Source: The Los Angeles Times
As they sipped tea and nibbled on dates, more than 100 men and women listened to a litany of speakers sounding the same message: The FBI is not your friend.
"We're here today to say our mosques are off limits," Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations for Greater Los Angeles, told the crowd last month at an Anaheim mosque.
"Our Koran is off limits," Ayloush said. "Our youth, who they try to radicalize, are off limits. Now is the time to tell them, 'We're not going to let this happen anymore.' "
Such strong words from a man who once was a vocal advocate of ties with federal law enforcement was yet one more signal that the fragile relationship between Muslim American groups and the FBI is being tested.
In the months and years after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, FBI officials met privately with Muslim leaders, assuring them that a spate of hate crimes would be vigorously investigated and at the same time asking for help in the campaign against terrorism. Local leaders promised to encourage cooperation.
But even as relations warmed, a series of revelations -- including allegations that the FBI sent an informant into a mosque in Orange County, surveilled community leaders and sent an agent to UC Irvine -- caused some to begin questioning the FBI's real intentions.
Now, the leaders of several Muslim organizations say they feel betrayed. Because Orange County has been at the center of many of the revelations, local leaders have taken a lead in challenging the FBI, but the issues are resonating nationwide.
On Sunday, a coalition of the nation's largest Muslim organizations, including the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Muslim Public Affairs Council and the Islamic Society of North America, issued a statement demanding that the Obama administration address FBI actions, including what they describe as the "infiltration of mosques," the use of "agent provocateurs to trap unsuspecting Muslim youth" and the "deliberate vilification" of the council.
"It reached a level where we felt we had to do something," said Agha Saeed, chairman of the American Muslim Taskforce on Civil Rights and Elections. "The FBI is doing things which are not healthy. They are creating divisions and conflict, creating a totally negative, Islamophobic image of Muslims in America."