The feds are trying to win the trust of the Muslim community. It never seems to occur to anyone, in light of all the jihad plots that have been uncovered in the U.S. over the last two years, that the Muslim community should be trying to win the trust of the feds.
[…] Dozens of federal agents appeared at early Saturday morning prayer to arrest Hafiz Muhammad Sher Ali Khan, the frail 76-year-old imam, and two of his sons, one who led the Masjid Jamaat Al-Mumineen Mosque in Margate, on charges of funneling money to the Pakistani Taliban to buy weapons and support militant training. All three are scheduled to make a first appearance in federal court on Monday.
A day after the raids, members of the mosque as well as South Florida’s Muslim community remained stunned and concerned. Some fear ugly backlash. Nezar Hamze, executive director of the [Hamas-linked] Council on America-Islamic Relations, said two hate calls had been directed at the Miami mosque and one at Margate mosque. For others, he said, the case — built largely on bank records and taped phone calls “” rekindled the sense they”re being singled out for secret surveillance.
“The FBI has a very important job to do and we support it,– said Hamze. “However, their job sometimes crosses the line and interferes with the rights of peaceful Muslim people.–
But in at least small ways, the South Florida arrests also signaled a subtle positive shift in dealings between federal law enforcement agencies and the Muslim-American community it has monitored closely since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
The raids were conducted under new national rules of engagement intended to show more sensitivity toward religious practices and tamp down the flames of haters after a series of outreach meetings in South Florida this year among federal law enforcers and Muslim leaders.
When U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer and FBI John V. Gillies, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI”s Miami Office, announced the arrests they both stressed that other mosque members and the rest of the community should not be branded by the alleged terrorist actions of a handful of its members. Ferrer, in a phone interview Sunday with The Herald, reiterated that message.
“They are as American as apple pie,– he said. “They are just as concerned about terrorist attacks as anyone else. They do not want to live in fear.–
Ferrer said the outreach programs were initiated last year by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to address concerns over increasing tensions and hate crimes — including a pipebomb explosion last year at a Jacksonville mosque — and law enforcement tactics that some Muslim leaders have criticized as heavy-handed, including planting undercover agents in mosques.
Along with the outreach meetings, the U.S. Attorney”s Office earlier this month hosted a training session at Broward College in Davie for 65 federal, state and local agents and officers aimed at “at enhancing law enforcement officers” cultural competence and sensitivity on issues involving the Arab, Muslim and Sikh American communities–
Ferrer said his message to Muslim leaders is that they should not feel isolated. “We want to make it very clear that we are their U.S. attorney, we are their Justice Department.–
Asad Ba-Yunus, a former Miami-Dade assistant state attorney who now serves as legal adviser for the Coalition of South Florida Muslim Organization, said the charges against the two imams and four others came as a “shock– but he praised the handling of the arrests.
After the heavily armed agents flooded the grounds of the Flagler Mosque, a small converted house in a modest neighborhood west of Milam Dairy Road and north of Flagler Drive, they waited for morning prayer to finish before arresting Khan outside.
“Instead of barging in with 25 agents and trampling all over the place, one agent took off his shoes and went in,– he said. –They respected the congregation that was there.–
After the arrest, agents informed other Muslim leaders before going public, Ba-Yunus said, so there was some lead time to prepare for media inquiries. Ba-Yunus saw those steps as progress stemming from meetings with federal authorities….
As for allegations against Hafiz Kahn and others, Ba-Yanus and Hamze condemned any support of terrorism but said they wanted to see the evidence before passing judgment. In reading quotes from phone calls in the indictment, Hamze wondered if conversations had been misconstrued and “something had been lost in the translation.–…
Of course! It was taken out of context, as well!