Next April in Washington, FBI director Robert Mueller will give the agency’s community service award to Farrukh Saeed, chairman of SALAM, the Sacramento Area League of Associated Muslims. “SALAM’s openness and commitment to the community as a whole, regardless of faith, makes them a shining example of community leadership,” said FBI special agent Herb Brown at the local ceremony.
“I think if anyone at SALAM knew anything about (potential) terrorism,” Brown added, “they would come to us at the FBI.” That certainty is not shared by locals familiar with SALAM, which openly hosts events with the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Local CAIR boss Rashid Ahmad recently downplayed the Benghazi attacks and wants to deprive American filmmakers of their freedom of speech.
The CAIR connection did not emerge in news reports about the FBI award, though Steve Magagnini of the Sacramento Bee brought in the case of Hamid Hayat, noting that it had made the SALAM people uncomfortable. “There was no evidence other than his own words that Hayat actually underwent terrorist training,” Magagnini added, implying that Hayat, now serving a 24-year sentence, could be innocent.
Onislam.net, in a story out of Cairo, said the FBI award was “a change of tactics towards the US Muslim community. . . after complains (sic) of secret surveillance and trapping Muslim worshippers.” In reality, the award was business as usual. In 2009 the FBI gave its community award to SALAM’s imam, Mohamed Abdul-Azeez, “for his efforts to teach both Muslims and non-Muslims about the Islamic faith.”
Drew Parenti, FBI special agent in Sacramento at the time, said that “Sacramento is truly blessed to have a leader with the vision, energy and compassion demonstrated by Mr. Azeez.” For the overwhelming majority of Muslims, Parenti said, “there’s the same exact sense of shared American values that everybody else has.”
Abdul-Azeez was once the subject of a lengthy profile in the Sacramento News and Review, a supposedly tough-minded “alternative” weekly. “He doesn’t have those crazy eyes like Arabs do in Western political cartoons,” said writer Bob Schmidt. “His hair is close-cropped, his mustache and goatee are neatly shaved and his build is burly, thanks to regular free-weight training. No, this ain’t your father’s ‘Death to America’-spewing jihadist—in more ways than simply his age, appearance and body type.” Abdul-Azeez took full advantage of the puff-piece approach.
“I’m very much not hostile to the United States,” he said. “I’m here because I chose to be here. I’m staying here because I choose to stay here. This is my country now.” But America has a “stereotyping” problem.
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