Critics say the US is losing the hearts, minds, and trust of their own people. Particularly, a generation of young Muslim-Americans.
When most American girls turn thirteen, they celebrate with a party. But Lejla Duka isn’t like most. The teenager spent her thirteenth birthday speaking to an audience about her father, her uncles, and her frustration with the way she believes her home country is targeting innocent Muslims through manufactured FBI sting operations.
In 2007, Lejla’s family made news. Her father and two uncles were arrested and convicted for conspiring to kill American soldiers at the Fort Dix army base in New Jersey. Critics say there wouldn’t have been a case without the FBI paid informant who approached the Duka men then orchestrated a plot and provided them with weapons.
“They got arrested mostly because they’re Muslim and they have beards and the FBI started twisting up all the words they were saying,” said Lejla Duka, who’s father and uncles were convicted in Fort Dix Five Case. Lejla’s words are all too familiar to the some one hundred people who gathered inside a New York University classroom. Families, friends and supporters of the countless Muslims arrested and convicted through the use of FBI paid informants. A practice many criticize as entrapment.
“No more, enough of this. You’re using our loved ones. You’re turning on American citizens,” said Alicia McWilliams-McCollum, the Aunt of David McWilliams a Muslim American convicted on attempted acts of terrorism which were planned by an FBI paid informant.
In return, the many say the US is losing the hearts, minds, and trust of their own people, particularly, the generation of young Muslims. Those who hear Washington’s promise of building bridges, but say the government’s targeted actions are creating a climate of fear, anger, and resentment from within. Shaheena Parveen’s son, Siraj Matin, a Pakistani American, was convicted for plotting to bomb herald square. A plot the FBI admits was initiated by a paid informant. “They destroy all of our families, like me. All these families are the same. Not one, not two, not three. Too many people are innocent in the jail,” said Shaheena Parveen.
Noor Elashi was born and raised in America; the same America that has imprisoned her father for life. Ghassen Elashi’s case was dubbed “The Holy Land five”. Since 1989, his Islamic charity, the largest Muslim US charity, sent humanitarian aid to Israeli occupied Gaza. In 2004, Elashi, a Palestinian refugee was arrested and subsequently convicted of providing financial support to Hamas. She draws comparisons to an ugly American past decades of questioning the loyalty of immigrants. “It’s definitely a repetition of history. It has happened to the Japanese. It has happened to the Germans and the Irish. Post nine-eleven hysteria has caused this negative sentiment and all of these cases,” said Noor Elashi, daughter of Ghassen Elashi.
As the pool of alleged FBI entrapment cases grows deeper, the youngest voices have spoken loudest against alleged injustices under a president who promised better. “At least if he’s going to be president, try to make a change in this world. Stop racism and take out all the free innocent Muslims in jail,” said Leijla Duka. As Lajla finds herself growing older without a father, the American teenager marks her thirteen birthday questioning if the “Land of the Free” is anything more than a phrase of empty words.
Attorney and founder of Project Salam Lynne Jackson says, “we have written 6 very detailed letters, signed by hundreds of people. They explain the different types of preemptive prosecution of Muslims, they explain the different types of cases and asking that these cases be investigated but we have not received a single response from Mr. Obama or Mr. Holder.”