The terrorist attacks in Mumbai have really got me thinking about the Muslim community and, frankly, how little I know about it. I spoke with Offer Baruch of International Shield for some insight into the specifics of the attacks, but a large part of the interview (and something I wasn't able to elaborate too much in the article) was about the importance of law enforcement and the public sector reaching out the the Muslim community, in a positive way.
Basically Baruch said that many in the Muslim community don't feel an obligation to report suspicious activities to authorities because there's is no pre-established relationship or connection to "authorities." (And he was also quick to point out that this problem is by no means exclusive to the Muslim community and pertains to members of other groups.) His point was that authorities need to reach out to these communities to "bridge the obligation." The other problem, I'm assuming, is that people are scared they'll get caught ratting out their neighbors to the authorities, bring undo attention to themselves either by the authorities or by members of the community, and basically fear for their general safety. I sort of scoffed at this the other day until I went to a party and heard one drunk guy talking about how his "buddy" sells guns (illegally, I'm sure, but didn't ask questions) and, frankly, he seemed like a shady enough character that I'm not telling anyone (except you guys of course) because frankly, I'm a single girl living by myself. Now I understand.
Anyway, to curtail that story, this morning I read an article out of Detroit about the Justice Department revising its administrative guidelines for how the FBI can investigate individuals.
"The new Justice Department guidelines will allow FBI agents, for the first time in terrorism-related cases, to use undercover sources to gather information in preliminary probes, interview people without identifying who they are and spy on suspects without first getting clear evidence of wrongdoing."
According to this article, Michigan is a major center of Islam and has the highest concentration of Arab Americans in the United States. Didn't know. So, with this new power granted to the FBI, lots of Arab Americans are concerned about profiling. Baruch touched on this subject too, saying: "Muslims complain about being monitored too much or too many false arrests and being humiliated. I agree with them and if authorities know what's going on in the community they can be more professional about it and eliminate lots of mistakes and focus on the elements to stop or prevent such incidents."
Anything having to do with race tends to be a touchy subject. I'm currently working on a profiling article for our January issue and hope to flesh out how authorities are balancing being proactive in seeking out the bad guys without being racist. Let me know if you have any insight.