Arrests in California: Mosque politics take center stage in Lodi arrests

Everybody remain calm

There have been so many terror probes inside the US Muslim community that it seems like a reality show gone bad. The latest, involving a predominantly Pakistani community in the sleepy California Central Valley town of Lodi, has all the hype and drama of past terror probes. However, things have been complicated by internal mosque and community politics that leave many wondering about what is truly going on. What is known is that several people have been held on immigration charges (nothing surprising there), and that two people in particular (Hamid Hayat and his son Umer) are being charged with lying to FBI officials about the younger Hayat spending time at a jihadist training camp near the Pakistani capital (So why does Musharraf look for jihadis in the border mountains when they’re in his backyard?). As in past cases, the acts of a few losers and visa violators has brought tremendous pressure on the Muslim community, which is bracing along with police and the Lodi mayor for a possible backlash. While the younger Hayat acknowledges his attendance at the training camp, which is apparently run by al-Qaida elements under the nose of the Pakistani government, the FBI has dropped charges (that fanned the media hype) that attacks on local targets were imminent. (For those unfamiliar with Lodi, “local targets” would include cows and farm equipment.) What is interesting about this case is that it comes in the midst of a dispute within the community – conservative elements at a more traditional mosque aren’t happy with another mosque that (gasp!) allows women inside and participates in interfaith activities. Both sides in the dispute accuse the other of bringing the FBI in, which of course they did once given the opportunity. If that is true, it’s yet another case of the FBI stumbling onto leads in terror cases by dumb luck, instead of the focused investigations that you would expect three years after 9/11.

Shahed Amanullah is editor-in-chief of altmuslim.com.

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