Abdullah’s death raises questions and fears
The funeral of Luqman Ameen Abdullah tomorrow morning will bring Muslim leaders nationwide to Detroit. Abdullah’s life and death have ignited debates on race and religion, police and politics.
People, from Detroit’s east side to South Africa, are questioning how Abdullah died. Left untended, questions like these often answer themselves, sometimes with conspiracy theories or worse. No one should assume government wrongdoing or impropriety, but skepticism, fear and anger have clouded the air. To help clear it, the Justice Department or some outside agency should investigate whether agents properly targeted Abdullah, or could have avoided killing him.
FBI agents killed Abdullah, 53, of Detroit, during a Wednesday raid at a Dearborn warehouse. A 43-page affidavit highlights Abdullah’s alleged hatred of government and police agencies but does not charge him with terrorism. The government described him as an Islamic fundamentalist who advocated violence to establish Muslim rule. Still, for many in the community, Abdullah was a respected imam and neighborhood benefactor.
I spoke last night on Detroit’s east side with two African American Muslims who knew Abdullah and remembered him as a man who took in the homeless and fed the hungry. Neither knew of, or defended, his alleged criminal activities, but they did question whether he had to die and why agents didn’t approach him differently. The account now widely held by community members is that Abdullah was shot repeatedly by agents, after he shot an unleashed police dog, despite official reports that Abdullah fired on the officers.
A spokesman for Dearborn police said today the investigation of Abdullah’s shooting is ongoing and the department couldn’t comment. But Dawud Walid, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Michigan, said a government agent also told him that Abdullah died after shooting the dog. “Is this the kind of excessive force that we black Americans are all too familiar with?” Walid asked. Walid is also troubled by the use of informants and what he called agent provocateurs who entice people into criminal activities.
Abdullah’s death may mark the first killing of a religious leader by U.S. government agents since David Koresh died at the Branch Davidian ranch outside Waco, Texas, in 1993. That incident had some tragic ripples. Walid, who has been interviewed by international journalists about the killing, said Abdullah’s death will affect U.S. relations with Muslim countries — a high priority for President Obama. It could also worsen relations between the FBI and the U.S. Muslim community. Abdullah’s funeral will not bury the questions about his life or death. Government, and the people, need the truth.