In Des Moines, Iowa the Muslim community recently discovered that a man professing interest in converting to Islam, Arvinder Singh,a Sikh, who attend Mosques services for seven years, was in fact, paid and threatened with deportation by the FBI to spy on their Mosque and its activities. This is discouraging to the Muslim and Sikh communities in Iowa and to those around the country who support religious liberty. It also adds another layer of distrust by the American Muslim community of law enforcement and threatens to drive a wedge between two religious groups (Sikhs and Muslims).
Islam is a faith community of nearly 1.67 billion people, about a quarter of the world’s population, and one that has had a presence in this country since before it’s founding. In Cedar Rapids Iowa, the “Mother Mosque” is the longest standing ˇMosqueˇinˇNorth America built in 1934.
The actions of 19 hateful men on that terrible day in 2001 should not be the entirety of our knowledge base on Muslims, a large and diverse community. Has the FBI set up a process to investigate every returning soldier and veterans support group meetings based on the shooting sprees of Timothy McVeigh (OKC Bomber), John Mohammad (Washington DC Sniper), and Benjamin Colton Barnes (killer of Park Service ranger this past month)? This would be insulting to every soldier who served honorably.
One has to be disappointed in the intelligence and counter-terrorist infrastructure on its choice to invest in such an operation. How many countless operatives are paid across the county to simply visit mosques, as the result of anti-Muslim bigotry and Islamophobia? When extremist bloggers like Pamela Geller stereotype all Muslims as violent in nature, and on quiet missions to conquer the West, one can turn a blind eye and sum up her ravings as the continuation of a long line of fringe bigots, shouting in the distance to the far ends of the spectrum. However when major national security policy decisions, and taxpayer allocations, are being made based on or appear to be based on religious profiling, something is wrong.
There is of course a need for the FBI and other organizations to combat terrorism and investigate possible threats in this country. We are indeed at war with terrorists that pervert Islam and its holy texts as a major recruiting tool and rallying point. Islam itself does not justify the extreme and violent actions of a terrorist minority. Our counter-terrorist organizations must take a more nuanced approached in their efforts and look beyond the simplified algorithm of Muslim and non-Muslim to justify an investigation. The question remains: What did we find after seven years of surveillance?, evidence of terrorist plotting or just evidence of anti-Muslim bias and religious profiling within the FBI?

John Favini is interning with Interfaith Alliance. A sophomore at Lafayette College in PA, John is studying International Affairs and French. From Mid-March until early April, he will travel to Jordan and Turkey as part of his studies.

[1]http://inamerica.blogs.cnn.com/2012/02/03/iowa-muslim-leader-law-enforcement-betrayed-us/

In a follow-up to this story: Interfaith Alliance President, Rev. Dr C Welton Gaddy joined with concerned groups in meeting with the head of the FBI to discuss overhauling FBI training materials:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/on-faith/fbi-muslims-report-progress-over-training-materials/2012/02/16/gIQA7R7KIR_story.html

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