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March 29, 2002
About those raids

By Ayman Adeeb


The American Arab & Muslim community was shocked by yet another series of raids Wednesday, March 20, conducted by federal agents on the premises of their institutions, businesses and charities.

This was not the first time such raids have occurred. What made these raids particularly striking was the focus on several well-respected, well-established institutions of Islamic thought, learning and religious studies. Islamic scholars who provided intellectual voices of moderation in the American Muslim community are being targeted.

Specifically, the Graduate School of Islamic and Social Sciences (GSISS), the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT) and the FIQH Council of North America were all listed on the search warrant. Muslim scholars associated with the groups, like Dr. Iqbal Unus of GSISS and Dr. Jamal Barzinji of IIIT, were personally affected when agents raided their homes with guns drawn.

All three of those entities up until now were thought by everyone to have good relations with all kinds of government agencies.

These places are being very cooperative with the administration with its regard to understanding the Muslim world. The FIQH Council (which is equivalent of the Archbishop of Canterbury in England), for example, was the Islamic American authority that gave a ruling at the start of the Afghanistan campaign allowing Muslims to fight on the side of American forces against other Muslims, for the sake of justice. GSISS trains Muslim chaplains specifically for the military with 'the right attitude' and an 'appreciation' of what we have in this nation. That is what makes it so outrageous, what makes it so unthinkable, that they would target these institutions? Why target the very groups who have been most helpful, who have been most understanding of the needs of our government?

These raids were intended to give the intellectual elite among the Muslims in this country the message that they no longer have freedom of speech. The administration of U.S. President George W. Bush is making an effort to stifle the dissent felt by many Muslims, and non-Muslims, towards what they perceive as the misdirection of the war effort, especially with regards to U.S. policy on Iraq and the possibility of further warfare. After the statements were made about possibly using nuclear arms, there was a lot of negative reaction to it among Muslims. Our government would like to have a free rein to do whatever, they want to do, and they don't want to hear any negative retorts to whatever they propose doing. Everything's supposed to be acceptable because it is done in the name of security.

The targeting of moderate Islamic voices is a greater crackdown on the presence of Islam in America. If you stomp down the doors of moderates, then what about the people who are outspoken?

Such measures would serve to disempower the middle-of-the-road Muslims who are cooperative tax-paying people, who have middle class jobs and who need to keep them, and they'll send a message to them that, you know, your position in this country is tenuous, and that if in fact we as a country decide to do whatever it is we feel like doing, we need to count on your silence.

We keep hearing from President Bush, from Attorney General Ashcroft, from Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Powell, we are losing overseas the PR war. Unfortunately, an event like this is going to further hurt the American government image.

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