US Muslims call for action as spy incidents rock community | Islamophobia News

Washington DC – First, the main US Muslim advocacy group reported that a “mole” had infiltrated the leadership of one of its state branches. Then, a few days later, the organization said that a “spy” from an American mosque had passed on information to an “anti-Muslim” group.

The two incidents, revealed earlier this month by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), rocked Muslim activists in the United States and rekindled long-standing concerns about community spying.

“Members of the community were shocked and saddened to learn of this specific situation, but neither were many people surprised that an anti-Muslim hate group was targeting CAIR and spying in this way,” said Whitney Siddiqi, director of community affairs at CAIR-Ohio. .

The CAIR chapter noted on December 15, he sacked Romin Iqbal, his executive and legal director in the Columbus-Cincinnati area, for “gross ethical and professional violations.”

CAIR accused Iqbal of passing confidential information to the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT), a group that the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a civil rights organization that tracks hate groups in the United States. United, a noted was founded by an “anti-Muslim activist”.

Separately, CAIR’s national office in Washington, DC said on December 21 that another individual volunteer at an American mosque had come forward and was paid by Steven Emerson, IPT executive director, to provide information about the community.

“Community Update: A second IPT ‘spy’ has voluntarily come forward, confessed and agreed to cooperate with us. He was not part of CAIR. He was an active volunteer in a large mosque who was invited to national community meetings and events, ”CAIR said in a statement. Twitter feed, without identifying the suspected spy or where he was volunteering.

Siddiqi said one of the objectives of espionage is to create “fear and mistrust in our own communities”, but she stressed that CAIR is moving “with transparency” and redoubling its efforts to combat it. islamophobia.

“Again, we recognize the devastation of this news and it certainly takes time to process, but something positive is coming out of it that we are strengthening our ties and our work to protect and defend Muslims,” he said. she told Al Jazeera in an email.

Wider surveillance

In the two decades since the 9/11 attacks, American Muslims have faced cases of surveillance, a host of discriminatory policies – including travel bans – as well as an increase in hate crimes, while spy programs run by federal and local law enforcement agencies have targeted their communities.

For example, between 2002 and 2014, the New York Police Department dedicated an entire unit to spy on the city’s Muslim population. According to American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) police mapped the residences of Muslim New Yorkers, recruited informants from the Muslim community, and placed mosques under surveillance.

Now, recent incidents involving CAIR have rekindled concerns across the country. “It’s really scary,” South Florida-based American Muslim law professor and activist Nadia Ahmad told Al Jazeera.

The Family and Youth Institute, a Michigan-based research institute specializing in mental health, recently released a toolkit on how to deal with the fallout from espionage allegations, advising people to recognize the effects of spyware. current affairs and to channel their energy “towards efforts in your community”.

“When espionage is carried out by an individual who works for an organization that defends the civil rights of American Muslims, then the trauma, stress and shock are overwhelming and the damage can last a long time,” the institute said. noted.

IPT and its founder

CAIR said it found “conclusive evidence” that Iqbal – the former head of the Ohio office – “spent years secretly recording CAIR network meetings and passing on confidential information regarding advocacy work. national CAIR ”at the IPT.

In an email to Al Jazeera on Friday, Iqbal’s lawyer declined to comment on the allegations.

IPT refuses to be labeled a hate group. He says it is a research body and a “primary source of critical evidence for a wide variety of government offices and law enforcement agencies.”

Emerson and others associated with the group have testified as experts on terrorism in various US Congressional hearings, most notably in 2016. Pete Hoekstra, former congressman and alumnus senior fellow at IPT, served as Ambassador to the Netherlands during the Trump administration.

Meanwhile, the group’s site is filled with anti-CAIR Equipment, as well as articles criticizing Israel’s critics, and the organization openly seeks advice on “terrorism-related information.”

“Sir. Emerson is not anti-Muslim, nor does he run a ‘hate group’,” the group told Al Jazeera in an email Friday.

The IPT also declared that it “has never and never will monitor the entire American Muslim community”, but “will not hesitate to uncover and publicly expose radical Islamist activities on American soil” .

But a 2011 report (PDF) by the Center for American Progress, a liberal American think tank, accused Emerson and his group of pushing to portray Islam as violent.

“Such extravagant portraits of Islam as inherently radical require some creativity on Emerson’s part,” the report read. “Proving he is up to the challenge, Emerson prides himself on having fabricated evidence that perpetuates radical Islamic plots infiltrating America through Muslim civil rights and advocacy organizations. Rights.

The SPLC also describe Emerson as an “anti-Muslim activist”.

Alleged connection with Israel

CAIR also accused the IPT of “collaborating with” Israeli officials.

On Tuesday, the Muslim advocacy group shared screenshot he said he was showing an email exchange between Emerson and Israeli government officials asking about possible links between Students for Justice in Palestine, a student-led advocacy group active in US universities, and the Palestinian faction Hamas.

Al Jazeera was unable to verify the authenticity of the screenshots. The Israeli Embassy in Washington did not respond to requests for comment Thursday and Friday. CAIR did not say how it got the emails.

CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad said in a declaration on December 14, that “Emerson’s hate group was communicating and providing assistance to Israeli intelligence with the office of then Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.”

CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad accused IPT of communicating and providing assistance to Israeli officials [File: Alex Brandon/AP Photo]

“Let me say it again,” Awad wrote. “The Israeli government was collaborating with an anti-Muslim hate group. “

In a statement to Al Jazeera, the IPT denied that Emerson or the organization “ever worked under the direction of any government, foreign or domestic; and has never received funding from any government, foreign or national ”.

” Protect yourself “

The activists have documented the links between pro-Israel right-wing advocacy groups and organizations that perpetuate Islamophobia more generally over the years.

“There is a definite link between Islamophobia and activism [against] pro-Palestinian causes, ”said Ahmad, the law professor, speaking in general terms. “And this is something that we have seen happen not only in the last few months or years, but decades.”

Abed Ayoub, legal director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), a civil rights group, also said that the alleged collaboration between Emerson and the Israeli government shows the overlap between anti-Palestinian sentiment and Islamophobia.

“It is a serious problem,” he told Al Jazeera.

Ayoub also compared spying on Muslims to violent attacks on Arab-American civil rights organizations in the 1980s and 1990s, including the assassination of ADC’s West Coast Regional Director Alex Odeh , during a bomb attack on his office in California in 1985.

The FBI investigation into the attack remains open. Many media reports linked the attack to the Jewish Defense League, which the SPLC describe as a “radical organization that preaches a violent form of anti-Arab and Jewish nationalism”.

Ayoub added that the recent incidents underscore the need for vigilance in Muslim and Arab American communities – and called on federal authorities to investigate Emerson’s possible collaboration with the Israeli government.

“It shows how [hate groups] go ahead, and it’s something the community needs to take seriously, ”he said.

“It’s time we put our efforts into protecting ourselves and having the right verification processes in place, putting in place the right security measures behind the scenes of our technology, and taking these threats seriously. Everyone who works for civil rights is a target.



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