As the media swallowed up stories about Fort Hood and obsessed over how it was yet another example of “violent” Islam, the FBI’s recent killing of Imam Luqman Ameen Abdullah has conveniently stayed at the margins of national debates.
But not for long. A coaltion of Muslim and civil rights groups have joined together to call for an investigation into the FBI’s shooting of Imam Abdullah in Dearborn, Michigan. The Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Michigan chapter, American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan and the Interfaith Council for Peace & Justice have joined together to ask the Department of Justice to investigate the use of excessive force during a raid last month that left Abdullah shot and killed by FBI agents.
Federal officials had been following Abdullah for two years. Although Abdullah was never charged with terrorism, according to the FBI report, he was “advocating and encouraging his followers to commit violent acts against the United States.” They also cite his urges to create an “Islamic state” within the US as evidence of his radical Islamic fundamentalism.
Some of his colleagues say this idea of an “Islamic state” was synonymous to the Amish in Pennsylvania. But what’s scarier than a bunch of Black Muslims living in the cuts of Pennsylvania and growing organic vegetables? Not much to the FBI, it seems.
Members of the Muslim Alliance in North America, an organization that Abdullah helped to advise, also said in a statement:
“Reference to the Ummah as a ‘nationwide radical fundamentalist Sunni group consisting primarily of African-Americans’ is an offensive mischaracterization…To those who have worked with Imam Luqman A. Abdullah, allegations of illegal activity, resisting arrest, and offensive jihad against the American government are shocking and inconsistent. In his ministry he consistently advocated for the downtrodden and always spoke about the importance of connecting with the needs of the poor.”
Let’s pause for a brief history lesson. Ever heard of COINTELPRO? The Counter Intelligence Program was a secret FBI project that sent agents to break up radical movements in the 1960s and 70s by infiltrating them or killing some of their strongest leaders. Fred Hampton ring a bell?
As Michelle Chen has argued before, Homeland Security’s “fusion centers” and its informal agreements to fight “terrorism” using covert tactics echoes the same strategies that COINTELPRO used against radical movements, particularly Black liberation movements, in the past and some of the same strategies used during last month’s raid on Abdullah’s mosque.
Although I already have my critiques of the some of the politics of Ummah (I like the desert more than farmland and don’t have much of a green thumb), it does not cloud the fact that his death comes after hundreds of mosques across the US have been targeted by FBI agents who harass their members in the name of the “war on terror.” And with COINTELPRO listed at the top of the FBI’s resume, the raid on the Dearborn mosque seems to be a pattern of covert spying and excessive force used against anything that even looks a tiny bit like Black people and/or Muslims organizing themselves.
Abdullah’s family, friends and colleagues held a small funeral for him earlier this month.