In 5 years since killing of Dearborn imam, what have we learned?

OCT 29, 2014, 8:55 AM

In 5 years since killing of Dearborn imam, what have we learned?

October 28, 2014 marked the 5th anniversary of the fatal shooting of Imam Luqman Ameen Abdullah in Dearborn by FBI agents during a sting operation.

Although neither Abdullah nor any of his congregants were charged with terrorism related crimes during that sting, the prior infiltration of his mosque by FBI informants was shaped through the narrow focus of viewing the Muslim community through the lens of national security.

The sequence of events which led to the death of Abdullah continues to remind many of the history and negative ramifications of law enforcement viewing entire communities as perpetual threats or de facto fifth columns.

During the leadership of J. Edgar Hoover and his infamous Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO), the FBI as well as the CIA and military intelligence wiretapped, used informants and kept extensive dossiers on religious leaders and political activists in the black community, some of them being Muslims. Malcolm X, Warith Deen Mohammed, my late teacher, and boxing legend and Michigan resident Muhammad Ali were all monitored and even arrested during this era, in part, due to their religious views. CONINTELPRO eventually spread to collect data on Latino, Native American and white political activists. Actors and musicians were not even spared.

We know through leaked documents that the current national security apparatus has a suspected terrorist watchlist, over 1.5 million names being on it, in which Dearborn, per capita, has more persons on this list than any other city in America. This is despite the fact that not a single terrorist attack has ever been committed by a Dearborn Muslim, be it domestically or internationally.

We also know that the National Security Administration (NSA) has been engaged in unprecedented snooping on American citizens that would even make George Orwell shake his head. The invasive monitoring started with Muslims. No one, save a few diehard civil libertarians, raised their voices. Now we’re all under surveillance.

Benjamin Franklin famously waxed, “Those who give up their liberty for more security neither deserve liberty nor security.” The obtuse surveillance state, including the thousands of paid FBI informants that have been sent into ethnic communities and houses of worship around the country, especially in Metro Detroit, is an ongoing national shame. We’ve failed to learn the lessons of the Joe McCarthy and COINTELPRO eras, which ended in the time for President Richard Nixon’s infamous Watergate scandal.

Our national security is important; however, the targeting of entire communities expending hundreds of millions of dollars is not only a threat to the liberty in which Benjamin Franklin envisioned, but is also a waste of tax dollars and not keeping us any safer.

I hope that as we have conversations about threats to the homeland, we do so with prudence, not based upon the politics of fear, which has in the past caused chilling effects on 1st Amendment expression, unjust incarcerations and even unnecessary deaths.