Is the federal agency trying to mend fences?
Next April in Washington, FBI director Robert Mueller will give the agency’s community service award to Farrukh Saeed, chairman of SALAM, the Sacramento Area League of Associated Muslims. “SALAM’s openness and commitment to the community as a whole, regardless of faith, makes them a shining example of community leadership,” said FBI special agent Herb Brown at the local ceremony.
“I think if anyone at SALAM knew anything about (potential) terrorism,” Brown added, “they would come to us at the FBI.” That certainty is not shared by locals familiar with SALAM, which openly hosts events with the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Local CAIR boss Rashid Ahmad recently downplayed the Benghazi attacks and wants to deprive American filmmakers of their freedom of speech.
The CAIR connection did not emerge in news reports about the FBI award, though Steve Magagnini of the Sacramento Bee brought in the case of Hamid Hayat, noting that it had made the SALAM people uncomfortable. “There was no evidence other than his own words that Hayat actually underwent terrorist training,” Magagnini added, implying that Hayat, now serving a 24-year sentence, could be innocent.
Onislam.net, in a story out of Cairo, said the FBI award was “a change of tactics towards the US Muslim community. . . after complains (sic) of secret surveillance and trapping Muslim worshippers.” In reality, the award was business as usual. In 2009 the FBI gave its community award to SALAM’s imam, Mohamed Abdul-Azeez, “for his efforts to teach both Muslims and non-Muslims about the Islamic faith.”
Drew Parenti, FBI special agent in Sacramento at the time, said that “Sacramento is truly blessed to have a leader with the vision, energy and compassion demonstrated by Mr. Azeez.” For the overwhelming majority of Muslims, Parenti said, “there’s the same exact sense of shared American values that everybody else has.”
Abdul-Azeez was once the subject of a lengthy profile in the Sacramento News and Review, a supposedly tough-minded “alternative” weekly. “He doesn’t have those crazy eyes like Arabs do in Western political cartoons,” said writer Bob Schmidt. “His hair is close-cropped, his mustache and goatee are neatly shaved and his build is burly, thanks to regular free-weight training. No, this ain’t your father’s 'Death to America'-spewing jihadist—in more ways than simply his age, appearance and body type.” Abdul-Azeez took full advantage of the puff-piece approach.
“I’m very much not hostile to the United States,” he said. “I’m here because I chose to be here. I’m staying here because I choose to stay here. This is my country now.” But America has a “stereotyping” problem.
“The depiction of Islam as a rigid religion which permits no adjustments in interpretation of social issues as times change is incorrect,” the imam said.
“Without question there were Muslims among the slaves brought here from Africa, so there has been a Muslim presence in America for centuries. As a result, American culture is not only Judeo-Christian, but also Muslim.”
Further, “Jihad is the struggle to achieve perfection as a human being,” he told the students. There is a “jihad of the sword,” which does allow Muslims to kill in specific situations. But “Islam has clear rules of engagement. The killing of women and children, and of non-combatants, is expressly prohibited, as is the killing of feed animals and the destruction of crops.” The imam also said that Islam rejects suicide bombers.
And so on, all without challenge. No questions about sharia law, dhimmitude, the treatment of Coptic Christians in Abdul Azeez’s native Egypt, or the imam’s views on the Muslim Brotherhood.
FBI special agent Herb Brown, meanwhile, thinks that if anyone at SALAM knew about impending terrorism, they would readily come to the FBI. But nothing has emerged about Mohamed Abdul-Azeez, Farukh Saeed, or anyone else at SALAM actually aiding the FBI regarding any terrorist threat.
Rather, the FBI seems to be handing out awards because the successful Hayat investigation at a mosque in nearby Lodi, California, made some SALAM members uncomfortable. Other awards have been for more substantial actions.
For example, police officers Kimberly Munley and Mark Todd received the Secretary of the Army Award for Valor for preventing Major Nidal Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, from killing more than 13 American soldiers at Ford Hood. The FBI’s Robert Mueller, who will give the community service award to SALAM’s Farrukh Saeed, conducted an investigation into the 2009 Fort Hood massacre. FBI special agents are not on record whether Hasan, an American-born Muslim, shares the same American values as everybody else.
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