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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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