Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Walid questions FBI raid on Muslim charity

http://www.theoaklandpress.com/stories/091906/loc_2006091932.shtml

FBI raids Muslim charity in Southfield
Leaders say similar events happen each year just before Ramadan

By KANIQUA DANIEL SMOTHERS
Of The Oakland Press

SOUTHFIELD - While some leaders in the Muslim community were shocked and saddened by the Monday morning raid of an Islamic charity in Southfield, others said it came as no surprise.
"We're used to this kind of activity from the federal government prior to the month of Ramadan," said Osama Siblani, publisher of the Arab American News, based in Dearborn. "Their pattern of behavior has been the same since September 11 (2001). They do raids and things like this ... always before the holidays."
FBI, local police and Joint Terrorism Task Force agents executed search warrants at the Southfield headquarters of Life for Relief and Development around 8:40 a.m., said organization CEO Khalil Jassemm, whose home was also raided during the same period, along with the homes of other board members.
The charity's head of legal services, Ihsan Alkhatib, told The Associated Press that agents are investigating whether the charity conducted business in Iraq before the 2003 war in violation of legal sanctions against the country.
Alkhatib said the organization "did everything by the book."
Jassemm said agents informed him the raids were related to an ongoing criminal investigation and had nothing to do with terrorist activities. He was also provided copies of the search warrants.
"I don't know what the reason is behind this. I don't know what they are looking for, but I'm sure they won't find anything," he said. "My organization is not doing anything wrong. ... We will just be patient. We are expected to be cleared."
Like Siblani, Jassemm wonders if the raid could be related to the Islamic holiday beginning Sept. 23, given similar past incidents.
The month of Ramadan is a time of worship and contemplation when Muslims concentrate on their faith by fasting. They are not allowed to eat or drink during daylight hours. Smoking and sexual relations also are forbidden.
"I don't know if it's coincidental, but our entire community is very sad," Jassemm said.
Siblani added: "I don't know of any other reason they would do this. They say it's an ongoing criminal investigation, but we don't know the real reason behind this. We'll just have to wait and see. But I believe at the end of the day, our justice system will work."
News of the investigation led to mixed reactions at the Michigan branch of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR-MI), based in Lathrup Village.
"At one moment, I was surprised. But at the same moment, I was disappointed, like, here we go again," said Executive Director Dawud Walid. "Times have gotten worse for us, and we don't know the foreseeable end to these situations. ... The consequences of these types of raids have a chilling effect on the Muslim community."
Walid said he highly doubts anything will come of the investigation and is not sure what evidence authorities have against Life for Relief and Development.
"Judging by the reputation of the organization and the director, we are highly confident that there will not be any links with this organization at any time with extremist or terrorist affiliation, and there never has been in the past," he said.
"That poses another question: If this is an ongoing criminal investigation which has yet to yield any criminal charges or arrests, why was the investigation so intense, garnering so much media attention? I don't believe this is the normal standards of the FBI. ... I believe if this was not a Muslim charity - if it were a Jewish or Christian charity - it would not have been treated in the same manner."(MORE)

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