Mohammed Malik writes:
Donald Trump believes American Muslims are hiding something.
“They know what’s going on. They know that [Omar Mateen] was bad,” he said after the Orlando massacre.
“They have to cooperate with law enforcement and turn in the people who they know are bad. . . . But you know what? They didn’t turn them in. And you know what? We had death and destruction.”
This is a common idea in the United States. It’s also a lie.
Firstly, Muslims like me can’t see into the hearts of other worshippers. (Do you know the hidden depths of everyone in your community?) Secondly, he’s also wrong that we don’t speak up when we’re able.
I know this firsthand: I was the one who told the FBI about Omar Mateen.
And he is not alone in this. In many countries the best source of information on radicalised Muslims comes from other Muslims.
Soon after Omar married and moved to his own home, he began to come to the mosque more often. Then he went on a religious trip to Saudi Arabia. There was nothing to indicate that he had a dark side, even when he and his first wife divorced.
But as news reports this week have made clear, Omar did have a dark outlook on life.
Partly, he was upset at what he saw as racism in the United States – against Muslims and others. When he worked as a security guard at the St Lucie County Courthouse, he told me visitors often made nasty or bigoted remarks to him about Islam.
He overheard people saying ugly things about African Americans, too. Since September 11, I’ve thought the only way to answer Islamophobia was to be polite and kind; the best way to counter all the negativity people were seeing on TV about Islam was by showing them the opposite. I urged Omar to volunteer and help people in need – Muslim or otherwise (charity is a pillar of Islam). He agreed, but was always very worked up about this injustice.
After my talk with the FBI, I spoke to people in the Islamic community, including Omar, abut Moner’s attack. I wondered how he could have radicalised. Both Omar and I attended the same mosque as Moner, and the imam never taught hate or radicalism. That’s when Omar told me he had been watching videos of Awlaki, too, which immediately raised red flags for me. He told me the videos were very powerful.
After speaking to Omar, I contacted the FBI again to let them know that Omar had been watching Awlaki’s tapes. He hadn’t committed any acts of violence and wasn’t planning any, as far as I knew. And I thought he probably wouldn’t, because he didn’t fit the profile: He already had a second wife and a son.
But it was something agents should keep their eyes on. I never heard from them about Omar again, but apparently they did their job: They looked into him and, finding nothing to go on, they closed the file.
So while he was not stopped, Malik did his best.
I had told the FBI about Omar because my community, and Muslims generally, have nothing to hide. I love this country, like most Muslims that I know. I don’t agree with every government policy (I think there’s too much money in politics, for instance), but I’m proud to be an American. I vote. I volunteer. I teach my children to treat all people kindly.
Our families came to the US because it is full of opportunity – a place where getting a job is about what you know, not who you know. It’s a better country to raise children than someplace where the electricity is out for 18 hours a day, where politicians are totally corrupt, or where the leader is a dictator.
Dr Malik sounds like a great American.