The FBI effort to quash black nationalist “subversion” in the 1950s and ’60s set the agency up well to continue infiltrating and destabilizng black Muslim communities when Sept. 11 provided a 21st century mandate to fight the threat of Muslim “radicalization,” The Nation argues this week in its report about Ayyub Abdul-Alim.
Abdul-Alim, who’s Puerto Rican and black, grew up in New York City and was living in Springfield, Massachusetts, when he was first approached by an FBI agent in 2010. The agent’s invitation to become an informant grew into harassment and hounding. Then police, Abdul-Alim says, planted a gun on him and arrested him in 2011. In custody, a police officer, also working with the FBI, offered Abdul-Alim a trade—his freedom for a lucrative contract as an FBI informant. He refused, and ended up paying dearly.
Arun Kundnani, Emily Keppler, and Muki Najaer, reporting for The Nation, put Abdul-Alim’s case in historical perspective:
Since 9/11, a key element in the FBI’s counter-terrorism tactics has been the aggressive recruitment and deployment of large numbers of informants among Muslim communities in the United States. Part of the purpose is to gather information on political or community activism, which the FBI frames as a precursor to extremist violence. But the tactics also fit a familiar pattern—one that harkens back to the FBI’s history of targeting the civil rights and Black Power movements of the 1960s, when it was likewise asserted that extremist ideologues were fueling violence.
Today, black Muslims stand at the intersection of the War on Drugs’ institutional racism and the War on Terror’s institutional Islamophobia: their race frames them as prone to gang violence, their religion as a terrorist threat. Abdul-Alim’s case shows the extreme measures the FBI is willing to use to pressure Muslims to work as informants on the terror war’s domestic front.
Read the story in its riveting entirety at The Nation.