MSU documentary details case of Detroit imam slain in FBI raid|mostpopular|text|FRONTPAGE

MSU documentary details case of Detroit imam slain in FBI raid

February 11, 2011

By Matthew Miller

The first media reports filed on the October day in 2009 when FBI agents shot and killed Imam Luqman Ameen Abdullah were thick with implication, giving big play to the Detroit Muslim leader’s radicalism, to claims that he had called his followers to “an offensive jihad.”

The story got more complicated after that.

In the weeks following Abdullah’s death in a Dearborn warehouse, it became clear that the FBI’s case was about dealing in stolen goods such as laptops and fur coats, not terrorism, and that the case had been built on information from government informants who had infiltrated the Masjid Al-Haqq mosque.

What began as a story about terrorism became a story about criminality and, ultimately, a story about the FBI, its use of informants inside a religious community and its use of deadly force when agents went to apprehend Abdullah.

“The Death of an Imam,” a short documentary created by professors and students from Michigan State University, is about the evolution of that media narrative.

Case study

“It’s a case study of how the news media responded to this tragedy,” said Geri Alumit Zeldes, a professor of journalism at MSU and the director of the film, which will be shown today at MSU.

And a study of how ideology came into play in the hours after the story broke and filled in where facts were lacking.

“Initially, there was a focus on that this may be a terrorist act,” she said. “That’s a frame that has been repeated often in the last decade or so in relation to Muslim people. In this case, it’s wasn’t a terrorist conspiracy, but that was a frame that immediately came up.”

Informed approach

Zeldes was one of the participants in a project called “Islam, Muslims and Journalism Education,” meant to help journalists and journalism students take a more informed approach to Muslims and to Islam in general.

When other elements of the project were nearing completion, those involved found they had grant money left over and Abdullah’s case, which still was making headlines, seemed ripe for further exploration, she said.

“There are myths and misrepresentations around Detroit in general and around the Muslim community in Detroit in particular,” said Salah Hassan, an MSU English professor and one of the film’s producers.

“The idea was trying to raise some questions about how the media mistakenly or unintentionally or for reasons of sensational interest may misrepresent (that community).”

And those misrepresentations have consequences, said Dawud Walid, head of the Michigan branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the man whose critique of the way the media covered Abdullah’s story at an MSU conference last year helped inspire the film.

Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, “there has been a large amount of media coverage portraying us as the potential threat within America,” he said.

“That’s why it was very disturbing to many in the community. It reinforces a frame that has been prominently featured in the media that we Muslims are somehow an inherent threat to our own country. That’s the major problem.”

Accuracy is key

Zeldes is fond of quoting a Pew Research Center poll that found some 70 percent of news consumers look to local television news for their information.

In that respect, local media, and the accuracy of local media, is “incredibly important,” she said. “It shapes what we believe.”


‘Death of an Imam’ showing & panel

A documentary made by two Michigan State University faculty and a doctoral student that examines the controversial shooting of a Detroit-area Muslim leader will premiere Dec. 1 in Dearborn.

The film, “The Death of an Imam,” will be presented at 7 p.m. in 1600 Social Sciences Building on the campus of the University of Michigan-Dearborn.

The film was made by Geri Alumit Zeldes, an MSU School of Journalism faculty member; Salah Hassan from MSU’s Department of English; and Brian J. Bowe, an MSU media and information studies doctoral student and visiting assistant professor at Grand Valley State University.

The filmmakers will introduce the 17-minute documentary.  After the screening, a panel featuring, among others, Dawud Walid from the Council on American-Islamic Relations, and Niraj Warikoo, a Detroit Free Press reporter, both of whom appeared in the film, will provide updates on coverage and be available for questions.

The film examines the news reporting associated with the Oct. 28, 2009, shooting of Imam Luqman Ameen Abdullah, who was killed by FBI agents at a Dearborn warehouse.

The film explores the issues at the core of the incident: The allegations of a terrorism conspiracy, the use of FBI informants and Muslims in the mainstream media.

The documentary is part of MSU’s project titled “Islam, Muslims and Journalism Education.” More information is available at

The premiere is being presented by these organizations at UM-Dearborn: Arab American Studies, African American Studies, American Studies and Ethics, and Communication Studies.

The project was funded by the Social Science Research Council.



By Zenobia Jeffries
Michigan Citizen

DETROIT — Official reports and the recent Free Press release of a surveillance video of the FBI fatal shooting of Detroit Imam Luqman Ameen Abdullah during an undercover sting operation at a Dearborn warehouse have raised concerns and questions of entrapment.

“It’s a heck of a thing when family members have to turn on the news [or see on the] Internet what happened to their father [husband] when thousands have seen it … it’s a heck of a thing,” said Dawud Walid, Director of CAIR-MI, in a phone interview, Oct. 25.

According to CAIR-MI staff attorney Lena Masri, a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request was submitted to the FBI in February 2010 to obtain any and all video/audio surveillance and photographs, among other documentation, of the investigation of Abdullah, dating back to January 2006.

According to Masri, two FOIA lawsuits will be filed against the FBI and the Michigan Attorney General Oct. 28, the anniversary of Abdullah’s death. Both agencies denied the organizations FOIA request.

Other FOIA lawsuits are pending against local and state law enforcement agencies. The Free Press reported it obtained the video through a Freedom of Information request.

“We still have some concerns,” says Walid. “… we still haven’t received information per our FOIA requests.”

Walid says CAIR-MI is in the process of finalizing their report to turn over to the House Judiciary Chairman, Congressman John Conyers.

“The report will highlight all the unanswered questions the Department of Justice [DOJ] failed to address and the inconsistencies that reside in the various reports,” he said.

The inconsistencies are troubling.

The veterinarian’s autopsy report has the K-9 attack dog’s arrival at 12:05 p.m. when the reports have him as being shot at 12:05 p.m. Stranger yet is that the surveillance video shows the dog handler letting the dog loose on Abdullah at 12:05:27 and then ten seconds later walking the dog away, seemingly unharmed.

Although the Imam’s autopsy report does not explain the abrasions and lacerations on his face, the DOJ’s report and the Attorney General’s report claim that the marks did not come from dog bites.

The Dearborn Police report, however, states, “The abrasions appeared consistent with dog bite wounds and were in areas that the witnesses reported the K-9 biting.”

Another concern is the single gunshot wound in Abdullah’s back.

At a recent press conference, Walid announced that he’s hopeful Congressional hearings will be held to investigate the shooting.

Walid and CAIR-MI, along with other local civil rights and religious organizations and leaders, denounced the DOJ’s report and the Michigan Attorney General’s report exonerating the four FBI agents who shot Abdullah a total of 20 times, killing him after releasing a K-9 attack dog on him, then handcuffing his dead body.

Previous reports indicated that Abdullah was shot 21 times; one bullet exited his scrotum and re-entered his groin, making the total wound count 21.

A Detroit Police officer prevented paramedics from entering the warehouse for two-to-three minutes, according to the Dearborn Police report.

Wayne County Medical Examiner, John Bechinski, D.O., stated, however, that Abdullah “was dead by the time the guns stopped firing.”

The Surveillance Video

At the start of the Free Press-edited video, Abdullah is seen bringing in what appears to be a flatbed hand truck. He is walking backward, with a hobble as though somehow physically impaired. Four men appear, walking forward. The men stop and within seconds they all jump.

Because the video is without sound, it is presumed that the men are startled by flash grenades that were detonated previously. The men begin to run.

Abdullah’s hobble is exaggerated as he runs to one side of the warehouse. Red beams of light, the FBI agents’ laser sights, can be seen darting across the warehouse. FBI agents, in full military gear, one with a metal shield, come into the view of the camera.

The men put their hands up and dropped to the floor.

Abdullah is the last to hit the floor. According to reliable sources, Abdullah suffered from a physical ailment. At this point he can no longer be seen. There are boxes blocking the view. Unlike published reports, and the Free Press scene-by-scene commentary, the video clearly does not show Abdullah having a gun in his hand or pulling a gun from his garment.

More agents are seen coming into the view of the camera, moving closer in to where the men are down. Some agents can be seen moving in other parts of the warehouse.

One agent, in the far right side of the video, is seen waving his hand as though beckoning. Shortly after an agent walks the dog in toward the men on the floor. Within seconds the dog is released into the section where Abdullah was seen dropping to the floor, but now out of sight.

There’s movement by the officers standing closest to Abdullah and the dog; the officers appear to be shooting their weapons. Reports and the media’s account of what is happening indicate that Abdullah has shot the dog. The dog, however, is seen being walked away, seemingly unharmed, 10 seconds later.

The agents then can be seen dragging the men across the floor from where they first laid. The video ends.

FOIA suits filed against FBI & MI AG regarding Imam shooting

CAIR-MI Files FOIA Suits for Video, Audio of Imam’s Killing

SOUTHFIELD, Mich., Oct. 28 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MI) today filed lawsuits against the FBI and the Michigan Attorney General for its non-release of video and audio recordings of the fatal shooting of Imam Luqman Ameen Abdullah last year by FBI agents.

The FBI, which led a multi-jurisdictional law enforcement task force that executed a series of raids that culminated in the death of Imam Abdullah, has denied Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests submitted by CAIR-MI for public information related to the case.

SEE: Lawsuits Coming Today in Death of Imam (Detroit News)

Information requested by CAIR-MI, including all audio and video surveillance from the crime scene in which Abdullah was fatally shot and documents relating to the multi-jurisdictional law enforcement raids, has not been provided by either the FBI orMichigan Attorney General.

CAIR-MI recently filed similar suits against the Michigan State Police, Dearborn Police, Detroit Police and Wayne County Sheriff departments for not releasing public information.

Civil rights and interfaith leaders recently expressed concerns regarding unanswered questions and inconsistencies in released reports after the Department of Justice (DOJ) Civil Rights Division released a report exonerating the FBI in fatal shooting of Abdullah.

SEE: FBI Cover-Up (The Michigan Citizen)

Local Muslim Leader Explains Lingering Concerns (

“Now that various government agencies have released reports about the fatal shooting of Imam Abdullah, we are troubled that some law enforcement agencies are failing to release public information that has been requested,” said CAIR-MI Staff AttorneyLena Masri.

Masri said CAIR-MI will release a report in the near future highlighting inconsistencies in currently released reports and raising questions that were left unanswered in the DOJ’s superficial and premature report.

CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

Year anniversary of Imam Luqman shooting today

Imam Abdullah standing next to confidential informant "Jabril" - S3

Today marks the one year anniversary of the controversial fatal shooting of Imam Luqman Ameen Abdullah during an overblown FBI military-type operation at a Dearborn warehouse.

Abdullah, who was shot 21 times including in the back by four FBI shooters, led Masjid Al-Haqq located in Detroit, MI.  Abdullah was also a veteran of the U.S. military, a father, husband and sibling.  Abdullah was known by the residents of his neighborhood as charitable man, who ran a soup kitchen for years despite living in abject poverty himself.  Abdullah was a human being, not a devil, is what I’m trying to get across.

His mosque, which came under scrutiny by the FBI over 3 years ago, and to my knowledge is still under investigation with informants in it, is located in a downtrodden neighborhood in the poorest major city in America.  The  mosque is so broke that it was booted out of its original location off of Joy. Rd due to lacking funds to pay a few thousand dollars in back taxes.  While open at its previous location, it often lacked heat from being too poor to pay heat bills, the facility would sometimes be warmed by a kerosene heater and worshippers at times wrapped themselves in blankets.  The current location (a two family flat off of Clairmont Ave), which I walked past with a reporter two days ago doesn’t have all of its windows, and plastic is covering two windows

That does not sound like a group of people, which had the capacity to overthrow the government to establish “shari’ah” by selling stolen goods as presented in the government’s criminal affidavit.

Now, two of those arrested have taken measly plea deals, and the other eight persons who were arrested one year ago are being offered the same.  Being offered a year probation in a plea deal for being part of a fencing operation with the intention to overthrow the government sure sounds reasonable to me! (Sarcasm if you didn’t notice.)

Without getting into the unanswered questions and discrepancies in reports about the fatal shooting, which will be highlighted in a CAIR-MI report to be released soon to the public, I’d like to ask a couple of simple questions.

Was it worth it to infiltrate an impoverished mosque in the poorest major city in America and spend well over a million dollars in an investigation and sting operation in which a man died who was not part of a terrorist organization, not part of a group that was actively planning to kill law enforcement officers like the Hutaree Christian Militia and was not part of an organized crime syndicate?

Was it worth our tax payer dollars to spend well over a million dollars to arrest persons and paint them as “Sunni” extremists to give them measly plea deals?

The people who I’ve spoken with, mainly Black Christians, in the community in which he lived in say that it wasn’t worth it.

We the public may never get all of the facts or complete clarity regarding why the FBI infiltrated the mosque to the fatal shooting that took place last year.  One thing is for certain is that the one day, everything will be made clear at the Supreme Court of G-d in which no one’s intentions and no facts have the possibility of being suppressed.