FBI counters Trump on Muslims

A memorial service earlier in the week for the victims of the Pulse Nightclubshootings in Orlando, Florida.

A memorial service earlier in the week for the victims of the Pulse Nightclubshootings in Orlando, Florida.  


Law enforcement agencies say local members of the community have reported about extremists

Muslim-Americans have repeatedly informed authorities of fellow Muslims they fear might be turning to extremism, law enforcement officials say, contrary to a claim by presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump this week.

“They don’t report them,” Mr. Trump said in a CNN interview on Monday, in the wake of the mass shooting at an Orlando nightclub by an American Muslim who claimed allegiance to the Islamic State. “For some reason, the Muslim community does not report people like this.”

But FBI director James Comey said: “They do not want people committing violence, either in their community or in the name of their faith, and so some of our most productive relationships are with people who see things and tell us things who happen to be Muslim. It’s at the heart of the FBI’s effectiveness to have good relationships with these folks.”

Robust relationship

Andrew Ames, a spokesman for the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Washington field office, told Reuters on Wednesday that the agency has a “robust” relationship with the local Muslim community. FBI agents operating in the area have received reports about suspicious activity and other issues from community members.

Michael Downing, deputy chief of the Los Angeles Police Department and head of its Counterterrorism and Special Operations Bureau, said the city’s Muslim community has been cooperative in reporting “red flags”.

“I personally have been called by community members about several things, very significant things,” Mr. Downing said. “What we say to communities is that we don’t want you to profile humans, we want you to profile behaviour.” Charles Kurzman, a professor at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, who has conducted several studies on Muslim-Americans and terrorism, disputed Mr. Trump’s criticism. “To claim there is no cooperation is false and defamatory to the Muslim-American community.”

Establishing trust

Mr. Kurzman said a January 2016 study by himself and colleagues at Duke University’s Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security found that many law enforcement agencies had made progress in establishing trust with local Muslim-American communities.

But the study also found some tensions. In one focus group described in the study, Muslim-American participants debated when to report activity when they were unsure how to detect imminent violence. “The group participants expressed concern that police would be more likely to encourage a plot in order to make an arrest,” the authors wrote, “rather than to divert people onto a non-violent path that community members and family members would prefer”.

One imam interviewed for the project told researchers he felt that his “trust is not being reciprocated” by U.S. officials. The imam told the researchers that after he attended a meeting with federal officials, he went to the local airport, was held for hours at security and missed his flight, the study said.

A Reuters review of court records also produced examples of many Muslim-Americans informing law enforcement of possible radicalisation within their families.

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Printable version | Jan 29, 2020 1:26:09 PM |

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