We must condemn that which is condemnable. In the Qu’ran, Allah commands Muslims to speak the truth, even if it is against themselves. On October 28, Imam Luqman Ameen Abdullah was fatally shot and killed during an FBI raid in Dearborn, Michigan. Along with 10 other men, he was suspected of charges that included conspiracy to sell stolen goods, illegal possession and sale of firearms and altering numbers on license plates. They are suspected of these acts and, in both American law and Islamic law, suspicion is not enough to convict a person.
Unfortunately, none will be privy to the perspective of Imam Luqman as he chose to fight against the authorities. However, these acts, if true, are truly condemnable and no one would deny that truth. As the facts emerge over the coming days, weeks, and months, we can try to make sense and judge best what took place on that day and over the previous months of the FBI’s investigation.
Over the next days, maybe the connection that authorities are trying to make between these 11 men and terrorism will become clearer. But thus far, all that seems to be evident is that these men were allegedly engaged in some type organized crime. Organized crime is not equal to terrorism and those guilty of it historically have not been broadcast in the media and identified with their religion.
For example, one never saw a headline that read that the Catholic John Gotti was convicted of a crime. We do not look at John Gotti and conjure up thoughts about Catholics even though we know he is Catholic. We simply see him as a former boss of organized crime.
Apart from the suspected charges in this case, it is also condemnable that media sources are using headlines like: “Feds: Islamic Radical Killed in Mich. Raid,” and “Feds: Imam who led radical Sunni Islam group fatally shot in Detroit-area FBI raid.” Yes, Imam Luqman Ameen Abdullah was the Imam at Masjid Al-Haqq and those that mention his title do not seem to be feeding into the usual propaganda that follows any story relating to a Muslim.
But others, like the ones mentioned above, are starting down that all too familiar path of propaganda, repeating over and over that these were “radical” men, that they were “Muslim” men and “Islamic” men, therefore associating all things bad with “these people.” If it is repeated enough then the public will believe it. This is how propaganda works. And just as propaganda was condemned in Nazi Germany and during the Cold War so should it be condemned against a minority of Muslims in America.
Another piece of this story that is condemnable is that both the Muslim community and the broader mainstream community did not serve its members well. Muslims are to ‘know what the needs of our neighbors are before they have to tell us’. As well, Christians and Jews believe in ‘loving thy neighbor.’ The area surrounding Masjid Al-Haqq is an area known to have problems with crime, prostitution, drugs and poverty. Many of the people who live in this area are uneducated or undereducated, impoverished, or close to poverty level.
This Masjid sought to counsel and rehabilitate its community members, but why didn’t the broader community know what was happening here? Why did we not know that these men were having issues? Why did we not contribute to their education and give them opportunities to do something other than what they were alleged to be doing? Did we not care? If we do care, isn’t inaction the same as not caring? This should be condemned as well and something that as a community is examined moving forward.
What remains to be seen is how condemnable the Muslim organizations are for not vetting people better. In the days to come, surely all of who knew who Imam Luqman Ameen Abduallah was will be forthcoming, not the least of whom would be those who were part of the Majlis Ashura (advisory board) of the national organization MANA (Muslim Alliance of North America), where Imam Luqman sat.
This young organization serves many in the American community and has even conducted groundbreaking work around social issues like marriage counseling, divorce, and domestic violence. Many people affiliated with its boards are leaders in the Muslim community across the United States and have advised people in the American government. If this organization and others that Imam Luqman was affiliated with were to suffer because of a lack of knowing the company they kept, that is certainly condemnable as well.
Whatever conclusions people make, they should do so with all the facts in hand. And if we find condemnable acts, we should all condemn them. Where we find innocence, we should defend it. Where we find trouble-makers, we should call them out for their behavior.
Imam Luqman Ameen Abdullah was a Muslim. Only the people involved in these events know what truly happened. As far as Imam Luqman’s involvement, only he and Allah will now know the true extent of his actions. Whether a Muslim is one who is practicing or one who is astray, when a Muslim dies it is said: “To Allah do we belong and to Him shall we return.” And Muslims pray for forgiveness also for those who have preceded them in death.
Heather Laird is a Michigan-based writer for mainstream and Muslim publications and a Fellow at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding. She is also one of the conveners for the 1st World Congress on Muslim Philanthropy in Istanbul, Turkey, and she has spoken at various community events in southeastern Michigan and at numerous universities in Michigan on topics concerning Muslims and Islam. A previous version of this article was published at Examiner.com.