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An Implied Threat?

Still thinking about the death of a Detroit imam...

Not unexpectedly, Muslim communities and others are starting to push back against the official FBI explanation for the investigation and death of Detroit imam Luqman Ameen Abdullah.

As I've said before, I'm not sure about the circumstances of the shooting, so I'm in no position to cast any judgment about what happened. But I am sure that there's a real and frightening history of the FBI unfairly targeting organizations like the American Indian Movement and the Black Panthers, and that this history seems to be part of what's fueling skepticism among many about the shooting.

That and the sense that, in the wake of 9/11, Muslims have come to replace the Panthers and AIM as federal boogeymen.

It was a concern that became tougher to dismiss in this case as I thought about how often the official narrative kept bringing up Abdullah's religion and alleged anti-government screeds. It wasn't that I objected to the FBI making repeated references to Abdullah's open contempt for the US government and for many non-Muslims. It was that I wanted -- and still want -- the government to offer a concrete connection between his angry pronouncements and the crimes for which Abdullah was being investigated. I want the FBI to tell me outright that they were bringing up these comments because the man was a terrorist whose illegal activities were part of a larger plot to attempt grave harm against national security.

Certainly, that's what is being implied. But the government owes a skittish country -- and a city that's home to tens of thousands of Muslims of various ethnic backgrounds -- more than mere unsettling implications.

Otherwise, as some friends and even some posters here have asked in the past few days, why bring up the man's religious beliefs at all? As much as I disagree with Muslims and others who profess faith in a "divine being," I also passionately believe that theists have as much a right to their opinions as I do to mine. And they have as much right to talk angry smack about their government -- as long as talk is all it is -- as they wish without being branded enemies of the state.

Given that even the feds say Abdullah wasn't being charged with national-security crimes, I am unsure why his rants were any more dangerous, in and of themselves, than the birthers who call for an overthrow of Obama "the Tyrant" or those who openly declare themselves "proud right-wing terrorists." What kind of context do they really provide here?

In what was probably Abdullah's most incendiary remark, he said he'd "just strap a bomb on and blow up everybody," if the law came after him. And he indeed did die in a blaze of gunfire. But what of the bomb remark? Had he taken steps to learn to make explosives? Was he discovered to have bomb-making materials in his possession or to be working with bombers? If he did, I darn sure want to know. If not, then why tell me about the comment?

From what I've seen, Abdullah and his crew were being investigated for two years primarily for felony crimes related to stolen goods and firearms. Now, that's certainly more than enough to warrant a probe. But the FBI could've easily have just said they were investigating and subsequently shot down a suspected thief and gunrunner.

Instead, I heard a whole lot the day after the shooting about how Abdullah headed a sect of angry black Muslims who wanted to separate from America. But were they using the proceeds from stolen goods to underwrite terrorist actions? Were their stated affiliations with H. Rap Brown anything more sinister than a shared religious and political philosophy? Were these guys a threat on par with, say, Zacarias Moussaoui?

I'm not saying they were or weren't. I'm saying that, given that the FBI has attributed numerous anti-American statements to Abdullah as part of its look into his group, I have been expecting to see more in the way of evidence that reflects a real reason to fear him as part of something more dangerous than a crew of crooks skimming cash off of proceeds from stolen furs.

Until the official narrative offers concrete proof that Abdullah was part of some larger Muslim effort to attack the country, there will be many people here and around the country who remain skeptical about why the imam's religious and political views played such a prominent role in the FBI's explanation.

And Muslims and other marginalized groups that are looking for a fair shake will continue to cry foul...

What're your thoughts? Was it fair and appropriate to make Abdullah's religious and political views such a big part of the FBI story without tying him to real proof of terrorism? Or should the FBI have simply described him according to the criminal allegations until and unless such proof was presented?

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  • 1

    I agree with you completely As I have been following this story I keep waiting to see the answer to "what did they do?" I really expected Obama to get control over these agencies and make them act right.

  • 2

    I would have to also agree. Not that I am defending either the FBI or Abdullah and his religious convictions. But all religion aside a criminal orginazation of sorts was taken off of our streets.

    Religion was pointed out in all of the news reports, and I would have to say sensationalised for the readers to offer a little more support to the "cause".

    What I really don't understand is the Muslim community "crying" for an explanation. What explanation does the community at large need. If anything, to proove to the public that they are not connected in any way to the activities of Abdullah should be their main focus. Denouncing and condemming his action of useing the Muslim religion to get others to do his bidding as a ruse of anti government sentiment. Truely if he (abdullah) was a terrorist and was recruiting others to his cause, they would not be involved in the crimes they were caught for. They would have been "funded" in other ways to be sure.

    What I get from reading all the news on this event is just a bunch of criminals were caught, and the so called leader used religion to hide his activities. If the muslim community rallies for this type of activity from one of its so called leaders instead of condemming the them, then thay have all done nothing to further the peacefull words they say they live by.

    What Abdullah did was a crime, and he used his influence as a holly man to bring other misguided people into his criminal activities, thru the use of a hatefull aspect of religion, the peacefull people of Islam should condem him not the FBI.

    • 2.1

      Very astute, robertmprice. You've added an interesting dimension to this discussion. If someone hides behind religion to conduct criminal activity, then the true-hearted believers should be the first to condemn and disconnect themselves from him.

      Religion is only relevant to the crime to the extent that he used it to empower his followers to be criminals. If he made it part of the story, then it's part of the story.

      However, I would still prefer to hear more about the crimes than what he hid behind.

  • 3

    I'm no expert in the legal system and most of my experience in the execution of arrest warrants comes from watching syndicated episodes of Law and Order, but I am fairly confident that regardless of guilt that to open fire on your arresting officers is illegal. It seems as if those defending the Imam have forgotten that in addition to the debatable crime of "conspiracy" he was being arrested for the very tangible crimes of "receipt of stolen goods, and firearms offenses." According to the Detroit News As for your blog entry vilifying the FBI for their characterization of the Imam as a threat, perhaps they should just stop investigating crimes and let everyone do as they please. That would ensure there is no chance for an innocent party to be investigated. I now know whose blog entries in this Time Magazine experiment stand out as political commentary rather than real news about the city.

  • 4

    Dude. I don't see it as vilifying the FBI, I think the question is What does his religious background matter? A crime is a crime, but it's not a crime to worship your own god. Whomever that is! That is a part of what this country was founded upon. Yes Criminals need to be arrested and punished for their crimes. But hyping the story with, what appears to be, useless background info is not fair to the other Muslims living in this country.
    Freedom of speech is another right we all have. I think Darrell is only looking for a firm connection to terrorism, or else leave the whole religion thing alone.

    • 4.1


      I'm glad we agree that this individual broke the law, whether for the crimes on which he was to be arrested or by the actions that resulted in his shooting death. I disagree though, with both yours and the bloggers point that the FBI is using the religion card. Are you implying that because some of the evidence against him used the word Islam ("S-3 said that, on March 21, 2008, Luqman Abdullah told him "that the FBI is the enemy of Islam," the complaint said." the FBI shouldn't admit it as evidence? In your mind replace his statements about Islam with "the Mob" (And I am in no way equating the two). Would it be wrong to use that evidence at trial because it is unfair or inflammatory to Italians? If you look at the purported "hyping" the blogger refers to - it is quotes about what his Ummah or the organization he represented thought of the US government and specifically the FBI. For example: We got to take out the U.S. government. The U.S. government is nothing but Kuffars."

      (The indictment says that "Kafir is a highly derogatory term used to describe a non-Muslim, and that 'Kuffar' is the plural form of the word."

      The Imam brought in his religion as a justification for his actions. I simply don't understand why it's wrong for the FBI to investigate and document that motive.

  • 5

    It is a shame when people hide behind religion to perform their evil deeds. It is however, unclear exactly what terriorist activities Abdullah and his organization were planning. It seems from all reports they were running a criminal network using religion as a cover.

    Since Abdullah came out guns blazing the FBI was forced to return fire. Now dead it will be up to the prosecutors office to bring the other members to justice. May be then the full scope of the enterprise will be exposed.

    Religion, regardless of type (Chrisitan or Muslim) does not condone violence. True followers of Jesus and Muhhammad love others as themselves. It is only when religion is perverted due you end up with the likes of Obama Bin Laden or David Koresh.

  • 6

    OBAMA?????? Bib Laden ?

    I reeally hope you meant OSAMA

  • 7

    Here's what I wonder - did the feds get onto this guy due to his incendiary rhetoric only then to run into informants who said he allegedly was involved in gun running and fencing stolen goods?

    I agree - it's possible that if he had followed a different religion his angry rhetoric may have been ignored, a meaningless blip on the feds' post-9/11 radar.

    Still, considering how this ended, i don't think i would've wanted to be living down the street from this guy's establishment.

  • 8

    Who determines when criminals are terrorists? Our nation after the horror of 9-11 made a epic tactical error in judgment. We defined the 9-11 perpetrators as terrorists instead of criminals. This mistake lead our nation into 2 war and unwarranted loss of innocence lives and trillions of dollars and a global economic meltdown. We cannot afford to make this mistake in judgment again in the streets and neighborhoods in America.

    The FBI's actions in Dearborn must be subject to review and independent analysis. We are a nation of laws not disinformation, propaganda and speculation. No one nor any government agency is above the law.

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