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.

An-Nimr, Saudi Regime & the Right to Dissent

Several Muslim scholars to international rights groups such as Amnesty International have decried the recent death sentence leveled by the Saudi regime against Shaykh Nimr an-Nimr, who is a 12ver shi’i.  The Saudi regime sentenced him for supposedly “disobeying the ruler,” inciting sectarian strife” and “encouraging, participating and leading demonstrations.”  In other words, he was sentenced to death for voicing dissent and articulating his beliefs.

Speaking truth to power based upon one’s sincere beliefs is as much as a part of Islam as the five daily prayers and is an integral part of the character of all civilized societies.  Some of the most inspiring portions of religious scriptures from the Qur’an to the present day Torah and Gospel speak of Musa (AS) and Harun (AS) showing dissent to Fir’awn’s government to ‘Isa (AS) challenging the status quo among the Jews and the occupying Roman authorities.  Only tyrants and oppressors seek to quash dissent.

Criticizing or even cursing rulers is not worthy of the death penalty not only under international law but even according to the Islamic tradition.  In a sound tradition narrated by Ahmad bin Hanbal, bin Abi ‘Asim and others, a man cursed Abu Bakr while he was the khalifah.  A companion by the name of Abu Barzah then asked Abu Bakr if he could cut off the man’s head for his cursing him.  Abu Bakr replied by saying no, for none had the authority to do such after the Messenger of Allah.  Hence, the punishing of one for simply cursing Abu Bakr, who was both the political authority and a companion, was viewed as being unacceptable.

More importantly, the Prophet (SAWS) while having the political authority in Al-Madinah did not punish people simply for reviling him even though he had the enforcement capacity to have done so.  For instance in a well-known and sound tradition narrated by Muslim, bin Hanbal, and others, some of the Jews used to provocatively say, “Death be upon you, oh Father of Al-Qasim” when they addressed the Prophet (SAWS).  One day, ‘Aishah replied back to them, “And upon you be death,” in which the Prophet (SAWS) corrected her by biding her not to respond that way.  The Prophet (SAWS) did not accept rhetorical violence or physical violence on his behalf simply for people lying on him or reviling him.

The strength of a government or a people is their ability to respond to dissent and even insult with dignified ethics and intelligent discourse.  Such strength is tested when facing what is found to be repugnant, be it leaders who face sharp criticism to their hearing the reviling of revered personalities.

Thus, it would be a sign of not being weak if the Saudi authorities freed An-Nimr based upon his right to dissent and express his views, even if some of those views are deemed as religiously repugnant.  The basis of the death penalty against An-Nimr for simply raising his voice reeks of oppression, violates precedence set by the Prophet (SAWS) and Abu Bakr plus clearly violates internationally recognized standards of decency.