US Muslims demand action because'spying incidents' shake the community

Council on American Islamic Relations claims it discovered a mole within its organization and a spy at a US mosque. Washington, DC - First, the major Muslim advocacy group reported that a mole had entered the state branch leadership. The organisation reported that a "spy at a US mosque had given information to an anti-Muslim group. This was just days after the initial incident.

US Muslims demand action because'spying incidents' shake the community

These two incidents were revealed by the Council on American-Islamic Relations earlier this month. They have shaken Muslim advocates in America and renewed long-standing concerns about spying on American communities.

Whitney Siddiqi (CAIR-Ohio's community affairs director) stated that while many people were shocked and saddened by this particular situation, they were not surprised that an antiMuslim hate group was spying on CAIR.

CAIR's Columbus-Cincinnati chapter announced on December 15th that Romin Iqbal, the executive and legal director, had been fired for "egregious professional and ethical violations".

CAIR charged Iqbal with giving confidential information to the Investigative Program on Terrorism, (IPT), which the Southern Poverty Law Center(SPLC), a civil right organisation that tracks hate groups across the US, said Iqbal was the founder.

Separately, CAIR's Washington, DC national office stated on December 21st that another person had volunteered at a US mosque and claimed he was paid by Steven Emerson, IPT executive director, for information about the community.

"Community Update: A second IPT spy has voluntarily confessed to being a spy and has agreed to cooperate with us. CAIR did not include him. CAIR stated that he was an active volunteer at a large mosque and was invited to attend national community events.

Siddiqi stated that one of the goals of spying was to create fear and distrust within our own communities. However, she highlighted that CAIR is progressing "with transparency" as well as doubling its efforts to combat Islamophobia.

She said that while we acknowledge the devastation caused by this news, it is difficult to process. However, there are positive things to be taken from this: we are strengthening our relationships and our work to defend and protect Muslims." she sent an email to Al Jazeera.

Wider surveillance

Over the past two decades, Muslim Americans have been subject to surveillance and a variety of discriminatory policies, including travel bans, as well as an increase in hate crimes. Meanwhile, spying programs run by federal or local law enforcement agencies targeted their communities.

The New York Police Department, for example, created an entire unit in 2002 to monitor the Muslim population of the city. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) states that police used informants within the Muslim community to map out the locations of Muslim New Yorkers and then placed surveillance cameras on mosques.

CAIR's recent incidents have raised concerns in the nation. Nadia Ahmad, a southern Florida-based law professor and Muslim American activist, said that it was "just really scary."

A Michigan-based research institute, The Family and Youth Institute, has released a toolkit that addresses the fallout from spying allegations. It advises people to acknowledge the negative effects of news and to channel their energy to "towards efforts within your community."

The institute stated that if spying is done by someone who works for an organisation that advocates for civil rights for American Muslims, then trauma, stress and shock can be overwhelming. This damage can even last a lifetime."

IPT and its founder

CAIR stated that it had "conclusive evidence” that Iqbal, a former Ohio office employee, "spent many years secretly recording CAIR networks meetings and passing confidential information about CAIR's national advocacy efforts to IPT."

Iqbal's lawyer refused to comment on the allegations in an email sent to Al Jazeera Friday.

IPT denies being called a hate group. It claims it is a research organization and a "principal supply of critical evidence to many government offices and law enforcement authorities".

Emerson and others associated with the group have testified at several US congressional hearings as experts on terrorist activities, including 2016. Pete Hoekstra is an ex-congressman who was a former senior fellow at IPT and served as ambassador for the Netherlands under the Trump administration.

The group's website is full of anti-CAIR material and articles attacking critics of Israel. They also openly solicit tips for "terrorism-related information".

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IPT stated that it has never monitored the American Muslim community and will not monitor it in the future, but said it would continue to expose and publicize radical Islamist activities on American soil.

However, Emerson and his associates were accused by The Center for American Progress (PDF), a liberal US think tank, of trying to portray Islam as violent in a 2011 report.

The report states that Emerson must be creative in creating such extreme portraits of Islam as being inherently radical. Emerson boasts a track record of fabricating evidence to support conspiracies that radical Islam has infiltrated America through Muslim civil rights organizations and advocacy groups, proving he is up to the challenge.

Emerson was also called an "anti-Muslim activist" by the SPLC.

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