Abdullah’s killing takes bigger stage
U.S. Rep. John Conyers told nearly 1,000 people, gathered Sunday at a banquet marking the 10th anniversary of the Council on American-Islamic Relations Michigan, that he would talk this week to the U.S. Attorney General’s office, possibly with Attorney General Eric Holder himself, about the shooting by federal agents in Detroit of a Muslim cleric. The shooting of Imam Luqman Ameen Abdullah during an October FBI raid in Dearborn has become, for many, a national civil and human rights issue.
During a keynote speech, the Rev. Jesse Jackson said he was not in Detroit to talk about Abdullah. But he alluded to him in describing how FBI agents had infiltrated the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s organization. “We found out, after his assassination, that our comptroller was an FBI agent,’’ he told the crowd. “Every check that came in and went out was under the eye of our government.’’ Jackson also linked Abdullah’s death to another controversial law enforcement shooting: the killing in 1999 of Amadou Diallo, an unarmed Guinean immigrant, who was killed by police officers who fired a total of 41 rounds. “Abdullah was shot 21 times; Diallo was shot 41 times,’’ Jackson said.
Dawud Walid, executive director of Michigan CAIR, noting that Abdullah sustained dog bites, a broken jaw, broken teeth and 21 gunshot wounds including one in the back, compared the imam’s death to the 1969 killing of Black Panther Fred Hampton, who was shot by Chicago police and FBI agents as he lay in his bed. The killing of Abdullah, who was African American, has taken on racial as well as religious overtones, especially in a community that has experienced a history of misconduct by local and federal law enforcement. Among those attending the banquet were the Rev. Wendell Anthony, president of the Detroit chapter of the NAACP, and Heaster Wheeler, its director, as well as Ron Scott, who runs the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality and received an award from CAIR last night.
Any independent review of the Abdullah shooting must include a review of the use of FBI informants. FBI officials have told me they cannot entice people into illegal activity that they are not already involved in. But local Muslim leaders have said the events leading up to the shooting death of Abdullah seemed like entrapment, with agents reportedly enticing Abdullah and his followers into dealing in stolen fur coats and laptops. This won’t be easy to sort out. There can be a fine line — and a lot of gray area — between infiltrating and enticing. Even the FBI acknowledges past abuses. This case could be an opportunity to clarify such practices and do better.