Below is the video from today’s “Flashpoint” on WDIV Channel 4 with Devin Scillian this morning discussing the state of Muslims in America in the wake of the Park 51 Community Center controversy.
Lawsuits filed in killing of Imam
Police ‘suppressing evidence’
By Zenobia Jeffries
DETROIT — The Michigan Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MI) has filed three lawsuits against the Michigan State Police Department, the Dearborn Police Department and the Detroit Police Department for failing to release information in the October 2009 killing of Detroit Imam Luqman Ameen Abdullah.
Officers from the three law enforcement departments were present when Abdullah was shot to death during an FBI raid of a Dearborn warehouse, October 28, 2009. The warehouse raid, and subsequent raids that followed the same day at Abdullah’s home in Detroit and the Masjid al-Haqq Mosque, also in Detroit, were part of an investigation of an alleged stolen goods operation.
According to CAIR-MI’s complaints, filed Aug. 3 against the MSPD and August 9, against the Dearborn and Detroit Police Departments, Abdullah was shot a total of 21 times, including twice in the back and mauled by an FBI-K-9 (attack dog).
CAIR-MI’s staff attorney Lena Masri announced at a recent press conference that the organization plans to file additional lawsuits against other governmental agencies involved in the raids.
“The Michigan State Police, Dearborn Police Department, Detroit Police Department, and other governmental agencies, have unjustifiably suppressed evidence that the public has a right to access. [This] suppression of evidence has fueled suspicion among Muslim Americans, African Americans, and the civil rights community at large,” Masri said.
Masri says the purpose of the lawsuits is to determine whether the use of deadly force against the Imam was justified and whether his civil rights and the civil rights of members of the Masjid al-Haqq mosque were violated. The mosque was raided during evening prayer.
“The goal is to find the truth,” says Masri.
The lawsuits follow multiple Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests that have gone unanswered.
Attorneys for CAIR-MI stated in the suit that the “[agencies’] denial regarding the disclosure of public records is arbitrary and capricious.”
“It’s tragic that in every single effort made to publicly seek information — that the public is entitled to — they have been stonewalled at every turn. We are going to fight vigorously … to bring out the truth,” said Julie Hurwitz, one of CAIR-MI attorneys.
Hurwitz says the only evidence so far suggests – “strongly”— that Imam Luqman was defending himself against a deadly attack by the dog.
She says the lack of response from the law enforcement departments is disingenuous.
“It’s an indirect and evasive response under the law. Nobody is claiming we are not entitled to these records,” Hurwitz said.
Executive Director of CAIR-MI, Dawud Walid, said clarity on the protocol of using informants and agent provocateurs for counter-terrorism purposes is also what the organization is in search of. He says at least one of the informants posed as a Muslim and had been in the mosque as a member for approximately two years.
Walid raised numerous questions regarding the FBI investigation leading to the raid.
“If they were looking for terrorism or treason and didn’t find it, then why did they hang around so long? Did the informants introduce a criminal enterprise that was not ongoing?” Walid queried in a telephone interview with the Michigan Citizen.
“A man lost his life in a very provocative raid that had nothing to do with terrorism or extremism.”
Walid says the government seemed to have used two different protocols when comparing the investigation and raid of Imam Abdullah and the investigation and raid of the Hutaree Christian Militia.
In March of this year nine members of the Hutaree were arrested and indicted following raids in Michigan, Indianapolis and Ohio.
It was reported the group is anti-government and allegedly planned to kill law enforcement officers.
There was no use of deadly force — gun-fire, explosive devices, attack dogs — used in the raids.
“Imam Abdullah was killed in a raid [of activity] organized by the government,” Walid said.
He says Abdullah’s death would not have taken place if agent provocateurs had not arranged the situation and lured Abdullah into the warehouse.
Walid says there are two main focuses of the lawsuit: Seeking greater transparency, and proper protocol on the use of confidential informants in houses of worship.
A coalition of civil rights organizations — Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) of Michigan, NAACP, ACLU, Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice — along with Congressman John Conyers and the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality have joined CAIR-MI in support of challenging law enforcement’s suppression of information.
“We know Imam was bitten several times on both sides of his face by a dog; we know that his body was removed from the area where they say it happened; we know that his body was handcuffed. So, if there is nothing to hide, why don’t these agencies release this information,” said Michael Grace, president of the Michigan Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
Grace said the SCLC supports CAIR-MI in their request to have U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder get involved and hold an investigation from the federal level.
Rev. David Bullock of the Highland Park NAACP echoed Grace’s support of CAIR.
“We stand in solidarity with the Islamic community and in solidarity with the Imam’s family,” Bullock said.
Bullock said the case of Imam Abdullahs’ death is not a case that the coalition is going to let grow “deaf or silent.”
He says they will continue to fight for transparency and accountability.
“Who polices the police? Who watches over the government? Who makes sure that our rights are protected?” Bullock asked during the press conference.
“We’re here to say that we are those people.”
Bullock says the communities are coming together to discover the truth.
“[Imam Abdullah] was not just a religious leader he was a father, a husband,” Bullock said. “The family [of Imam Abdullah] deserves to know what really happened.
Ron Scott of the DCAPB says some members of the coalition met with Atty. General Holder who says they [the federal government] will “look into it.”
“The litigation is indicative of agencies not following their own dictates under the law,” Scott said.
Walid says it’s the organization’s position that there has been a systematic suppression of information and that the organization has requested Holder to conduct a civil rights investigation into the killing of Imam Luqman Ameen Abdullah and review the FBI’s protocol and standards in the use of confidential informants.
Masri says they believe the information being requested, which includes death scene photographs of Abdullah; death scene photographs of FBI K-9 Freddy; Abdullah’s weapon; bullets that caused the death of Freddy, any and all firearms discharged, bullets that caused the death of Abdullah, any and all percussion grenades detonated, as well as surveillance videos of the warehouse, will shed light on the circumstances that led up to the raids of the warehouse, the mosque and Abdullah’s home, as well as the shooting that led to Abdullah’s death.
“[We expect the information] will determine the extent of involvement of each of the entities and officers that were present,” said Masri.
Congressman Conyers sent a statement to be read during the conference in his absence assuring all concerned that the investigation of Abdullah was ongoing.
“[My] staff has been in touch with the Justice Department who has assured us that the investigation is ongoing and will be thorough and ‘aggressive.’”
Conyers encouraged the coalition to “keep the pressure on” the justice department.
Lansing-area residents gather for Ramadan dinner
Event focuses on unity, raises $12,000
SUSAN VELA • SVELA@LSJ.COM • AUGUST 28, 2010
Amid the backdrop of angst surrounding a proposal to build an Islamic center and mosque near the site of the former World Trade Center in New York City, more than 300 Lansing-area residents from various faiths and backgrounds gathered Friday for a Ramadan Unity dinner.
Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero and East Lansing Mayor Vic Loomis hosted the dinner of Middle Eastern fare.
The “Feeding Minds, Fighting Hunger” event raised approximately $12,000 for local foodbanks and drew Christians, Muslims and those of other faiths, an example of the cross-cultural affairs that sprung from 9/11.
“I leave here every year having learned something about a religion and a culture,” Loomis said.
Those in attendance agreed that the cross-cultural Ramadan dinners, fundraisers and picnics should continue even as 9/11’s consequences, including the war in Iraq, change form.
“As we move forward, given our economic downturn, it’s important to put aside our differences and really focus on our commonalities,” said keynote speaker and U.S. Congressman Andre Carson, D-Indianapolis, before the event. “We all share the same concerns about getting Americans back to work.”
Carson, the second Muslim elected to the U.S. Congress, spoke before the event.
During Ramadan, observant Muslims fast during daylight hours, pray and perform acts of charity, doing everything with the intention of becoming closer to God.
It is observed from Aug. 11 to Sept. 10 this year.
Some Muslims, though, are concerned that those who make a point of mingling with other cultures aren’t the ones to worry about, especially in light of a Pew Research Center opinion poll.
Released earlier this week, it showed that 50 percent of the respondents weren’t in favor of an Islamic center and mosque going up near the World Trade Center and one in four said local communities should be able to prohibit mosques.
“(Anti-Muslim sentiments) have not gotten better,” said Dawud Walid, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations – Michigan. “They’re worse now than they were in 2008 when there was a lot of anti-Muslim vitriol spewed by pundits and bloggers.”
His advice is for Muslims to seek out different cultures in their everyday experiences, such as parent-teacher associations and neighborhood organizations.
Today’s sermon was given at the Islamic Association of Greater Detroit in Rochester Hill, Michigan.
The rise in Islamophobia and the Park 51 community center project was mentioned in the second portion.
Click here to listen.
Warren Muslims shaken after teen throws bottle during prayers
Oralandar Brand-Williams / The Detroit News
Warren — An imam says he is beefing up security at his mosque after a teenager hurled a glass bottle into its parking lot during nightly Ramadan prayers Tuesday.
Imam Steve Mustapha Elturk says the no one was hurt, but the incident has shaken the congregation of the Islamic Organization of North America on Ryan Road near 12 Mile. The mosque is considering contacting police or the FBI, but hasn’t done so yet.
“It could be kids’ stuff,” Elturk said. “But I just hope it’s not related to the (New York) mosque (controversy.)”
Plans for an Islamic cultural center and mosque known as Park 51 near the former site of the World Trade Center have sparked protests from New Yorkers and others around the country. Some contend the plans are insensitive since the 2001 hijackers were Islamic extremists, while others say the center could promote healing and argue not all Muslims should be judged by extremists.
On Thursday, the Michigan office of the Muslim civil rights group Council on American-Islamic Relations called on Michigan mosques to “step up security during nightly Ramadan programs and Friday sermons in the wake of a recent nationwide surge of Islamophobia.”
“We advise all Islamic centers in Michigan to increase security in parking lots and at mosque entrances,” said CAIR-MI Executive Director Dawud Walid in a press statement.
“We also call on Michigan politicians, civic leaders, and religious clergy of all faiths to respond to the growing anti-Muslim intolerance, which is sweeping America.”
Walid told The Detroit News “it’s really getting scary out here.”
“We’re just concerned,” added Walid. “We’re not forecasting something to happen here.”
Walid pointed out recent incidents of vandalism at mosques in California, New York and others parts of the country. He urged political and religious leaders to take a more vocal stand in denouncing the attacks.
With a lot of media reports about the Middle Eastern looking suspected serial killer Elias Abuelazam whose primary victims were Black American men, there is some confusion about is nationality, ethnicity and religion.
Just for the sake of facts:
Nationality: Israeli (a citizen of the Jewish nation-state of Israel)
I know; I know, why mention that he’s a Christian? Because if he were a Muslim, it would be a topic of discussion plus many people out here think that he is a Muslim simply because he’s an Arab.
Imam case still needs answers
Nearly a year after a Muslim cleric, Imam Luqman Ameen Abdullah, was killed during an FBI raid in Dearborn, too many questions remain. Law enforcement agencies have repeatedly denied requests for information about the controversial shooting of Abdullah, 53, who was shot 21 times on Oct. 28 after agents say he fired at an FBI dog.
It’s time the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice conducted a thorough and independent investigation of the circumstances surrounding the shooting, including the way government informants were used in the undercover investigation that preceded it. Unfortunately, a lack of transparency has tainted the efforts of local law enforcement. A trusted outside agency is needed to restore credibility to the process. Local agencies have so far stonewalled requests for information.
This month, the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations has filed lawsuits against the Michigan State Police, the Dearborn Police Department and Detroit Police Department for failure to comply with state open records laws. CAIR could file more suits, said executive director Dawud Walid. “There almost appears to be a coordinated and systematic suppression of public information,” he said.
Community leaders and activists have expressed outrage and raised questions about whether agents acted improperly, even criminally, in Abdullah’s shooting, after FBI agents sought to arrest him and 10 others on suspicion of buying and selling stolen items provided by an undercover informant.
With many lingering questions about how Abdullah died, he has become, in some circles, a martyr. Early on, Dearborn Police Chief Ronald Haddad stoked suspicions of a government cover-up by persuading Wayne County to delay the release of Abdullah’s autopsy report for nearly two months. The report detailed 21 gunshot wounds, a broken jaw and teeth.
Suspicions were further stoked when Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said she declined to investigate the shooting because the FBI would not give her office certain classified documents. Attorney General Mike Cox then tapped veteran prosecutor Doug Baker to handle the investigation. The AG’s office said the investigation would in no way be compromised.
Unfortunately, whether justified or not, there will be a cloud over whatever the report concludes. A full-scale federal civil rights investigation is needed to clear the air.