Washington, DC -- The arrest of seven men in North Carolina this week on charges that they were plotting to wage "violent jihad" outside the United States raises serious issues. The latest in a string of high profile domestic counterterrorism cases, the arrests were made after three years of FBI surveillance of the men.
SEE: FBI Watched Terror Suspects for Three Years (New York Times)
The government charged Daniel Boyd, a 39-year-old American convert to Islam with recruiting six young men (including two of his sons) to take part in a conspiracy "to advance violent jihad, including supporting and participating in terrorist activities abroad and committing acts of murder, kidnapping or maiming persons abroad."
The arrests come at a time when questions have been raised about the use of FBI informants in mosques and tense relations law enforcement and local communities. Improper surveillance and questionable charges are not just contrary to American political values; they are bad counterterrorism policies.
At the same time, MPAC strongly supports law enforcement efforts that remove dangerous criminals while being respectful of others' civil liberties. Effective counterterrorism requires solid partnerships between Muslim American communities and law enforcement, built on a firm foundation of trust.
In a demonstration of the mainstream Muslim American community's wholesale rejection of violent extremism, U.S. Attorney George Holding said yesterday that Boyd's beliefs about Islam did not concur with his Raleigh-area moderate mosque.
"This is not an indictment of the entire Muslim community," Holding told the Associated Press. "These people had broken away because their local mosque did not follow their vision of being a good Muslim."
Boyd allegedly stopped attending the mosque this year and instead began meeting for Friday prayers in his home.
"Extremist ideologies are being rejected, but they also need to be countered," said MPAC Executive Director Salam Al-Marayati. "We Muslims are the only ones who can effectively prevent it in our mosques and our homes."