FBI Bid To Win Over American Muslims

The FBI will hold its first nationally televised “town hall meeting” for Muslims and Arab-Americans on Thursday in an effort to improve relations and enlist their help in fighting terrorism, an FBI official said. Paul Moskal, chief division counsel for the FBI in Buffalo, New York, who will lead the meeting and field questions, said the agency and the Arab and Muslim American communities needed to overcome misconceptions about each other and foster closer cooperation. “What we want to do is let the public know that the FBI has changed its mission after September 11, that our number one priority is the detection and prevention of another terrorist act. If someone in the public can help us accomplish that, that’s our purpose,” Moskal told Reuters on Wednesday. The meeting will be broadcast on Bridges TV, an independent, commercial US television network broadcasting lifestyle and culture programmes around the clock for a primarily Muslim American audience. FBI says its priority is to detect and prevent another terror attack The televised meeting is also part of efforts to encourage Muslim and Arab Americans to report instances of post-September 11 backlash, intimidation, racism or harassment so the agency can enforce their civil rights, Moskal said. A third reason for the town hall meeting was that “we need more Arab Americans, we need more Muslim Americans as FBI agents and as FBI employees. So we use it to recruit as well,” he said. Muslim American groups have long accused the Bush administration of neglect in the fight against terrorism, which they say undermines a potentially priceless resource that could be used to root out militants at home. Muslim groups say the government must visibly engage their community to undermine militants’ charges that Muslims are left out of American society, and to ensure that Muslims do not feel alienated and become targets for radical recruiters. Estimates of the number of Muslim Americans vary between three million and seven million. “It’s important to keep the lines of communication open, for the FBI to understand the Muslim community better and for American Muslims to better understand law enforcement agencies” Moskal said the FBI had been conducting local town hall meetings, at which agents would make contact with citizens and answer questions about their work, in a broad range of ethnic, religious and other communities throughout the United States. But he said Thursday’s session was the first nationally televised event targeting Muslim and Arab Americans. Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations which is moderating the television programme, said, “It’s important to keep the lines of communication open, for the FBI to understand the Muslim community better and for American Muslims to better understand law enforcement agencies.” US officials acknowledge that they must do more to involve Muslim Americans in counter-terrorism efforts. But they say the administration is already actively cooperating with Muslim groups and say they enjoy greater access to the government than ever before.

Arab American, Muslim Groups Disturbed By Ports Security Rhetoric

By DEEPTI HAJELA NEW YORK — The political piling-on over a state-owned Arab business’ plan to run some American ports is causing concern among Arab American and Muslim American groups, which say the furor is fueled by racism and bigotry. “We’re very concerned about the level of rhetoric and the way that there seems to be the assumption that because a company is Arab it can’t be trusted with our security,” said Katherine Abbadi, executive director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee of New York.

U.S. Muslims Feel Sidelined In Terrorism Fight

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Bush administration is neglecting American Muslims in the fight against terrorism, undermining a potentially priceless resource that could be used to root out militants at home, major Muslim groups say. Community leaders such as Salam al-Marayati, who heads the Muslim Public Affairs Council advocacy group, say that to isolate terrorists political leaders from President George W. Bush on down must embrace the U.S. Muslim mainstream, rather than exclude them from serious debates on security. “For some reason, it’s very difficult to get the high-level officials to come down to the community at this point. I think a decision has to be made: are we going to be partners or are we going to be suspects?” Marayati said. Muslim American groups say that only by visibly engaging the community can officials undermine militants’ charges that Muslims are left out of American society, and ensure Muslims do not feel alienated and become targets for recruiters. Concern about increased suspicions and alienation of the Muslim American community has grown since the July 7 attacks by home-grown Muslim militants in London in which suicide bombers killed 52 people on underground trains and buses. “It’s the position of just about every Muslim leader in the United States that the way you isolate extremists is to engage the mainstream. Unfortunately we haven’t seen much of that occurring in this administration,” said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American Islamic Relations. Community leaders and some experts say the country’s estimated 3 million to 7 million Muslims are best placed to fight domestic extremists because only insiders can hope to challenge their radical ideologies or spot budding militants. “The jihadist threat in this country will come from within, not from outside,” said veteran terrorism expert Dennis Pluchinsky, who retired from the State Department this year and now works for security information firm TranSecur. The Muslim community is “the front line for detection,” he said. Outreach Underway Muslim groups would like to play a greater role in policy discussions for the war on terrorism declared by Bush, have more visible government endorsement of the community’s anti-terrorism efforts and see more senior officials attending Muslim American events, conferences and community meetings. The Islamic Society of North America has called on Bush to attend its Sept. 2-6 convention — the largest annual gathering of Muslim Americans. The administration’s public diplomacy chief, Karen Hughes, is attending the opening session instead. U.S. officials agree they must do more to involve Muslim Americans in the fight against terrorism. But they say the administration is already actively cooperating with Muslim groups and say they enjoy greater access to the government than ever before. This year alone, Muslim community leaders have met with Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and FBI chief Robert Mueller, said Dan Sutherland, who heads the Department of Homeland Security’s civil rights and civil liberties office. “The momentum will accelerate. I think that over the upcoming year, or two or five, you will see the connections between the Arab American and Muslim American communities and the government really deepen,” he said. “We are at the beginning stages. We’re like in the third inning of the (nine-inning) game, but we’re in the game.” Many community leaders praised Bush’s initial outreach to America’s Muslims after Sept. 11, 2001, but said such high-profile efforts had waned in the years since the Islamic militant attacks. They say cooperation is good with local law enforcement and other community groups, but say visible engagement from top-level leaders is needed to counter the terrorist threat. Sayyid Muhammad Syeed, secretary general of the Islamic Society of North America, said Muslim Americans had a unique infrastructure in place through their mosques, community programs and conferences to counter that threat. Within the community, “people who may have doubts, who may have some kind of tendencies towards extremism, get diluted, and they are confronted with the right arguments and teachings,” he said.

U.S. Muslim Runs For Congress; Abu-Ghazalah Calls For Bringing Home The U.S. Troops Occupying Iraq And Repealing The U.S. Patriot Act

NEWARK, Ohio, February 25 (IslamOnline.net & News Agencies) – Maad Abu-Ghazalah is hoping to be the first Muslim American ever elected to Congress. He will vie in the March 2nd Primary against fellow Democrats Tom Lantos and Rohit Khanna. The Palestinian-born Abu-Ghazalah, 44, has already raised $30,000 at a fundraiser at the Muslim Community Association (MCA) in Santa Clara, California, reported the New California Media (NCM), a group comprising some 700 ethnic communities worldwide. His platform calls for brining home the U.S. troops occupying Iraq, repealing the U.S. Patriot Act, ending the corporate influence on the policy-making mechanism and protecting the environment.