Sunday, December 5, 2010

Should the FBI be infiltrating mosques?


By sadaqah/Flickr
By GARY BAUMGARTEN
The use of a convicted forger as a confidential informant to infiltrate a California mosque for the FBI is causing tensions between the Muslim community and the federal government.
People should feel comfortable that when they go to pray, the government isn’t interfering in their religious freedoms. But what of mosques that are being used as meeting places to plan terrorist attacks?
The first attack on the World Trade Center, for example, was hatched in a New Jersey mosque. And officials in London investigated and then took action against an Islamic religious leader preaching jihad from the pulpit.
Somehow there has to be an accommodation for both needs – that of religious freedom and that of homeland security. But are the two mutually exclusive?
To be sure, many federal interventions of terrorist plots are the result of members of the Islamic community reporting the suspicious activities of fellow Muslims. The latest example was the outing of the Somalian-born suspect in the Portland, Oregon Christmas tree lighting ceremony plot. A fellow Muslim reported him to authorities.
The risk in infiltrating mosques is that someone who is offended by the government’s actions might be reticent to cooperate like this in the future. But the risk of not infiltrating when it is suspected that terrorist activities are being planned in a mosque could be disastrous.
The issue comes down to one of trust. Do we trust the feds to not abuse their power, to not entrap? The issue of entrapment invariably is raised, anyway, anytime a confidential informant is used in the prosecution of a case.
But Muslims, or members of any faith for that matter, should be reasonably confident that when they gather to pray, their fellow congregants are just that – congregants, not informants.
Gary Baumgarten is the news and programming director at the Paltalk News Network.

No comments: