by Abdus Sattar Ghazali
American Muslim Perspective
March 10, 2005
The Arab, Muslim and South East Asian communities are currently facing a new FBI counter intelligence program similar to the COINTELPRO operation against the African Americans during the 1960s, says Dr. Hatem Bazian, Professor at the Near East and Ethnic Studies Department, University of California, Berkeley.
COINTELPRO is the acronym for a series of FBI counterintelligence programs designed to neutralize political dissidents in the 1960s and 1970s. The program was directed against the civil rights movements, especially against the community leadership of African Americans, Latinos and Native Americans. In the 1980s similar program was used against Central American solidarity groups.
In a speech entitled, the New COINTELPRO campaign directed at Arabs, Muslims and South East Asians, Dr. Hatem Bazian said that all sub-divisions - such as ethnic groupings, immigrants or indigenous and ideological orientations of the Muslims, Arabs and South Asians are included as target by the counter Intelligence operation in the name of national security.
He pointed out that four methods were employed by the FBI at the height of the COINTELPRO operation during 1960s and the same methods are being employed now which are: 1) Infiltration in the community. 2) Psychological warfare from outside. 3) Harassment through the legal system. 4) Extra legal force and violence.
According to Dr. Bazian, the current infiltration program - under the premise of securing America from the sleeper cells - has a two fold goal: one, arrest those who might express support to bin Laden; and second, which is more important these days, focusing on the pro-Palestinian sentiments among the targeted communities. However, he added, the overwhelming majority of cases after 9/11 have to do more with the Palestinian issue rather than Osama bin Laden.
It may be pointed that a FBI secret report leaked to the press on March 10 said that the US Government efforts to date have not revealed evidence of concealed cells or networks acting in the homeland as sleepers as US recruits are hard to find. The report added that "US recruits are hard to find and al-Qa'ida detainees have reported that US citizens can be difficult to work with, one senior detainee claimed that US citizens and others who grew up in the West, were too independent and thought they knew more about US operations than senior planners."
Dr. Bazian said that pro-Israeli groups are helping in infiltration in the Muslim and Arab communities with Arabic speaking persons who possibly served in some capacity in the occupied Palestinian territory. The pro-Israeli centric groups include the Front Page Magazine and Campus Watch of Denial Pipes and the Anti-Discrimination League (ADL) that has for a long time been engaged in collecting information.
He was of the view that the pro-Israeli members of the American society are offering their services for collecting information about the Muslims for their own ideological reason which is the security of Israeli political and economic interests in America. "Many Israeli centric individuals and organizations view with great alarm the increase in numbers and assertiveness of American Muslim and Arab communities. Since it has potential in the long run of causing the reconsideration of the existing policies vis a vis Israel and the Middle East."
Elaborating on the legal harassment campaign of the government, Dr. Bazian argued that the arrests, raids or search warrants campaign is pre-occupying the Muslim individuals, groups and organizations with preparation for defense for the increasing number of legal cases which are draining resources of the community. He said that through the legal process the FBI immediately puts the individuals and organizations out of business.
He pointed out that currently the community is facing 266 legal cases which included the case of South Florida University Professor, Dr. Sami Al Arian, with 49 counts indictment that allows the Israeli intelligence agency to submit evidence against him. He said that the retainer for Dr. Al Arian's case is more than 650,000 dollars and by time this legal battle will finish the legal cost is likely to rise up to 2.5 million dollars.
In another example of legal harassment, Dr. Bazian recalled that one person was arrested and the only thing the security agencies had against him was that in his address book the address of an Islamic website, Hizb-e-Tahrir was found. That was enough evidence to keep him in solitary confinement and to go through proceedings of deportation under the premise that he is engaged or sympathetic to terrorists.
He added that the legal harassment by the government would continue since at the present moment the courts have given all the needed leeway to the executive branch to cover steps and overstep various significant parts of the constitution while the high rate of public support makes it possible to affirm these steps.
Dr. Bazian said that another objective of the legal campaign is to create dissention in the community and destabilize their established organizations as people begin to doubt the integrity of those involved in legal cases.
In the post 9/11 a number of organizations have cropped up to challenge the leadership of well-established Muslim and Arab organizations such as Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), the Arab-American Institute (AAI) and the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC).
The Centre for Islamic Pluralism (CIP) has been formed with the specific purpose of "removal of CAIR and ISNA from monopoly status in representing Muslims to the American public." The CIP is established by Stephen Schwartz, a former Trotskyite militant who became a Sufi Muslim in 1997. Daniel Pipes has provided initial funds to establish the CIP.
At the same time we see cropping up some other groups such as the Wake Up Muslim and the Progressive Muslim Union who wants to benefit from the present state of siege of the American Muslim community here.
Another major tool employed during the height of COINTELPRO operation was psychological warfare from outside at the targeted group, Dr. Bazian said, which is now done through 24 hours negative campaign against the Muslims, Arabs and South East Asians and their core belief in the mainstream media.
Alluding to the anti-Islam campaign since 9/11 by the Christian right, so-called scholars of Islam, media columnists as well as some agenda driven think tanks, Dr. Bazian said: "The message from the negative campaign is that the problem is in what you believe and with whom you associate. And if you change it completely, leave those whom you associate with, then you will be accepted as normal and positive member of the American community."