FBI, NJ Attorney General and others look to build ties with Muslim community

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Approximately 50 Muslim community members and law enforcement officials, including FBI agents, got together for a “Breaking Down the Barriers” question and answer forum concerning safety, security, and nationalism this past Thursday evening.

Breaking down barriers

By Katherine Guest/Hudson County View

At the Lincoln Park Administration Building, The FBI Citizens Academy Alumni Association Newark Chapter hosted the event through a CREST Grant award provided by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

In collaboration with the FBI Newark Division, Muslim leaders expressed their distrust in law enforcers due to North Carolina’s recent homicide of three Muslim students (per New York Times). Distrust begets fear, but appreciation of America as the home of the brave and land of the free was more than suggestive.

“A critical theme that seems to repeat itself is the theme of communication and the theme of trust. We have an office for Homeland Security, and after the killings that happened in [North Caroline] the director of homeland security, Chris Rodriguez, said ‘We have to get the community on the phone,'” said John Jay Hoffman, the New Jersey Attorney General.

“We need to get a conference call with Muslim leaders throughout the state. We need to talk to the community and assure them we’re working together to provide them all the information on the three killings.”

Hoffman also addressed the importance of youth outreach within the mosques and households in order to eliminate ISIS recruiting associated with vulnerable social media outlets.

Recently, three men in New York were arrested prior to boarding a flight at the John F. Kennedy airport to Istanbul, and then Syria to join the well-known terrorism group: ISIS, which initiated a security debate, per CNN.

Sam Khan, Government founder and chairman of South Asian Chamber of Commerce, projected his frustration of extensively repeated government watch-lists, which coincides with extra screening in airports to protect US citizens from terrorism.

Khan also implied, the FBI should consider an updated database that’ll help illuminate racial profiling.

“I have the responsibility to oversea the counter terrorism investigations that are occurring within our area. We have to have articulable facts in order to open any investigation on an individual,” said Eric Welling, ASAC of FBI Newark Division, in reference to Khan’s implications.

“It’s our responsibility to go through a certain level of investigation to make sure there’s nothing going on and then we’ll close the investigation. It comes down to the definition of persecution and what is being received. If we didn’t check into a lead and something happened it’d be a violation of our jobs in preventing terrorist attacks.”

Richard Frankel, a Jewish American new special agent in charge (SAC) of the FBI’s Newark Division, promoted diversification and protection within federal offices and amongst all communities in the State of New Jersey.

“The FBI … our mission is to protect. Our mission is to enforce the laws so we can protect those who can’t protect themselves. We try to help those who are attacked or victimized by bullies,” said Frankel, in response to Hoda Ismail’s – a Maywood resident and publisher of a Monthly Muslim newspaper – who expressed concerns of hate threats.

Sam Allos, an event moderator, continuously reiterated John F. Kennedy’s famous rhetoric during 1961’s Inaugural Address, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,” but Ismail remained displeased.

“You ask the Muslim Community how can you help the FBI, but now I’m asking the FBI, how can you help the Muslim community against hate crimes, against racism? How can you protect my community, my kids? Do you have a plan to protect us?” Ismail questioned.

Frankel responded by informing Ismail that incidents such as those should be reported immediately to local police departments.

The Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office, the Hudson County Sheriff’s Department, the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness and the Custom and Border Protection of the Port of New York/Newark were other law enforcement agencies who sent at least one representative to the event.