Arab and Muslim Engagement
U.S. Attorneys' Outreach Efforts
Mogadishu Times Interviews Attorney General Holder
On May 27, 2011, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder met with members of the Somali-American community in Minnesota. Before this meeting, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Minnesota arranged for AG Holder to be interviewed by Hindia Ali of Mogadishu Times, a media outlet based in Minnesota that specializes in Somali news and affairs. This video was filmed by Ilyaas Maow, Editor-in-Chief of Mogadishu Times.
Pamela C. Marsh, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Florida, addresses Attorney General Eric Holder’s charge to all U.S. Attorneys to strengthen outreach to these communities across the country by building relationships of trust and confidence in a public lecture at The Florida State University.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder addresses the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee
Outreach Efforts in the Southern District of Florida
On May 14, 2011, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida, in coordination with the FBI, charged six individuals for conspiring to provide, and providing, material support to a conspiracy to murder, maim, and kidnap persons overseas, as well as conspiring to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization, specifically, the Pakistani Taliban. Of the six defendants, four were arrested locally, including two prominent South Florida imams. As a result of careful coordination and execution of the U.S. Attorney’s Office/FBI community outreach plan, the arrests went smoothly and have been lauded as a model for Arab and Muslim American outreach efforts.
Prior to indictment, members of the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI met to discuss the date for the arrests. Much thought went into selecting a date and time that would minimize disruption of daily prayer services. In addition, the agents executing the arrests had all been trained on and were respectful of religious customs. For example, in executing the arrests, the agents waited outside the mosque until the prayer service ended. When the service ended, an agent removed his shoes, quietly entered the mosque and, with the help of a Pashtu interpreter, asked the imam to come outside, where he was placed under arrest.
Before notifying the media of the arrests, U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer and FBI Special Agent in Charge John Gillies jointly telephoned key leaders in the South Florida Muslim community to apprise them of the arrests and the general nature of the charges. Due to outreach events, both the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI had established lines of communication with such community leaders. Additionally, U.S. Attorney Ferrer informed them that he had alerted local law enforcement of the arrests and had asked them to be on the look-out for any possible backlash or hate crimes against the Muslim community, and to refer any such incidents to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for possible prosecution. Subsequently, local police did in fact establish a visible presence near various Mosques to deter any possible retaliation.
While the lines of communication between law enforcement and members of the Arab and Muslim community were key in this case, they were not established overnight. For months before the arrests, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and FBI had been meeting with community leaders. Notably, on February 23, 2011, U.S. Attorney Ferrer and Assistant Attorney General Tom Perez of the Civil Rights Division met with members of the Arab and Muslim community at the Miami Gardens Mosque to discuss issues of mutual concern. Then, on May 6, 2011, the U.S. Attorney’s Office hosted a law enforcement training conference, “Building Cultural Competence: Arab, Muslim and Sikh Americans,” to promote cultural understanding by federal and local officers. On June 5, 2011, both the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI attended and participated at the AMANA (American Muslim Association of North America) 5th Annual Festival and Bazaar 2011.It is U.S. Attorney Ferrer’s goal to strengthen the lines of communication between the U.S. Attorney’s Office, community groups, and members of the community. Building bridges will help everyone – it will help the community to be heard, and it will improve law enforcement’s ability to perform its critical functions while promoting respect for civil liberties, embracing diversity, and reaffirming our commitment to equality. These are principles that are found in the Constitution and laws of the United States, and ones that the U.S. Attorney’s Office is proud to help enforce.