By EL-HAJJ MAURI’ SAALAKHAN
THE Washington Post article below (“FBI illegally using community outreach to gather intelligence, ACLU alleges”) reminded me of an incident that occurred a few months ago in Massachusetts, and some unfinished business I had with the Boston chapter of the Muslim American Society (MAS-Boston).
Before I go any further, however, let me be clear that what I’m about to say applies to ALL MUSLIM ORGANIZATIONS in the U.S. (and there are many) which in my humble opinion have very inappropriate relationships with the Federal Bureau of Intimidation (pardon me, “Investigation”) and other similar agencies.
On September 24, the National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms (NCPCF) held a very important and highly informative community forum at the largest Islamic Center in greater Boston (possibly the largest in that region of the United States), and on this particular day our friendly, neighborhood FBI did something that was very disrespectful to the leadership of that center. They decided they wanted to have their own informal meeting with Muslim youth on the same day, and they departed the center just as the NCPCF activists were coming in to set up for the forum later that afternoon! (Talk about dissin you in your face!)
In so doing, the FBI demonstrated a brazen disrespect for the leadership of MAS Boston (the administrators of the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center - ISBCC). MAS didn’t have to allow the FBI to visit, and MAS shouldn’t have allowed them to visit on that particular day. I believe the visit had a three-fold purpose: (a) to send a message of intimidation to MAS and the NCPCF; (b) to gather intelligence; (c) and to fish for new undercover recruits in the Muslim community.
For a center of that size the NCPCF forum was not well attended by community members, because MAS didn’t do what it could have done to help promote the event from within. It was another not so subtle sign of the negative pressure being applied on the leadership of that potentially influential center (something this commentator had observed on a previous occasion).
I was informed after everything ended that day (by an NCPCF activist) that one of the agents inquired as to whether the forum had anything to do with the case of Dr. Tarek Mehanna – a local brother whose trial was looming on the horizon (and which is underway right now at a federal courthouse in downtown Boston).
The drama that day also caused me to go back in time to an earlier visit I paid to this center. About two years ago I visited the ISBCC for the first time to try to connect with Bostonian Muslims who knew Dr. Aafia Siddiqui personally – both to cultivate support for our sister in her upcoming trial, and to solicit support statements from those who knew her well. I requested permission to address the community after the jumuah salat, and a curious thing happened. Initially, I was given a green light; and then later I received a call back, with a polite voicemail message that stated, in effect, the permission given earlier had been rescinded. I would not be able to address the community following the Friday prayers.
Did they receive a call from the FBI, or some other governmental entity that monitors their communications (or mine)? Or did some faint-hearted member of their decision-making board decide that having someone like Saalakhan address the community at the largest gathering of the week would not be a good idea. Allahu-alam. (ALLAH knows best.)
When I called back to have a direct conversation with one of the decision-makers within the administration, he agreed to allow me to address the community later that evening (a much smaller gathering), but I couldn’t address the jumuah. Why? Because this is a center that was established under immense controversy and bigoted opposition – an opposition that appears to hold a type of unofficial veto power over the center by the way they closely monitor its activities. (Anyone or any issue that might rile the local bigots is deemed persona non grata; nothing personal.)
To My Brothers of MAS-Boston
A memorable quote of the imminent scholar Sheikh ibn Taymeeyah is highly relevant to what I’ve said, and to what I am about to say. Centuries ago this former political prisoner said the following:
"It is true that a believer to a believer is like the two hands, one cleans the other. And it is also true that some kinds of dirt can only be washed by hard scrubbing, yet this treatment will be justified when the outcome appears to be the restoration of that lost brotherly love. Let no one think that the believers can be economical with helping their brothers [or sisters], and in aiding them. If some of our companions had neglected us before, then came to us, their status will rise higher than before."
In the spirit of Ibn Taymeeyah’s brotherly nasiha, I implore the leadership of MAS-Boston, and the leaders of other Muslim organizations in the U.S. (both large and small), to seize the opportunity provided by this challenging moment in history, and help provide the type of strong, committed, faith-based communal leadership that our young brothers and sisters so desperately need.
Our sister-in-Islam, Dr Aafia Siddiqui, has been through eight years of living hell; and as I am writing these words, a systematic attempt is being made to destroy her completely so that she will never be able to tell her horrific story to the world. If she dies in FMC Carswell, Ft. Worth, Texas – as an estimated one hundred women have reportedly died over a ten year period – I believe Aafia Siddiqui will return to ALLAH Ta’ala as a shaheed (a martyr of Islam), and her death will be a witness against those who tormented her.
But what of us? What will be the status of those who were in a position to do something…and yet did nothing?
Our brother-in-Islam, Dr. Tarek Mehanna, is on trial right now at a federal courthouse in downtown Boston. Instead of allowing our young to sit with and receive poisonous indoctrination from agencies like the FBI, we should be encouraging them – by way of our own example (first and foremost) – to visit the courtroom and demonstrate their concern and support for a committed Muslim brother before his trial ends. Our youth (and our community) would benefit immensely from such an endeavor!
Please don’t let this opportunity slip away. Once the trial is over, there’s no going back; it’s over. We must tie the camel and have trust in the qadr of ALLAH now, while we still have the opportunity to do so!
This coming Thursday, December 8, a very important education/fundraising event will be held at the Islamic Center of Worcester for Dr. Aafia Siddiqui. The program will also include a briefing on the trial of Dr. Tarek Mehanna. Imams Abdullah Faaruuq and Siraj Wahhaj will be the featured speakers for this important event.
This will be an excellent opportunity for MAS-Boston to do the right thing. May ALLAH (SWT) guide you toward that end. The time is now!