’ Saalakhan

To My Dear Respected Brother, Dr. Aslam Abdullah: Assalaamu Alaikum,

While on a recent visit in Michigan I had the pleasure of coming across the August 31, 2018, edition of The Muslim Observer. As usual, I enjoyed reading the articles contained therein; but one, in particular, resulted in a strong reaction – the type of reaction that necessitated a response. It was your front-page article (an editorial perhaps) titled, “Muslim American Leadership and Law Enforcement Agencies.”

You begin your commentary by saying, “Some Muslim Americans are very angry with law enforcement agencies especially the FBI, consequently, they have taken a position of boycotting any interaction or dialogue with its officials. Muslims are not unanimous on this yet, but some of their major organizations have taken this stand.”

I’m curious to know which “major organizations” within the Muslim community have taken this position. Such a decision would not only be pragmatic, in my humble opinion, but it would also be a morally sound position to take given the mistreatment that our faith community has consistently suffered at the hands of the FBI, and a number of other “law enforcement” agencies over the years – especially post 9/11.

It isn’t just the monitoring practices, my brother. In addition to the spying regimes that have been put in place by a number of these agencies on law-abiding communities, some have also used agent-provocateurs to plant ideas into the minds of vulnerable, sometimes mentally and emotionally unbalanced members of our community, to manufacture threats in places where (prior to this government-instigated manipulation) there were no threats.

Some have also sought to pressure members of the community – especially young Muslim males – to work undercover for them, and when they refused manufactured cases against them as a punishment – such as the shameful indictment, and subsequent imprisonment of Dr. Tarek Mehanna in Boston, MA, and the case of Nicholas Young, of Northern Virginia, a former law enforcement officer himself.

And with all due respect, my brother, ignorance of who we are, and what we believe, is not the reason for this shameful behavior. America has some of the most well-resourced and capable intelligence agencies in the world. It also has a long history of contact with the Muslim world – as evidenced by Thomas Jefferson’s Qur’an. As you are no doubt aware, the first country to recognize America’s declaration of independence from Britain was the Muslim Sultanate of Morocco. Recognition was granted in 1777, and negotiations toward a formal treaty began in 1783.

While it is true that average everyday citizens of America are largely ignorant of what this divinely sent belief system called Al-Islam represents (and we, Muslims of America, are largely responsible for this), this is not the case with US intelligence agencies. Ignorance is no excuse for their appalling behavior! You are absolutely correct on your point that Muslims in America are not a monolithic group; and further, that within our ethnic diversity there are many different experiences.

Regrettably, this is both a challenge and an opportunity that until now we have failed to capitalize on (to our own detriment). We have allowed tribalism and our hunger for the Dunya (the intoxication for this material world) – in all of its soul contaminating variety – to stand in the way of the many blessings that we could bring to America, and by extension, to ourselves.

We should also note, for the sake of accuracy, our various tribes are not monolithic either. Speaking as an African-American I can assure you that all African-Americans don’t think alike, or react the same, on a multitude of important issues. With that said, there is, generally speaking, a shared experience that our tribe has with law enforcement agencies – on the local, state, and federal level – that is rooted in both history and modern-day experience. This is a sociological reality that our non-African American Muslim brethren should not ignore…but learn from.

If we were more aware and respectful of each other’s history, each other’s culture, each other’s struggles, we would be in a far better position to operate as a unified force for good, helping this country to live up to the better part of itself; and I truly believe that our fellow Americans would be grateful to us for that gift.

I am often reminded of what Malcolm X (El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz) said in his open letter after making Hajj – of how “America needs to understand Islam.” And the words of former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark, decades later, when he opined that “America needs Muslims to stand up for Islam…” We are blowing an enormous opportunity by not understanding and appreciating what we’ve been given!

On your law enforcement agencies as ‘non-political’ entities point, contrary to popular belief, law enforcement agencies are – and have always been – very political. This is an important and obvious lesson that one can immediately derive from a thorough examination of Black America’s struggle for human rights; it should be obvious today with the way our Muslim community is being treated by these same agencies.

Nicolo Machiavelli, in his celebrated work, ‘The Prince,’ outlined for the rulers of his day the two options open to them for fighting their adversaries. One was with arms (weapons of war), and the second was with the use of law as an instrument of war. That formula is still in effect today, my brother…even in America.

Let me also state for the record, I am adamantly opposed to Muslims functioning as spies for the FBI – or any other law enforcement agency in America (officially or unofficially). This goes against foundational teachings within our deen. We are ordered not to spy on one another, nor to do harm to one another with our tongues, or hands, or even our hearts. Muslims are also required to enjoin the good and forbid the evil.

A Muslim who is practicing his or her deen is automatically attuned to the obligation to prevent harm from affecting an innocent person (if he or she has the power to do so). This is an automatic response not requiring any affiliation with a law enforcement agency.

Muslim leaders and organizations also have an obligation to ascertain the truth if law enforcement comes to them with any information against a fellow Muslim. Government accusations – given certain agencies’ well-known history of lies, wrongful prosecutions and imprisonments – should not simply be accepted on face value.

In closing, I am personally not against dialogue, as long as the dialogue is on respectable terms. Law enforcement agencies should NOT be given unfettered access to our communities. Law enforcement agencies should NOT be allowed to compromise and co-opt our Islamic principles, causing suspicion and division within the ranks of our faith community. Muslim imams, shuyuuk, board members of Islamic centers, and leaders of advocacy organizations, should NOT be functioning as undercover agents within their faith community! There are lines of faith and trust that should never be crossed!

May ALLAH (SWT) bless and protect you and your family, dear brother. And may these words be accepted in the spirit in which they were written; with the health and welfare of our faith community and nation at heart.

In the struggle for peace thru justice,

Your brother in Islam

El-Hajj Mauri’ Saalakhan

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