Some Americans worry that American mosques may be teaching hostility to America and encouraging terrorist attacks on the U.S. They want mosques to be watched by the government.

Since 2002, FBI undercover agents have been authorized to visit mosques to gather information about what’s going on in the Muslim community, even when there’s no evidence of illegal activity. However, electronic wiretaps can only be used when there is evidence of illegal activity.

In 2003, the FBI decided to count the number of mosques in various regions of the country, in order to help determine how many terrorism investigations and wiretaps were needed in each region.

In 2005, FBI Director Robert Mueller told the Senate, “Efforts by extremists to obtain training inside the U.S. is also an ongoing concern. Although there are multiple reports and ongoing investigations associated with the paramilitary training activities of suspected extremists nationwide, the majority of these cases involve small groups of like-minded individuals who are inspired by the jihadist rhetoric experienced in radical mosques or prison proselytizing.”

In 2005, the press reported that mosques were in fact being watched by the government. “In general, mosques and other houses of worship do not have special protection from surveillance under U.S. law … Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, several federal investigations have used informants, surveillance and electronic eavesdropping to gather information about mosques.” Groups Criticize Romney’s Comments: Massachusetts Governor Urged Wiretapping of Mosques and Monitoring of Attendees, The Washington Post, September 16, 2005

In 2006, the NYPD revealed that it had placed a Bangladeshi-American Muslim undercover detective into the Bay Ridge, Brooklyn Muslim community for two years starting in October 2002. His job was to be a “walking camera.” Detective Was ‘Walking Camera’ Among City Muslims, He Testifies, The New York Times, May 19, 2006

In 2008, the government confirmed that some mosques in California had been under surveillance. San Diego Union-Tribune, May 22, 2008.

In 2010, an FBI informant (Shahed Hussain, a Pakistani Muslim) testified that the FBI sent him to New York mosques in 2007, 2008, and 2009 to pose as a wealthy businessman and to look for Muslims expressing radical ideas. At one of those mosques, Hussain met four Muslim men who joined him in a plot (which was actually an FBI sting operation) to bomb synagogues and shoot down military planes. Those four Muslim men were convicted in October 2010.

Arguments By Those Who Oppose Watching Mosques

1. There is no evidence that large numbers of mosques have been used to plot terrorist attacks. If people associated with a few mosques have engaged in illegal activity, that doesn’t mean the privacy of all mosque-goers should be violated. Furthermore, the government has limited resources. Those resources should be focused on specific individuals suspected of specific illegal activity.

2. If Muslims wanted to plan a terrorist attack, they would do it somewhere private (like the 9/11 hijackers did), not at a public place like a mosque.

3. American Muslims should feel free to say whatever they want about American foreign policy and America in general. Open discussions are healthy for our democracy, and they give people an opportunity to let off steam. When discussions are held publicly, the whole community can participate. This gives people a chance to hear opposing points of view and become better informed. But if Muslims are being watched, they will move their discussions to private places, where the whole community (including people with differing perspectives) cannot participate. Many law-abiding Muslims have already cut back on their public comments for fear of drawing unwanted governmental attention.

4. Information gathered by the government about the political views of Muslims will be misused. When the government finds people at a mosque who express hostility to America or American foreign policy, the government will visit these people’s employers and neighbors to conduct harassing investigations. In addition, the government will find a way to go after them (for example, for immigration violations or tax violations) even if they pose no threat to the U.S. Knowing that political speech could expose one to harassment or selective prosecution for non-terrorism offenses will stifle free speech and weaken our democracy.

5. The government needs information from Muslims about what’s going on in the Muslim community. Therefore, the government needs to build trusting relationships with Muslims. Monitoring of Muslims will alienate them, make them feel as if they are not accepted as “real Americans,” make them less trusting of the government, and make them less comfortable cooperating with the government.

6. Muslims are capable of policing their own institutions. Muslims can keep an eye on who’s using mosque facilities, and monitor what is happening at mosques. Muslims can inform the government if there is a problem. For example, California Muslims informed the FBI in 2007 that Craig Monteilh (a non-Muslim FBI informant posing as an angry Muslim in California mosques) was trying to recruit Muslims for terrorist plots.

Arguments By Those Who Favor Watching Mosques

1. Mosques are an important source of information about thinking within the Muslim community. Muslims associated with various mosques around the country have been accused or convicted of posing a threat to the U.S. For example, an FBI undercover operative, Elie Assaad (Lebanese Catholic), infiltrated a Florida mosque in early 2001 in order to monitor mosque-goer Imran Mandhai. Assaad says he came across Mohammed Atta at the mosque a few months before 9/11. Assaad and Atta worshipped together at the mosque and spent time together. Based on their conversations, Assaad became suspicious that Atta might pose a threat to the U.S., and Assaad informed the FBI about Atta. However, the FBI was not interested in Atta, and Assaad was told to focus his attention on Imran Mandhai, who was later convicted of plotting to bomb electrical power stations around Miami. After 9/11, Atta was identified as the lead 9/11 hijacker. In another example, Khalid al-Midhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi attended the San Diego mosque run by Imam Anwar Al Awlaki. When Imam Al Alwaki moved to a Virginia mosque in early 2001, al-Hazmi and Hani Hanjour attended that mosque. After 9/11, al-Midhar, al-Hazmi, and Hanjour were identified as 9/11 hijackers. After 9/11, Imam Al Awlaki was accused of inspiring several plots targeting America. In another example, Muslims who attended Brooklyn’s Al-Farooq Mosque were convicted for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the subsequent plot to blow up various NY landmarks. The government needs to be able to find dangerous people as quickly as possible, and mosques are the one place where a wide net can be cast.

2. While attacks might not be planned at mosques, anti-American rhetoric at mosques can give the government an idea about whom to watch outside the mosque.

3. Muslims are aware that undercover government agents have been watching mosques since 9/11. Despite this, many Muslims have continued to speak freely about all issues, including American foreign policy and how they feel about America, and they haven’t been prosecuted for that.

4. The government needs to know who is hostile to the U.S. These people will not be prosecuted for their criticism of American foreign policy or for hostility to America, but they should be watched to see if they pose a threat, or to see if someone tries to recruit them for violent activity.

5. Many Muslims are hesitant to snitch on fellow Muslims. Therefore, the government cannot count on Muslims to provide information about what’s going on inside the community; the government has to go out and get this information by itself. In addition, the government can use mosques to actively recruit sympathetic Muslims as informants.

6. Mosques are generally open institutions. Anyone can come in. By monitoring mosques, the government is helping protect law-abiding Muslims, who do not want their mosques used for illegal activity, such as recruitment of young Muslims for violence. Government surveillance also gives mosques a “clean bill of health” that reduces public suspicion of American Muslims by assuring other Americans that there are no hidden threats at those mosques.

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12 Responses to Should American Mosques Be Watched By The Government?
  1. bing wached (masqs)is very wrong idia.what happend to free America.imagin churches were being wached if you lived in say Palistine……..so wrong.wht cant people understand its not muslims who do terrist attacks its people!!!!!!!!!

  2. muslimbuttkicker May 27, 2007 at 5:19 am Reply

    Watching Mosques isnt enough. They should all be destroyed, with no place for the terrorists to preach, they could go back to where they came from. Under the sands of the deserts. Make America a muslim free nation.

  3. I agree with muslimbuttkicker..the USA should be muslim free!!! I could not go to war fighting muslims with muslims on myside. The Vietnam war had some instances I beleive where the friendly fighter turned on them at the last minute. No one ever noticed that when these radicals decide to kill, it’s mostly unarmed people that they shoot! Why is that?? If our government believes that watching a mosque is enough to keep us safe I think that they just found out differently. 9/11 terrorists aswell as this last crack pot from Ft. Hood prayed at the same mosque didn’t they? It is a shame that americans got killed on our own soil much less an army base and the news people just keep showing his face on television(you think they’re eating this up in the middle east?). That’s why I say no more muslims in America,this country was born out of christianity and the jewish communities,,not someone that wants to blow up innocent people, we have to change some laws and get up to date with the times and people. Our constitution was written over 200 years ago when people were pretty much face value!! I know it’s against the law to discriminate against any one person, but what do you do when they come into your country and kill you or your neighbor because allah said so…..give me a break!!!

  4. I think all mosques should be watched by the Government of the United States. Muslims cannot be trusted, they seem to like our country but their heart is with the Muslim traditions and they din’t show that they love our country. I don’t know why the Muslims want to stay in the US. Now that Iraq is freed from the dictator, you would think they would like to go back to their country of origin. and help build up Iraq and make get it back to the beautiful place that it was before the war started.

    Also I think the Muslims should only be allowed to have the most 3 children so as to not topple the population to a muslim America. Who takes care of all the muslim babies anyway. Do they live on welfare or does the husband support all these babies they have. I know many muslims and they seem to like this country but in the back of their minds they have this thing, that they are patiently awaiting for something to happen, what it is I don’t know. I don’t trust them in the United States they are two pushy. I was in Barnes and Noble book store when a muslim walked into the store and asked the clerk to come here. The Christian Bible was on the top shelf of the counter of the book store. The Muslim said to the clerk, that the Muslim Koran must be on the top shelf and the christian bible can be on the bottom shelf. That is what I mean about the muslims they are pushy and did this to the christian religion, do you think that this was a good thing to do putting the kowan on top and giving the christian bible a lesser position. This country is a Christian country, and they should not insult us and push our bible around and think theirs is best. That is all that I have to say. The bomber in New York that planted the bomb in times square was a naturalized muslim citizen and that only makes me distrust them more, the terriorists threaten them to do things like that. The muslims don’t ever say anything to defend themselves and say they don’t believe in these things. So how can we as Americans trust them. If they don’t defend themselves than they must be in with the terriorists.

  5. Julie Anne Burton May 26, 2010 at 4:17 pm Reply

    Thank you for this balanced article. In the interests of fair disclosure, I should mention upfront that I’m a lapsed Episcopalian, and know comparatively little about Islam. What I do know a fair amount about is intelligence and intelligence-gathering.

    Way before 9/11 — I believe in 1998, but unfortunately I don’t have the paper at hand — an unclassified white paper was written that examined the possibility of an act of terrorism taking place in the United States. It looked at a variety of groups — all extremists of one brand or another — and identified how they recruited people and in what areas of the country they were to be found, and ranked their threat potential.

    Many groups were covered (I believe 96 in all were identified, but again, I may be off on that number as it’s been a while since I reviewed it, and I don’t have it on hand to check) from skinheads to Aum Shinrikyo. Unfortunately, the group found to be both the largest and the most active in recruiting were found to be extremist Muslims who believed they were carrying out a jihad. The largest concentration of these mosques were in the Dallas and Houston areas.

    Unfortunately for American Muslims, several groups of mosques were identified as places where terrorist strikes against US targets were encouraged. It was believed that young men were being called to action by the clerics, and those who seemed to the be most excited by their words were identified and then offered “special studies” which then indoctrinated them into believing that terrorism was the right thing to do for the sake of Islam.

    This was one of the reasons why many intelligence people felt that mosque surveillance was needed. However, since the release of the white paper, an FBI report has shown that, contrary to popular opinion, only a small minority of terrorist attacks in the United States from 1980 to 2005 were carried out by Islamist extremists.

    If we can identify which mosques (or Christian churches, or any religion’s house of worship) are recruiting for acts of terrorism, then I believe we do need to attempt to infiltrate these places and hopefully get more than a glimpse of their plans. I don’t *like* it, but it’s no longer the world I grew up in, where men and women of God did not advocate violence against the innocent.

  6. Yes cuz thats were they recuirt youngsters. Somoli kids were recruted in a filthy mosque to fight”the good fight” in MI

  7. I do not consider “naturalized” US citizen who commits terrorist act to be a “home grown ” terrorist..they obviously came here to plot and carry out an attack.

    I do believe that a good number of muslims ARE waiting for somethign to happen. If the US ever has protests like we’ve seen in Egypt, beware. Over the next 10 years, entire muslim families will have expanded tremendously having 8.7 on average children.

    Just by virtue of sheer numbers, I believe we are going to have to change our immigration laws, to a different type of US Citizenship.
    We are NOT going to be able to provide social services for these people who have 9 children per family and who cannot afford to feed them. It is WRONG to force US taxpayers to pay for feeding them.

    So we need to press congress for a LIMITED type of US Citizenship…no social servioes no government paid education etc. We will be fools if we do b/c these people do not assimilate into AMERICAN culture. WE must required ENGLISH only in all work placed and all government offices. Immigrants must already KNOW English, read, write and speak it fluently BEFORE being allowed to immigrate. We should also NOT take in the commoners b/c we already have our own commoners who must compete with skilled but UNeducated immigrants for the same jobs! This is not RIGHT and is not protective of our own natural born US citizens.

    I also believe there ARE good muslims who would NOT under any circumstances join up with and radicals and I also believe there are some muslims who love the USA and they would lay down their life for the Freedoms we all enjoy. That said how do we tell them apart, must we always wait for a murderous horrible act before we can do something.

  8. Um one more thing…i believe if any mosque is used as a terrorist training center, it should be torn down, destroyed and no other mosques can be built in that particular city, that should be law.

    One by one that would get rid of all those where terrorists are plotting.

    It is well known there is a training center in VA and an Islamic school that is teaching death to infidels..that must be stopped and I hope the authorities are watching it.

  9. It’s a relief to see such a balanced article. I’m tired of seeing hate and opinions that are based on prejudice, myths and lies.

    I can understand why the government would want to monitor a mosque yet I also think that Muslims should be allowed to talk freely and express their opinions. Actions should not be taken against individuals unless they explicitly express plans to be violent.

    But this is America, a country that claims equality for all its citizens. If the government is going to monitor mosques, it should also monitor churches, synagogues and other houses of worship. If this seems ridiculous, then it should be kept in mind that thousands of violent crimes have been committed in the name of religion by Christians, Jews and Muslims alike.

    I am disgusted by those that claim America should be Muslim-free. America was founded on the basis of religious freedom. It is ridiculous to judge all individuals of a certain community by the few bad apples. All religious communities have those people that take their holy book too literally and become violent.

  10. islam wants only peace trough out of the world.

  11. I agree they should be watched as close as the traditional morning poop. Make sure all are wiped clean out of America.Do America a favor and support seggration.

  12. Are you kidding? Tell you what. When you place government operatives in the Westboro Baptist Church, or the Methodist Church down the corner to make sure they are not going “fundemental”, then I’ll go along with placing operatives in mosques. Freedom of religion people, and not just the religion you like!


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