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
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.