CAIRO - The FBI is reaching out to the Muslim minority to help combat radicalization and extremism, despite recent controversies about surveillance on American Muslims.
"The FBI understands the importance of having strong relationships with all communities," Lindsay Godwin of the FBI's Washington Field Office told WTOP radio.
"We gain a better understanding of their perspectives on radicalization and recruitment and are able to enlist their support in deterring recruitment and the spread of radicalization messages.
Muslim leaders confirm that the FBI was reaching out to American Muslims to join its ranks.
"The FBI has also reached out to the American-Muslim community, just like they reach out to all Americans, to look at career choices in the FBI," said Rizwan Jaka, president of the All Dulles Area Muslim Society.
"They've had tables providing brochures about careers in the FBI at the ADAMS Center mosque during Ramadan.
"Muslim FBI agents have come to speak to the Muslim community," he said.
Relations between Muslims and the FBI have been strained in recent years over the bureau's tactic of sending informants into mosques.
American Muslims, estimated at between six to eight million, have long complained about FBI agents questioning them about attending mosques and imams' sermons.
The FBI's tactic of using anti-Islam materials in training its agents has also added to the tension.
In 2009, Muslim groups threatened to suspend all contacts with the FBI over sending informants into mosques.
Muslim leaders opine that improving relations with the FBI would help clear misconceptions about the minority.
"Law enforcement understands 'This is a Muslim, and then this is a criminal, a terrorist,'" Jaka said.
"You want to be able to distinguish between religiosity and criminal behavior."
Godwin, of the FBI's Washington Field Office, insists that the bureau does not target individuals based on their religious beliefs.
"The FBI does not investigate individuals absent specific information that they are committing crimes or pose a threat to national security," she said.
"Our internal guidelines expressly prohibit this conduct as well as such tactics to recruit informants."
Police tactics of targeting Muslims have sparked a new controversy this month after revelations that the New York Police have spied on Muslim students on campus.
According to the Associated Press, the police talked with local authorities about professors 300 miles away in Buffalo and even sent an undercover agent on a whitewater rafting trip, where he recorded students' names and how many times they prayed.
The controversy followed revelations that the New York Police sent out undercover agents to spy on Muslim communities.Since 9/11, US Muslims have become sensitized to an erosion of their civil rights, with a prevailing belief that America was stigmatizing their faith.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net