PORTLAND, Ore. — On a bright April afternoon, hundreds of worshippers spilled into a Portland parking lot, exchanging hugs and handshakes after the weekly sermon. Children scampered around the property, bordered by a white picket fence. The man who has guided the congregation for more than a decade greeted the faithful.
The scene could be from any Sunday in America. Except this one unfolds on a Friday, among a crowd of U.S. and foreign-born Muslims and local converts. The women, in full-length dresses and headscarves, emerge from a side door while the men, in robes or casual wear, exit through the front.
There’s one more distinction: At Masjed As-Saber, Oregon’s largest mosque, the people sense that God isn’t the only one scrutinizing their spirituality.
In the past two years, the FBI has placed at least five men with affiliations to the mosque, including its longtime religious leader, on the nation’s no-fly list, a roster of suspected terrorists barred from flying in the United States. None has been charged with a terrorism-related offense, and federal officials haven’t told them why they’re on the list.
The unexplained actions are aggravating the FBI’s already poor relationship with the mosque and fueling fear and frustration among Muslims that their house of worship appears to be once again in the government’s cross hairs.