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ACLU starts program to protect Muslims from FBI

Posted on April 1 2010 9:13 am
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Image courtesy of Bosch Fawstin

Andrew McCarthy is right: this program will “make agents reconsider investigating in the first place. What this is going to dry up is the normal give and take between a community and law enforcement. It should raise people’s eyebrows.” Indeed. The FBI should not be on the defensive here. The Muslim community should instead be anxious to prove its loyalty and rejection of jihad terrorism and Islamic supremacism.

When will the ACLU open up its Infidel Rights Project, to protect us from legal intimidation attempts like this one?

“ACLU program will protect Muslims in FBI questioning,” by Tim Townsend for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 1:

Adil Imdad, 41, moved to the United States as a teenager from his native Pakistan in 1981. Five years later, he became an American citizen, and in 1995, he moved to St. Louis to pursue a master’s degree in environmental engineering at Washington University.Imdad loves his adopted country. He also loves Islam, and his story embodies the reason the American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri is launching the Muslim Rights Project. The program, which ACLU officials say may be its first nationwide, will provide volunteer attorneys for Muslims questioned by law enforcement officers.

Imdad is a devout Muslim. He wears a long beard, in honor of Islam’s prophets. His forehead is occasionally bruised from bowing to the floor in frequent prayer. He travels to Pakistan to see his family there, and to Saudi Arabia for the Muslim pilgrimage known as hajj. He’s a leader at the Bilal mosque on St. Louis University’s campus.

In 2002, Imdad says, agents from the FBI interviewed him for the first time at his job at TSi Engineering in St. Louis. Since then, he has submitted to more than 20 FBI interviews, he said, some by phone and some in person. He keeps the business cards of each agent he has met in a laminated page in a three-ring binder. Each of their phone numbers is saved in his BlackBerry.

When Imdad was first approached by agents eight years ago, his motivation in talking to them was simple cooperation.

“I know the FBI is not my enemy,” Imdad said. “I have two daughters who I want to keep safe. The FBI is trying to do that, so I wanted to help. I wanted to help my country.”

But, Imdad said, over time, FBI agents became more aggressive in their questioning.

“You get a knock on your door at home, or they show up where you work, and you’re scared,” he said. “When you talk to them, they take advantage of that fear that’s already in you.”

Imdad said that during various interviews with FBI agents, he was locked in a room, repeatedly yelled at, asked what he was hiding and accused of lying….

“Talking to people in the Muslim community, you get the sense that this is a group under siege,” said Brenda Jones, executive director of the ACLU of Eastern Missouri.

Critics of the FBI say its approach with Muslims in the United States has been manipulative. They say agents take advantage of immigrants who don’t know they are not obliged to speak with the FBI, or that they should have a lawyer present if they do agree to an interview….

Marker acknowledged the FBI’s outreach to the community has not been perfect.

“There’s a climate of distrust at times,” he said. “We have to do extra outreach to breach the climate of distrust and improve our relations with the Muslim community.”

On a recent Friday afternoon at Hazrat Abu Bakr Siddiq mosque in south St. Louis, about 50 men, mostly of Afghan origin, gathered for prayer. They sat on the carpeted floor, shoeless, listening to the khutba, or sermon. After the men prayed, about half stayed to hear two ACLU members discuss the Muslim Rights Project.

The project, an extension of the ACLU’s 5-year-old Muslim Rights Task Force, will provide volunteer attorneys for Muslims questioned by law enforcement officers. Other organizations, such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, have founded similar programs.

Through an interpreter speaking Farsi, Jim Hacking, a St. Louis attorney and convert to Islam, told the men that the ACLU “is concerned that Muslims — both citizens and noncitizens — have had their rights violated by law enforcement officials.”

“We, as Muslims, have an obligation to report any wrongdoing we’re aware of,” Hacking continued. “But what we’re concerned about is when people like you go into an interview with the FBI or police without knowing your rights.”

Andrew McCarthy, senior fellow at the National Review Institute and former federal terrorism prosecutor, said the ACLU’s program is “perfectly legal, but it’s obviously not helpful.”

“It’ll make agents reconsider investigating in the first place,” McCarthy said. “What this is going to dry up is the normal give and take between a community and law enforcement. It should raise people’s eyebrows.”…

All but two members of the ACLU’s Muslim Rights Task Force are Muslim. They are professors, imams, doctors, attorneys and engineers. A recent event raised $20,000 toward hiring a part-time ACLU staffer to work solely on the Muslim Rights Project. Jones said the organization will also expedite calls to its office coming from Muslims in the area as part of the project.

In Imdad’s case, he began to believe the government was harassing him after he was put on a terrorism watch list in 2004 for spending too long in an airplane bathroom while it sat on a runway in Buffalo, N.Y. Imdad, one of 23 members of the ACLU’s Muslim Rights Task Force, said he tried to be helpful, but doing so only seemed to make his situation worse.

In 2006, an FBI agent again visited him at his workplace, now Kwame Building Group, Imdad said. The agent wanted to know about a donation Imdad had made to the Islamic African Relief Agency, about a new imam — Mufti Minhajuddin Ahmed — at Daar-ul-Islam mosque in Ballwin and about Imdad’s position at the mosque. The agent, Imdad said, wanted him to take a lie detector test.

After the agent left, Imdad spent $500 on an attorney who wrote a letter telling the FBI it had violated Imdad’s civil rights, and ordering the agency to leave him alone.

“That’s when things got better,” Imdad said.

For whom?

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