I’m disturbed by the news of the New York terror plot uncovered by the FBI–four individuals who’d hoped to bomb a Riverdale synagogue and down a plane at Newburgh’s Stewart Air Force Base. I’ve been following the story as reported in the N.Y. Times and just read Robert Dreyfuss’ piece in The Nation, which finally galvanized me to writing this.
I have no problem with the FBI being vigilant in pursuing leads regarding individuals who plan terror attacks in this country. But I have a very serious problem with the FBI blackmailing Muslims who’ve violated the law, inducing them to entrap other Muslims in terror plots essentially devised or at least inspired by the FBI and its informant, Shahed Hussain:
Everyone called the stranger with all the money “Maqsood.” He would sit in his Mercedes, waiting in the parking lot of the mosque in Newburgh, N.Y., until the Friday prayer was over. Then, according to members of the mosque, the Masjid al-Ikhlas, he approached the young men.
He asked Shakir Rashada, 34, if he wanted to come over for lunch. He offered Shafeeq Abdulwali, 39, a job, perhaps at his construction company. Jamil Muhammed, 38, said he was offered cellphones and computers.
The man, a Pakistani, occasionally approached the assistant imam of the mosque, proposing meetings, or overpaying for a sandwich he would buy at a mosque fund-raiser. In time, many of the mosque’s older members had made the man for a government informant, according to mosque leaders. They said that he seemed to focus most of his attention on younger black members and visitors.
“It’s easy to influence someone with the dollar,” said Mr. Muhammed, a longtime member of the mosque. “Especially these guys coming out of prison.”
If you read about the four suspects you can tell they couldn’t organize their way out of a paper bag, let alone execute a terror attack without the connivance of the informant, who also played a similar role in an earlier “terror plot.”
N.Y. police commissioner Raymond Kelly defines entrapment thus:
“…The law says you have to be otherwise not disposed to do the crime to successfully use the defense of entrapment.”
Though these suspects had gone to prison, none of their crimes verged on the seriousness of this terror plot. They were penny-ante grifters whose worst offense seemed to be drug dealing. I don’t see any disposition to engage in an act of terror without the presence of a human catalyst, who was the informant.
If you read this account by the Times of the trolling this individual did at local mosques seeking out young, impressionable Muslim men, it becomes clear that this was not an investigation which sought out individuals predisposed to harming Jews or downing aircraft. This was an FBI informant who was cultivating relationships and planting ideas in the minds of poor shlubs who had little going for themselves other than the bucks thrown their way by this person, and dreams of making their mark as a terrorist wannabe.
I want to make it clear that I’m not downplaying the very real danger of Muslim terror in this country and elsewhere. 9/11 was a tragedy which happened and which no one wishes to see repeated. But there are ways of protecting the homeland, and there are ways of ginning up hysteria with half-baked terror plots hatched from the brain of FBI agents and the criminals they induce to do their dirty work for them.
This statement from the imam of the mosque the FBI informant targeted is disturbing:
The imam in Newburgh, Salahuddin Mustafa Muhammad, said he was angry that the informant had associated his mosque with the scheme that had nothing to do with regular members. He condemned the plot, but questioned whether the men who were arrested would have committed to it had the informant not shown up.
Mr. Muhammad said he wondered whether he should have done anything differently once he had suspicions about the man named Maqsood.
“How do you go to the government about the government?” he asked.
This is the kind of thing that happens when government agencies prey on those who are not citizens or who don’t feel fully confident of exercising their rights if they are. This imam didn’t realize he could complain to his congressional representative, hire a lawyer to pressure the FBI to stop its activities, turn to Muslim-American defense groups, etc. For this reason, I value the work of American Islamic groups like CAIR, which defend the rights of Muslims to practice their religion and express their political views as any American citizen can.
Though right-wing American Jews deride CAIR as a front group for Islamist terror, in truth it is doing what American Jewish defense groups like the American Jewish Committee and Anti-Defamation League have been doing for decades–lobbying on behalf of Jewish interests. The problem that some Jews have with CAIR is that it is doing precisely what these Jewish groups have done. In their view, what’s permissible and even laudatory for American Jews becomes suspect when it comes to American Muslims. Such a double standard is hypocritical and deeply unfair.