CAIRO - In a change of tactics towards the US Muslim community, the FBI has awarded a special leadership award to a California mosque after complains of secret surveillance and trapping Muslim worshippers.
The Sacramento Area League of Associated Muslims' openness and commitment to the community as a whole, regardless of faith, makes them a shining example of community leadership, FBI Director Robert Mueller said during an award ceremony this week, The Sacramento Bee reported on Friday, November 16.
SALAM's established and maintained a dialogue with the FBI and welcomed crime prevention programs such as the FBI Citizens Academy and cyber safety awareness presentations.
The award is part of a program applied in all 58 FBI field offices across America.
The nomination is usually given to organizations or individuals who have built bridges of understanding with the FBI, said Sacramento FBI spokeswoman Gina Swankie.
It was the second time in three years the FBI has recognized SALAM for its promotion of community service and interfaith cooperation.
In 2009, SALAM's imam, Mohamed Abdul-Azeez, won the award for his efforts to teach both Muslims and non-Muslims about the Islamic faith.
The imam was nominated for his efforts at the mosque to defuse tensions between Muslims and FBI following reports of FBI spying on a Lodi mosque, including invitation for a Muslim FBI agent to attend the mosque.
Since 9/11, Muslims, estimated between six to seven million, have become sensitized to an erosion of their civil rights, with a prevailing belief that America was stigmatizing their faith.
US Muslims are particularly wary of the FBI's history of targeting members of their community.
In 2009, Muslim groups threatened to suspend all contacts with the FBI over sending informants into mosques.
The infamous post-9/11 technique of sending spies to mosques has been stirring uproar in the United States.
The uproar escalated after media revelations that the FBI implanted a non-Muslim informant in a California mosque to seek building a terrorism case.
The fake FBI operations have stirred uproar inside the United States over entrapping young people, who posed no real threat to the US security.
Extending bridges between American Muslims and FBI authorities, the SALAM mosque has also managed to correct misconceptions about Islam with its neighbors.
For an Islamic organization to get the FBI's community leadership award "speaks volumes - it's like a clean bill of health for our organization and what we do to help secure all the people in our community," said Metwalli Amer, an Egyptian American who founded SALAM 25 years ago.
SALAM's chairman, Pakistani immigrant Farrukh Saeed, will fly to Washington, DC, in April to accept the award from Mueller.
Saeed called the September 11, 2001, attacks "a dark mark in the history of our nation."
The best thing to do to dispel these myths about how Muslims live and what they teach is to keep your doors open at all times and have a proactive rather than reactive relationship with the community and law enforcement, he added.
As part of SALAM's outreach, Christians, Jews, Hindus and other faiths have sent their clergy to visit the center and share what they've seen and heard with their congregants, Saeed said.
A decade after the 9/11 attacks, Muslims still complain of hostile sentiments in American society.
Complaints made to the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee in 2010 rose to their highest point since 2003.
Hate acts included workplace harassment, bullying at school, housing discrimination, and problems with police and immigration officials.
In the wake of the attacks, around 481 hate crimes were reported from only 28 in 2000, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
By 2006, that number had shrunk to 150 and has hovered at around 100 per year ever since.
Anti-Muslim hostility has also grown over plans to build an Islamic center near the 9/11 site in New York, resulting in attacks on Muslims and their property in the past months.