Trust, the FBI, and Muslims

Trust, the FBI, and Muslims

by Jeff Siddiqui

Well, the bus ads saga continues and with it, the disappointment and the damage of trust with the FBI grows.

It appears that the FBI is unable or unwilling to get us a straight story and it also appears that the FBI is working hard to divide Muslim up so that one groups lack of dissent can be used against another group’s vigorous dissent.

We are told that the Seattle FBI ad-campaign including the objectionable bus ad, is all controlled by the people in the Justice Department, specifically, RewardsForJustice (RFJ) program. Having spoken with the folks at RFJ, I was told in absolutely clear terms that the program was being funded by RFJ, but they had no input in it and it is completely a local Seattle FBI/JTTF program. Even the posters carry an e-signature that identifies them as “Seattle-JTTF Campaign”.

Seattle JTTF campaign

The FBI keeps telling me that they had in fact, discussed it with various members of the Muslim leadership. A few of the people I checked this out with told me they were informed of the program in May but the message came as though it had  nothing to do with the Seattle FBI and that it was pretty much a done deal; feedback will not have much of an effect. Some Muslims said nothing because they felt helpless, while at least one sent feedback to the FBI telling them this was damaging to Muslims in general and will achieve nothing in terms of actually getting the people on the poster. The FBI came back in an e-mail that I have seen, saying no pictures would be used in the campaign.

We are told that the FBI is “working on changing the program”. This is a misleading response because we  are NOT asking for a change in the program in fact, we have no objection to the other two ads they showed us,

Seattle JTTF campaign_01

Seattle JTTF campaign_02

which did not show Muslims as terrorists; we want the objectionable ad that portrays Muslims as terrorists (“The Face of Global Terrorism”) removed…now…without delay.

We are told that it takes time to change the ad program and we should have patience and trust in the FBI. This is getting more and more difficult to do because with each passing day, more people are exposed to an ad with 16 Muslim faces on it, with a provocative heading that is sure to lead most people to assume Muslims are “the face of global terrorism”. With each passing day, we are getting more effectively slotted as the enemy of the US and the West and with the FBI openly endorsing such an impression. I know this because no matter who I speak to, I am told s-he also thinks this is the message that will be taken from this particular poster.

How is one to trust the FBI when they appear to be more concerned with their own interests than they are with the damage they are causing? We Muslims are now the collateral damage, God Bless America!

On the night of the 19th of June, there was a meeting between the Muslim Association of Puget Sound (MAPS) and members of the FBI, US Attorney’s office and a member of the Department of Homeland Security.  I spoke with a number of people who were at this meeting in which they discussed this bus ad and as far as I can gather, everybody except for the FBI, agreed this ad was very damaging to Muslims.

The FBI finally agreed to “do their best to get this ad campaigned changed,” but it will take some time”, they said. It appears that it might cost the FBI some money if they were to terminate this particular ad and they did not wish to tax their budget “unnecessarily”. The “agreement” as it were, came to this; The FBI would remove this ad (when it expires, appears to be the understanding) and this may take a week or two. The FBI then asked for something in return (“win-win”, they called it); would MAPS be willing to write an Op-ed piece essentially saying what a great level of trust had been built by the FBI with Muslims, how collaborative they have been and how happy they are with things between the FBI and Muslims? (I may not be entirely accurate in this question, but I am not far off). He folks present at the meeting from MAPS agreed to do this.

When I asked why they would agree to writing an Op-ed piece which by its authorship, will mean that Muslims endorse whatever the FBI has been doing to us so far, their answer was even more surprising.

In a situation of great imbalance, Muslims (MAPS) see themselves as essentially helpless in front of the FBI. MAPS does feel they have built a level of trust with the FBI which they are anxious to preserve and they feel there have been anti-Muslim events in the past, where the FBI showed great support for MAPS and that MAPS could not ask for the removal of the ad but they could gently suggest it and have a collaborative relationship. I told them this was not how I would do things, that we Muslims must NOT feel we are powerless and indeed, we should insist that this particular ad be removed now, not tomorrow or the next week or, the week after that and we left it at that.

We are not asking them to cancel the entire program, we are demanding that they get this particular ad, this call to bigotry, removed and now. I know this can be done with just a phone call; all the FBI has to do is call the Metro people and tell them to remove all bus ads that carry this poster and it will be done overnight; it is that simple.

Where is the “win-win” in this situation for Muslims? The FBI gets to keep their ad program until it expires and we Muslims get to kiss their boots and thank them for the great trust they have built with us and all the good work they did for us? Yes, we have sunk so low and it looks like in our anxiousness to be seen as friends with those in power, we are going to plumb greater depths in the time to come.

It seems to me that the FBI values its dollars more than it values the effect their hare-brained ad-campaign will have on Muslims; how it has struck fear in the hearts of Muslims and the effect it will have on the normal non-Muslim who sees the ad, not to mention all the bigots who are already crowing about how they have been vindicated by the FBI.

The FBI has never been an agency to back off even when they are wrong and they know it. Their mandatory training course, “Arrogance 404” teaches then to never back off and never apologize and it looks like the Seattle FBI is no different in their approach.

It looks like MAPS will be writing the Op-ed unless MAPS membership objects and the membership is unlikely to object because it does not look like this will be brought to a vote of the membership. Those among MAPS  who wish to cultivate their relationship with the FBI from a position of weakness, will continue to do so. The FBI will come out as a generous super-hero for doing us the favor of letting their ad expire and we get to thank them as the Face of Muslims in Puget Sound.

There is something very wrong in a situation where approximately 50,000-80,000 Muslims in Puget Sound area feel so weak and ineffective that they cannot even take a stand when an agency that is supposed to serve us, takes a step that could endanger us. Obviously, MAPS is reading their lack of power correctly because they are unwilling to use it at all and obviously, the FBI has read “The Muslim Mind” correctly and it is turning out to be a victory for them that they will use as an example to prove how much value they offer Muslims and therefore how wrong their critics are.

It is now up to us the Muslims in Puget Sound, who actually care about how we are seen and how the FBI should act with us and about us. It is up to us to exert all our power internally, to inform our leaders to lead and externally, to rally support from our House Representatives, our Senators and demand to know why the FBI is unable and unwilling to remove just a single fear-producing ad from Seattle’s buses.

We also ask our non-Muslim friends to please use all the pressure and effort they can, to kill this ad NOW.


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