Lanham, MD—On February 2, 2013, the Prince George’s Muslim Association (PGMA) and PGMA Youth, with support from Islamic Leadership Institute of America(ILIA) and Peace Thru Justice Foundation(PTJF), jointly hosted an event on youth and terrorism, “Terrorism and Our Youth: Myth from Reality,” with special guest Brother Mauri’ Saalakhan and Brother Ayman Nassar.
About 70 people attended the event. The event focused on concerns and issues related to Muslim youth and extremism; how parents should deal with these problems and why it is of concern; the community’s role in addressing the issue; the ramifications of issues that go unaddressed; how to stop the cycle in an effective, legal and prudent manner, and a general discussion on victims of social injustice.
It’s been a decade since 9/11 and we have yet to come out of Islamophobia’s shadow. The average American hasn't t yet quite grasped the idea of “Muslim neighbors living next door.”
The FBI has built the largest network of spies ever to exist in the United States, with ten times as many informants on the streets today as there were during the infamous COINTELPRO operations under FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, with the majority of these spies focused on ferreting out terrorism in Muslim communities.
Br. Mauri Saalakhan, who is a Human Rights Advocate and Founder of the Peace Thru Justice Foundation, has been fighting against the injustice that some of our Muslim brothers and sisters had to face from the government because they were wrongly accused or they were simply caught at the “wrong place at a wrong time.”
Br. Saalakhan reports how “untold numbers of Muslims were tortured and killed in the name of terrorism for over a decade.”
According to Br. Saalakhan, our youth are the target of so-called terrorism plots. He states that 16-35-years-old brothers are the main target of the FBI and the government. These youngsters are referred to as “lone wolves,” a term given by the Bureau to the young Muslim single male. He warns the Muslim community of how the government and FBI target certain Muslim brothers and sisters and how we should be careful with our actions and thoughts.
He quotes Trevor Aaronson’s book, The Terror Factory, “What became clear…in the decade since 9/11, the FBI has built the largest network of spies ever to exist in the United States, with ten times as many informants on the streets today as there were during the infamous COINTELPRO operations under FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, with the majority of these spies focused on ferreting out terrorism in Muslim communities. Every year, the U.S. government allocates $3 billion to the FBI to prevent the next 9/11, more money than the Bureau receives to combat organized crime.”
The book also states of how the FBI has vast army of spies, located in every community in the United States with enough Muslims to support a mosque, has one primary function: to identify the next lone wolf. We are easily targeted and captured by these FBI handlers and informants if we even espouse radical beliefs, are vocal about our disapproval of U.S. foreign policy, or have expressed sympathy for international terrorist groups. If the FBI finds anyone who meets the criteria, they move him to the next stage: the sting, where an FBI informant, posing as a terrorist, offers to help facilitate a terrorist attack for the target.
The book shows how according to government and federal court records, the Justice Department has prosecuted more than 500 terrorism defendants since 9/11. Of these cases, only a few posed actual threats to people or property.
Adama Bah, a young Muslimah raised in the United States, was accused of being a suicide bomber in 2005, is an example of young Muslim who was wrongly accused and tortured and held captive along with her father. Decades after her arrest, she is among the very few Muslim survivals to tell the story of her horrifying experience.
Bah was only 16 when she was arrested and held captive for over a year. A friend of hers, who attended the same mosque as her, Tashnuba, was another one of Muslim sister who was arrested the same time as her and held captive in the same confinement as Bah. Both of the young Muslim girls were part of a group study, believed to be lead under a potential target leader identified by the FBI as a man who is against the U.S. government and policies. The reality of the statement of Bah and Tashnuba being suicide bombers was far from real.
When Bah was arrested, she had no idea what was going on. She was held in a high security juvenile detention in Pennsylvania without her parents’ knowledge. She was tortured and searched repeatedly against her rights while she was held captive.
In 2006, while Bah was released with only the visa expiration and immigrant charges. She was put under house arrest with ankle bracelet; Tashnuba was deported back to Bangladesh unfortunately. Bah was forced to work for her younger siblings and within the vicinity of her home. In 2007, Bah was granted asylum on the grounds that she would face forcible circumcision if deported to Guinea.
Today, with the support of Muslim community, Bah is 23 and married and have been living well to support her family and younger siblings but she can never outlive the horrifying experience she had to go through. Moreover, she shares her story of the treatment she received from the FBI against her common American rights. She wasn’t informed of how she was entitled to an attorney and how she cannot be moved around without her parents’ knowledge under the law since she was underage. She was terrified that time and her parents were equally terrified and if she had known more about the American system, maybe she might have avoided the unnecessary torture.
Since 9/11, there have been dozen of cases of innocent Muslims who have been captured and being tortured in jail since their arrest. All have been falsely accused by the government and FBI and most of them have been reported as “suspicious personnel” by the FBI spies only because they interacted online or voiced their opinions against the U.S. foreign policy. Some didn’t even do anything except that they were part of a certain suspicious group that they were not aware of.
“It is sad that we are in the 21st century and yet we are misjudged,” a 23-year-old Muslim brother F. Z. (who prefers to use his initials) expressed his opinions, “Being a U.S. citizen we should feel secure and protected but I often feel terrified and scarred when I see these news on T.V. or hear of such injustice. It becomes hard for me to be identified as American Muslim due to such actions of the government. I am a peaceful and loving member of the U.S. but I fear that if I say something that is a common belief of many average Americans but come across suspicious according to the government just because of my religion, I will be put behind bars and tortured unnecessarily of “wrong doings” that I never really committed. It is a sad truth that a place I call my home feels more like a prison to me today.”
There have been many cases such as Adama Bah, like The Fort Dix Five case, where a bunch of Muslim brothers posing with paintball guns in a photo posted on their facebook page were arrested and are being held captive because they “posed threat” to the U.S. Other cases include those of Syed Fahed Hashmi, John Walker Lindh, Ahmed Oman Abu Ali, Yassin Aref and Mohammad Hossain, and Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, who has been the worst case in history according to the Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark.
The event that was held in February focused on the community awareness of such cases and gave survival tips on how to avoid falling in the traps of “terrorist” activity.
Br. Nassar listed how we can become victim by being ignorant, impatient, immature, naive, bored, and/or thinking we are special. He believes these qualities are what makes us a victim of targets in the eyes of FBI and how they can use it against by plotting ideas in our mind, by manipulating our words and actions, by confusing our actions and thought process, and by attributing to our actions in the form of being our friends.
All these can lead us to make mistakes, poor decisions, wasting our knowledge, disappointment and frustration, fantasy, abuse, fear and isolation. If we are just vigilant and focus on the positive of our community we can certainly avoid these traps set out by the government and FBI.
Tiffany (Muslim Sister who would like to keep her identity hidden) agrees to Br. Nassar methods, “Anything we do and say on social network sites or internet chat rooms or forums are monitored by the government. I avoid saying anything that I know would sound suspicious in the eyes of those who don’t know me personally. We come across as easy targets by just our names and if we do or say something that can confirm even 1% of their suspicion, we are doomed. This is why I watch my words and actions carefully. I pray and hope for those who are already being treated unjustly but I also pray for those who might become potential targets in the future. I pray for everyone who had to go through torture and injustice and who are going through as we speak. I do call for our community to come forward and help spread the words and help free those who are innocents.”