So due the recent arrests and events surrounding Houston, we had a bit of a ‘political’ weekend, but alhamdulillah we stood firm (I think or would like to think), continued doing things as scheduled with some extra du’aa to make it easy on the muslims. The weekend started off with obviously the khutbah, probably one of few non-political things this week followed by the muslim students at the University of Houston (UH-MSA) being graced by the presence of Alamdar Hamdani, first South Asian ACLU representative lawyer, who gave a beautiful brief word on the case of our brother Kobie Williams and what had happened. He then followed this up with some advice on what we as muslims in Houston need to know and do because of this. Then there was our dear brother Iesa Galloway who gave his words today and gave us some more advice which reinforced Alamdar Hamdani’s words. The main focus of both these talks were dealing with the FBI if they decide to come at your door to talk to you. So here goes:
FBI agent comes knocks on your door and says I want to talk to you and ask you some questions. What are you supposed to say?
The wrong answer would be to invite them in for ‘chai‘ (tea) and biscuits (if you’re English) or samosas/pakoras (if you’re desi). I guess this is rule number one never talk to them alone, never let them into your house. There is nothing wrong with not wanting to talk to them or answer any of their questions but make sure you refuse this politely and respectfully because if you don’t they’ll try to inquire about you form your neighbours, friends, family, and even show up to your work. This can obviously disrupt your daily routine, but we as believers entrust Allah with our affairs and rely on Allah more.
The second rule was to make sure you call your attorney and make sure he is present if you agree to co-operate with the Federal Agents. It is probably in your best interest to co-operate with them because, seriously, they can mess your life up to a degree. So you only co-operate when you have council (lawyer) present so your lawyer can make sure the Federal Agents (usually two according to Alamdar) don’t ask you questions that they aren’t supposed to and you don’t have to answer like Family Background (details), political or religious beliefs, convictions, ideologies. For example they cant ask you what madhab you follow, etc. etc. So make sure when you talk to them to answer their questions you have a good lawyer with you, Alamdar sounds good, he will do these FBI cases for free usually or he will refer you to someone good.
Another thing to take caution of is to make sure that you don’t ever lie to the FBI agents, they have something called the 1001 authority or power where if you say a lie and they catch it then you can sentenced to upto 10 years in prison (which is a lot). Even if the lie is due to misunderstanding the question like they will ask you if you have a green card and you say yea and then they’ll ask you are you naturalized and you say yea because you think green card is naturalized (this means are you a citizen) then they got you if you aren’t a citizen, there you go 10 years in prison. And as Alamdar and Iesa said it has happened.
Next was to go about doing things as they have been going. Both Iesa and Alamdar mentioned that if you haven’t done anything wrong then you have nothing to worry about. People just hear or read these news articles about these arrests and fall into this state of fear, thinking that they are just going to get locked up or something. It reminds me of the ayat int he Qur’aan where the hypocrites said to the believers before they went into war “Fear these men!” meaning the large army of mushriks they were about to fight. And the true believers doesn’t fear them rather when people tell him to fear other than Allah as the following part of the verse said “their eeman increased”, their eeman and faith in Allah increases and he only fears the Allah and Allah’s retribution. So bottom lien if you haven’t done anything wrong then you got nothing to worry about.
And they also mentioned about your freedom of speech, that you can say what you want when you want as long as it doesn’t harm people. For example obviously inciting violence against a person or people can be seen as something illegal but speaking out or criticizing a certain action or idea of the people or even the government is not illegal, and it is your right. There is a fine line between the two, and I think one should be safe if he really care about this stuff.
Next thing that Alamdar mentioned was that the FBI in Houston has been very respectful and has dealt with the muslims with honor and dignity. And when this brother (Alamdar) says this, then it means a lot because he himself has probably dealt with more FBI agents than many other lawyers in the US, he probably has dealt with the most FBI agents than any other lawyer in Texas. He mentioned that the FBI in Houston has dealt with them in a very respectful manner and he hasn’t seen any transgressive behavior from them.
Iesa also mentioned that we should not spread this issue any further because it seems to be closed, and spreading this issue will only bring more attention from the right wingers and neo-cons. It is best kept it as is and should be left, and the FBI also mentioned in one of the news articles that this investigation is almost over but they haven’t said that they are going to close it because it takes them some time to do that. I am not saying that we should forget the brothers and their trail but we shouldn’t spread it to everyone we know because what usually happens, I hear form more experienced people, is that some uncle, aunty, or some lil’ kid gets fired up and starts a campaign in full swing, which can actually hurt the case of the brothers that are on trial or are going to be on trial, and this can completely screw up the attorney’s plan of going about getting these brothers out. So it is probably better that you know and anyone else you know know;s to tell them to make du’aa because this act can never hurt but others which are not found in the Sunnah can always have some kind of backlash and end up harming rather than helping.
Also some other words, your Imaam or Shaykh at the masjid might be an expert in the legal system and rulings of Islamic sciences (follow only them and none else in that) but probably not a lawyer or expert on the American system and dealing with the FBI so it is probably futile getting advice form him on how to deal with the FBI. Contacting muslim political organizations or lawyers is probably the best way to go about things if you get into trouble or feel you are going to, May Allah protect us from this.
So final words from me and as the other brothers have said, keep the brothers in your du’aas and ask Allah to help them and protect you from similar trails.