After turning down an offer from the FBI to become a secret informant, a Muslim doctoral student at Florida International University, Imam Foad Farahi, has been allegedly dealt an ultimatum: leave the country voluntarily, or be charged as a terrorist. Farahi underwent a three-year training course to become a designated leader, or imam, at the Shamsuddin Islamic Center in North Miami Beach and is unwilling to spy on members of his mosque.
In 2002, Jose Padilla — one of two South Florida men linked to the Al-Qaeda network– was convicted on terrorist charges. The FBI could not track down the other alleged Al-Qaeda member, Adnan El Shukrijumah. Padilla happened to pray at Farahi’s mosque, but Farahi told FBI agents that he hadn’t had any contact with him since 1998. When federal authorities urged Farahi to start working with them as an informant, Farahi explained to them that he was more than willing to help, but that the relationship would have to be public. Shortly thereafter, immigration authorities informed him that he would be charged as a terrorist if he did not leave the country voluntarily. Farahi is convinced that the FBI is bluffing about the evidence it claims to have that he is a terrorist, and his lawyer has petitioned the US Court of Appeals in Atlanta to reopen his asylum case and let him stay in the US. Currently he’s a man without a country. The US wants to kick him out and, by applying for political asylum, he has rejected his Iranian citizenship.
The right-wing website Pipelinenews.org adamantly claims that Farahi is a “radical Muslim cleric” who has been designated as a Level 3 threat by DHS. But the FBI won’t comment on Farahi’s case and has provided no evidence that connects Farahi with terrorist activities. If anything, Farahi seems like the sort of Muslim leader that should be awarded praise, not deportation orders. Farahi attended a private Catholic college in Florida and participated in its interfaith committee. He was a teacher at the university’s peace forum and regularly put together interfaith dinners.
Leila Fadel of the McClatchy News Service writes that “the government’s search for the enemy within is threatening to divide and destroy America’s Muslim communities.” According to Fadel, most Muslims believe their mosques are full of FBI informants and that the government presumes all Muslims are guilty, rather than innocent. Meanwhile, when it comes to the FBI using deportation or criminal charges to coerce Muslims to spy on one another, the Miami New Times reports that the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) suspects there are hundreds of cases similar to Farahi’s. The attorney of Tarek Mehanna, a 26-year-old US citizen who was charged by the government for giving a “false statement,” claims that the charges are a “form of revenge for Mehanna’s unwillingness to be an informant.” Ahmadullah Sais Niazi, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Afghanistan, alleges that he was arrested and indicted of making a false statement to obtain citizenship because he also did not want to be an informant. Meanwhile, Yassine Ouassif, a 24-year-old Moroccan with a green card was given the same ultimatum as Farahi, but won his deportation case with the help of the National Legal Sanctuary for Community Advancement.
A recent poll conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found that most Americans think Muslims face more discrimination than any other minority group in the US.