East Bay News

FBI files detail Muslims' religious practices

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The FBI used its Mosque Outreach Program not just to reach out to the Muslim community, but to gather intelligence. That information is contained in documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union. Now members of the Muslim-American community are upset.

The FBI labeled those documents as "positive intelligence" and then shared that information with other government agencies.

"I'm a tax-paying citizen just like anybody else is," Junior Moosayer of Junior's Car Stereo. He's also a Muslim-American. Moosayar has owned and operated his stereo and alarm installation store in the area of Fremont known as "Little Kabul" for 11 years. Recent news that the ACLU obtained records from the FBI that showed the bureau's San Francisco division used its Muslim outreach efforts to collect intelligence on Muslim-Americans, has hit a sour note.

"It's targeting a certain group of people or community, per se," said Moosayer.

Under the U.S. Privacy Act, the FBIi is prohibited from maintaining records on how people practice their religion, unless there is a clear law enforcement purpose. Members of the ACLU say this was not the case.

"The FBI needs to have trust with the Muslim-American community," said Julia Harumi Mass with the ACLU of Northern California. "People need to feel safe coming forward to report suspicious activities to the FBI."

The FBI documents, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, are from 2004 through 2008, before the FBI established a formal community outreach program.

"This is betrayal."

Members of the Muslim Community Association in Santa Clara say they understand that the FBI has a job to do, but argue transparency is key to building trust.

"This is betrayal," said Isa Shaw, a Muslim-American. "When we target people based on who they are instead of what they do, I think you end up with a lot of false positives."

"If you actually read the documentation, it's pretty simple stuff," said Shafath Syed, a Muslim-American. "Just people talking about their religious practices and so forth."

The FBI says in a statement that reads in part, "Since that time, the FBI has formalized its community relations program to emphasize a great distinction between outreach and operational activities."

Back at Moosayer's shop, he says the only differences should be in our choices of music. Life is too short for anything else.

"All of us come together as one," said Moosayer. "No background differences."

It's important to remind everyone that the documents in question are from 2004-2008. We asked an attorney with the ACLU what took so long to get these documents. Her response, "sometimes freedom can take a while."

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