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US Muslim community shaken by ‘spying’ incidents, call for action

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Muslims have been the target of increasing hostility in the US. (Photo by AP)

A Muslim-American advocacy group says it has uncovered a ‘mole’ in the leadership of one of its state branches as well as a ‘spy’ at a US mosque that passed information to an “anti-Muslim group”.

The two shocking incidents were reported earlier this month by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), sparking fresh concerns over spying in the American Muslim community.

“Community members were shocked and saddened to learn about this specific situation, but a lot of people were also not surprised that an anti-Muslim hate group was targeting CAIR and spying this way,” Whitney Siddiqi, community affairs director at CAIR-Ohio, was quoted as saying by Aljazeera.

The CAIR chapter in Ohio on December 15 said it had fired Romin Iqbal, its executive and legal director in the Columbus-Cincinnati area, for “egregious ethical and professional violations”.

He was accused by the organization of passing confidential information to the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT), a group that the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a civil rights organisation that tracks hate groups in the US, has said was founded by an “anti-Muslim activist”.

A forensic investigation by a third-party expert found "conclusive evidence that Iqbal had spent years secretly recording CAIR network meetings and passing confidential information regarding CAIR's national advocacy work to a known anti-Muslim hate group," CAIR-Ohio said then.

In a separate incident, CAIR’s office in Washington on December 21 said a volunteer at a US mosque had revealed that he was paid by Steven Emerson, IPT’s executive director, to leak information on the community.

“Community update: a second IPT ‘spy’ has voluntarily come forward, confessed and agreed to cooperate with us. He was not part of CAIR. He was an active volunteer in a large mosque who was invited to national community meetings & events,” CAIR said in a Twitter thread last week.

 

Bismillah. Community update: a second IPT "spy" has voluntarily come forward, confessed and agreed to cooperate with us. He was not part of CAIR. He was an active volunteer in a large mosque who was invited to national community meetings & events. Details in the thread... 1/8

— CAIR National (@CAIRNational) December 21, 2021

 

“We are gathering and vetting additional information from this individual. We have also been directly alerting Muslim leaders and organizations he targeted. We will publicly release his name and additional information after we finish this process, God willing,” it added.

Siddiqi was quoted as saying by Aljazeera that one of the aims of the spying is to create “fear and distrust in our own communities”, while adding that CAIR is moving forward “with transparency” in its fight against the menace of Islamophobia.

Muslim Americans have faced increased surveillance and discriminatory policies since the events of 9/11, with hate crimes and spying activities seeing an alarming surge in recent years, mostly with the active involvement of law enforcement authorities.

Between 2002 and 2014, the New York Police Department assigned an entire unit to spy on the city’s Muslim population.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), police mapped out where Muslim New Yorkers lived, recruited informants from within the Muslim community, and placed mosques under surveillance.

The trend has only accelerated under the present US administration headed by Joe Biden.


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