September 30, 2010

Following Chicago Raids on Antiwar Activists, MPAC Cautions Against Connecting Material Support with Nonviolence

The Muslim Public Affairs Council today expressed concern following recent raids conducted by the FBI against nonviolent antiwar activists in Chicago. MPAC is currently monitoring the situation as facts continue to emerge.

Antiwar activists have denounced the raids as a fishing expedition seeking to silence dissenting activists in regards to U.S. military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as policies toward Colombia and the Palestinian Territories. The FBI has said no arrests have been made, and there was there no "imminent danger" to the public. Instead it has claimed it is currently looking for evidence in an ongoing investigation for possible "material support" for terrorism. That connection between nonviolent work and material support of terrorism is disturbing and troubling for conscientious Americans concerned about policies that need to be addressed and need a place for public discourse.

Squelching healthy and necessary discourse on public policy concerns sends one loud and clear message: The U.S. government has no regard for nonviolent work. Unless there is clear and convincing evidence that these activists were planning terrorist operations, then the justification of the raids is absurd.

The raids come days after the Justice Department's Inspector General released a reportdetailing FBI spying against antiwar activists' First Amendment-protected activities from 2001-2006. It also comes almost three months after the Supreme Court upheld a broad ban on "material support" for designated terrorist organizations, which includes teaching such groups how to use international law and conflict resolution skills to resolve disputes peacefully.

"The FBI cannot continue to tell the American people that harassing antiwar activists falls under the rubric of counterterrorism and a fight against al-Qaeda,"  said Alejandro Beutel, MPAC's Government Liaison. "They have absolutely nothing to do with each other. The FBI is undermining the trust that has been built between communities and law enforcement."