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Zeba Khan
Toledo, Ohio

Zeba Khan

Voted out Nov. 23. I am a social media consultant for nonprofits. I have researched women and minority issues in the Muslim World, Islam in America and counterterrorism finance with the U.S. Treasury Department. ALL POSTS

No place for faith

Editor's note: For the first round of the America's Next Great Pundit competition, we asked each of our 10 contestants to write a 750-word opinion column on a timely topic that's different from his or her initial entry.

Aside from the Muslim name of the man involved, the story reads like any number of organized crime busts. On Oct. 28, a 53-year-old man named Luqman Ameen Abdallah, was shot and killed during an FBI raid on a storage facility in Dearborn, Mich. Federal agents said they had intended to arrest Abdallah and 10 other men on criminal charges including conspiracy to sell stolen goods (such as laptops, furs, and energy drinks), mail fraud and illegal possession of firearms. According to the FBI, Abdallah, who had a previous criminal record, died in a gunfire exchange after refusing to surrender to authorities.

But from reading the FBI affidavit and headlines such as "Radical Islamic Cell Broken up in Detroit," the story takes on a much larger, more sinister dressing as part of a global war on terrorism. In a 43-page affidavit, authorities describe Abdallah as a leader of "a nationwide radical fundamentalist Sunni group" who advocated the spread of Islam through violent jihad and whose group had ambitions of establishing an Islamic state within the United States. All that said, after a two-year investigation, authorities did not have enough evidence to charge Abdallah or any of the other suspects on grounds of terrorism. And from the authorities' own account, the suspects lacked the sophistication to commit even basic criminal activities such as switching the vehicle identification number on a stolen truck. So let's recap: At the very worst, Abdallah was an incompetent criminal who talked big about committing acts of violence against the government. If that description proves to be accurate, Abdallah was certainly not the first, and will not be the last, American to fit that description.

While many people who knew Abdallah strongly deny the allegations against him, if any aspect of the authorities' claims of Abdallah's violent ambitions is true, this would put Abdallah in a fringe category of Muslims, regardless of race, and his group would share more similarities with armed white separatist groups. Andrew Arena, the head of the FBI in Detroit acknowledged this himself, stating that Abdallah and his group follow "a very hybrid radical ideology" that most Muslims "would not recognize."

What concerns many Muslim Americans is that the criminal charges brought against Abdallah are not connected to his religious affiliation, yet there is a consistent portrayal of Abdallah in terms of his religion. The American Muslim Taskforce on Civil Rights and Elections released a statement two days after the shooting saying that "the unjustified linkage of this case to the faith Islam will only serve to promote an increase in existing anti-Muslim stereotyping and bias in our society."

In the weeks and months ahead, more details will come to light in the Abdallah case. Many will question whether authorities moved too soon or, alternatively, if there was anything beyond criminal activity in the first place. Either way, the continued reference to Adballah's faith had no relevance in the criminal investigation and only serves to force an unfair burden on a community of nearly 7 million Muslim Americans who are contributing members to this society, to disassociate themselves from one individual. What other religious group in our country faces a similar burden?

See what our judges had to say about this piece. Read all the columns from this challenge round. And see the voting results.

By Zeba Khan  |  November 5, 2009; 12:00 AM ET  | Category:  Round One
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Comments

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While addressing a potentially legitimate concern, the article’s poor execution failed to address prejudice against Muslims sincerely. The question of whether this man's faith was linked to his crimes was, in fact, established by Ms. Kahn. She notes that Mr. Luqman Ameen Abdallah was part of a crime syndicate that the used criminal activity for the advancement of a militant, political Islam unassociated with true Islam's advocated beliefs.
If his criminal activities were not to the benefit of his radicalized Faith, as the article attests, there would be no need to associate the man and his faith. The Feds clearly demonstrated that these were not only unusual Muslims, but that faithful Muslims would even logically find their actions and intentions unsuited to true Islam.
If there is a prejudice, it is apparently the preference for not targeting the instigators; those individuals who have perverted Islam and continually stain its ideals and tenets.

Posted by: breidenc | November 21, 2009 6:54 PM
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Moslems are the new Blacks... I grew up with the Black Panthers, who were terrifying if you believed the media. No doubt there will be a group every generation that scares ignorant people into believing all people in that group are dangerous...

The US Army does not have enough men and women to sustain Bushies Iraq War for Oil... and a war with America's real enemy al-Qaida (why does the US Govt continue to give the Saudi's a pass on al-Qaida?)

The Army knew the Ft Hood assassin was a powder-keg ready to blow, they just moved him to another base. Reminds me of the pedophile priests moving from parish to parish by the church leaders. In contrast, CNN survey found that children made more than 11000 allegations of sexual abuse by 4450 priests.

Posted by: kkrimmer | November 13, 2009 12:56 PM
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As a rejected Next Great Pundit I was most interested in reading the entries from the selected few. While this will sound like sour grapes I was disappointed in all but two - pedestrian was my overwhelming reaction.

That said I was even more disappointed in the comments of the editors on the second round pieces. In short their expectations are unworldly.

I have been writing for some time now and it is a difficult process, to say the least. But writing to a deadline, coming up with a unique slant on a happening (almost before you catch your breath and your thoughts jell sufficiently), ignoring the "bombs bursting in air" as William Manchester said and get to the heart of the issue, coming up with a grabber of a lead, sufficiently develope the arguments and leave the reader saying Wow!, I never thought of it that way, is rare, to say the least.

If I could consistently hit 400 in the majors I would earn millions and have my picture on the Wheaties box. Yet the editors seem to expect a home run every time.

While one could argue that this is what column writing is all about, I could not agree more with Zeba Kahn's comments that writing to a four hundred word limit is more an exercise in editing, sacrificing nuance and complexity for appropriate size.

This is reminiscent of the time I received eighteen pages of notes (grammatical errors and misspellings notwithstanding) from a 26 year old vice president of development at a major studio, who had probably never written anything other than a term paper herself, that seemed to relate to another screen play. I will tell you what I told her - get real.

I expected more from the editors of one of the worlds great newspapers.

Posted by: gpadem | November 10, 2009 3:59 PM
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As more of the Hasan mess slips out, the danger of being overly politically correct with regard to terrorism is underscored.

Looks like Hasan listened to radical Iman and Al Quada recruiters and the Army knew about it but did nothing. Hasan sent 10-20 emails to Anwar al-Aulaqi the radical Iman presently living in Yemen, who responded at least twice. "The only way a Muslim could Islamically justify serving as a soldier in the U.S. Army is if his intention is to follow the footsteps of men like Nidal," Aulaqi wrote after the Ft. Hood incident.

Apparently Hasan gave a rather disturbing slide show presentation in which he laid out the fundamental incompatibilty Muslim soldiers face fighting their own. Quote Hasan, “We love death more then (sic) you love life!” The struggle over whether its terrorism or not goes on.

Had the US Army acted on what they knew and investigated Hasan, those 13 dead people at Ft. Hood may have been living today. Instead they took the safe road of political correctness.

Posted by: Wiggan | November 10, 2009 7:42 AM
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This column is not convincing. And it is rather untimely. Lot of us are finding it hard to tow the "persecuted Muslim" line anymore, especially in wake of the Fort Hood massacare. I would suggest that Ms Khan examine this issue with intellectual honesty and rigor if she insists on keeping on writing about it. The 'bad apples' line just ain't cutting it anymore.

Posted by: chemvishnu | November 10, 2009 6:14 AM
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I think the case of Major Nidal Malik Hasan, the Army Assassin, illustrates why Ms. Khan is naive. Many Muslims are at war with non-Muslims.

There are Terrorists and Mass Murderers who are Christian, and I favor identifying their religion also.

It is a fact, however, that Islam itself presents a threat to our European and American notions of freedom. No country that calls itself "Islamic" has freedom and most are police states.

Leftists, and I consider myself a liberal, twist and turn to try to excuse Islam as part of the rainbow of multiculturalism. There is no evidence that voices like Ms. Khan's represent anything major within Islam.

Who is Islam, especially among the masses who emigrate to the West and want the West to countenance "Honour Killings" and who want to practice Sharia and who segragate themselves?

Imam Anwar al-Awlaki. He praised the cowardly attack on so many unarmed people by a Doctor who was in charge of healing them as a great act for Islam. And considering what Islam shows itself to be, we have to ask ourselves if he is right. Maybe Islam is that corrupt and that frightened that acts of violence are not aberrations, but the norm for what Islam really is to a substantial set of practicing Muslims.

Anwar al-Awlaki has a much more active and respected role in Islam than any comparable Christian Religious leader, and Anwar al-Awlaki is probably much more respected by Muslims than Ms. Khan, since men are the only voices that count in official Islam the way that Islam is practiced.

(Muslims point to a theoretical, non-practiced religion that offers women rights, but the reality is that men own women in Islam.)

Islam is a great religion with a great Past, it is great religion of Rumi and so many others, but it is today the religion of Anwar al-Awlaki and Major Nidal Malik Hasan.

I feel sorry for Ms. Khan, and I fear she will have ample opportunity in the future to explain away more "anti-'infidel'" violence done by Muslims. I do NOT fault any Media for pointing out the religion of haters whether it is Westboro Baptist Church or the Mosque of Anwar al-Awlaki.

Posted by: wapoisrightwingrag | November 10, 2009 2:03 AM
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I thought it was a well written editorial and I agree with her thoughts. If the FBI is going to address criminals by their religion then the media outlets should do so as well. I don't remember any news headline that said, Christian terrorist Timothy McVeigh.

Posted by: rj2008 | November 9, 2009 2:47 PM
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There is a lot of ignorance displayed in some of the comments here. Paris1969 wrote: “…why to they come here? We know why this man did!"

Paris1969 has no idea who this man is and clearly does not know why. Here is a lesson in AMERICAN history: The person Miss Khan writes about didn’t have a choice as he was BORN here. His ancestors were brought over as SLAVES. He was raised up by the Black Power movement, thrown into an AMERICAN jail, exposed to a racist ideology known as the “Nation of Islam” which is a form of black nationalism that holds sway with very few blacks today and that immigrant Muslims are completely unfamiliar with and have nothing to do with.

Nowhere in this article does Miss Khan make excuses for this person’s criminal activity. She makes the very good point that we should not confuse the two. Bandying about this man’s “faith” in this case seems like an intentional attempt to blur the very real distinction that exists, thereby creating a link for which there is no evidence. Our country is facing a lot of serious issues, do we really need more people crying “Wolf!” ??? Meaningful work, Miss Khan. Thank you.

Posted by: JennB1 | November 9, 2009 11:06 AM
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Quit complaining ... it's called sensationalist journalism. Outlets need to sell news, and they know that the religious angle will do it. It obviously worked on you. When Catholic priests are under fire for their sexual crimes against children, no one ever described them as pedophiles without a religious affiliation. They were trumpeted as "CATHOLIC PRIESTS MOLESTING CHILDREN", and that was simply to sell news. It's very naive of you to think that news outlets will overlook the religious angle.

Posted by: vspajak | November 9, 2009 10:20 AM
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Too much hatin' on the moslem, y'all. I'm a lover not a hater. You want my vote? You got it, girl.

Posted by: scscannen | November 9, 2009 12:01 AM
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I thought it was dull, then skipped over to see what the judges thought.

Posted by: smartgirl312 | November 8, 2009 8:06 PM
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In keeping with her previous experience, and also enlightening to many Americans who may not yet have noticed the dilemma of Muslim Americans' demonization. I think she may need to check some of her punctuation, and I would have preferred her to say, "distance themselves from Islam" which is the real dilemma they face. To distance oneself from "the individual", in this case the criminal, is not a problem for most of the people, I believe.I liked it,though.

Posted by: dredging68 | November 8, 2009 7:55 AM
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Depending on the details of the Adballah case (which I'm not any more familiar with than what's presented here), and the details of the media's coverage (which I'm also not up to speed on), Khan probably has a good topic here for an editorial. Unfortunately, our wh0rish media knows what sells, and right now Muslim-baiting is a sure hot seller to the unwashed masses, especially to the drolling Deliverance fodder who sit in front of FauxNews, nodding and "yupping" to every demagoguing rogue who comes on.

Meanwhile, the media continues to ignore the religion of every Christian mass murderer or criminal who pops up every day on the news. Oh, but no double standard there! Can't ruffle the feathers of the ignorant masses feeding you - especially when your industry is in trouble.

Ms. Khan, your column has put this case on my radar - thanks.

Posted by: B2O2 | November 7, 2009 2:55 PM
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Beyond the endless grammatical errors, this piece offers no insights and is poorly written and confusing.It reads like the outburst of someone miffed rather than a reflective essay on this not so interesting event. It's hard for me to believe that writing of this quality made it into the top 10.

Posted by: arnnyc | November 7, 2009 2:42 PM
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When the nation was being misled down a path of war by leaders who were wrongfully associating Iraq, weapons of mass destruction and al-Qaida – the media failed to question the inaccurate associations that got us there.

Instead of getting at the truth, popular news sources promoted a dump of lies. The result was a war that has killed and continues to kill many innocents.

This contestant makes the point that misrepresentation, in this particular case can promote wrongful association, which in turn, can result in harm for many innocent people. It’s always the right time to make this point – certainly now more than ever.

She makes this point in a simple and well-written piece, describing an incident that occurred quite recently and one that not many of us knew much about.

The contestant not only reminds us of the dangers of groupthink in this matter, but she subtly cautions us away from it. That’s the job of a good op-ed columnist, in my opinion.

Posted by: jackcap1 | November 7, 2009 1:48 PM
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Ms. Khan, you seem to be an intelligent person, and probably a devout Muslim. The problem with your column is a simple one, and surely the result of too many unjustified attacks on your religion. The problem we all face, is the same regardless of belief. When someone uses their religion, to justify criminal behavior, it is relevant.
The "Christian" who kills an abortion provider, is the same as a Muslim "Fringie," or a Jewish radical Millenialist, or a White/Black supremacist. They make a mockery of their religious beliefs, and as a motivator, it is relevant. No matter how much we wish it were not, it is no different than any other motive for committing criminal acts. Honest, God fearing people, of any religion, do not see it as reason to condemn the holders of any other faith.

Posted by: fbngraph | November 7, 2009 8:53 AM
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@malcolmexeter You presume too much. In fact, this piece IS an example of “a person of color/minority religion” criticizing a government agency’s handling of a radical troublemaker’s killing. The author’s racial/ethno religious group has enough troubles of it’s own to take on the added burden of dissociating themselves from someone whose fringe political ideology is completely unfamiliar and unrecognizable to them. If a Jew for Jesus committed a crime would you hold all Jews accountable for their actions? No. Just because the group uses the word Jews in their name does not mean they are Jewish. It’s to the author’s credit that she didn’t play the race card – though it would have made the piece more brazen. And this is not a “how bad our gang has it” piece. This is more like a “What do you mean I have to pay his parking ticket and mine? I don’t even know this guy!” piece. She makes a good point.

Posted by: citizenme | November 7, 2009 3:31 AM
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Ms. Khan (Miss Khan? I don't want to inspire a Jihad) is certainly a timely columnist.

Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the alleged shooter in yesterday's massacre at Fort Hood, probably was a Catholic. Maybe a Jew? Well, OK, he was a Muslim and he killed innocent people because he was upset and as a good practicing Muslim, his religion had nothing to do with his terror-causing rampage.

Certainly the task Islam Apologists face would be easier if we did not carry stories about actions of actual Muslims.

Nor should we talk about any country where Sharia is followed, nor where Islam is the State Religion, because those countries are all the least free places on Earth.

What we should do is say, "Hey! There is a Muslim gal who thinks wearing the Hijab is an honor! The religion must be a great deal for gals and guys alike."

I look forward to Ms. Khan's columns.

Posted by: wapoisrightwingrag | November 7, 2009 2:25 AM
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I HAPPEN TO BE A MUSLIM BY BIRTH AND I FAIL TO UNDERSTAND THE GIST OF THIS ARTICLE.WHAT MESSAGE IS MS.KHAN TRYING TO SEND TO THE READERS?THE PROBLEM I FIND WITH HER ANALYSIS IS THAT SHE GIVES THE SAME LAME EXCUSE MOST MUSLIM COMMENTATORS GIVE FOR THE VIOLENCE PERPETRATED BY A PERSON OF THEIR FAITH WHICH IN A NUT SHELL IS THAT ISLAM IS A RELIGION OF PEACE AND THAT THE VIOLENCE IS A RESULT OF THE PERSECUTION OF MUSLIMS BY THE WEST.

THE CONCEPT OF "UMMAH" IN THE ISLAMIC WORLD IS AS ARCHAIC AS THE BELIEF THAT THE EARTH WAS FLAT IN THE DARK AGES.THE REAL PROBLEM IS THAT MUSLIMS FROM THOUSANDS OF DIFFERENT CULTURES AND SPEAKING DIFFERENT LANGUAGES ARE MADE TO BELIEVE THAT THEY ARE A ONE NATION,WHICH IS SO FAR FROM THE TRUTH.THESE RELIGIOUS PRESSURES TO FORM A BAND OF UNITY PREVENTS THE INDIVIDUAL GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT OF AN UNBIASED MINDSET. HER TACIT PORTRAYAL OF MR.ABDALLAH AS A VICTIM OF AN F.B.I CONSPIRACY IS JUST THE MINDSET IN MUSLIMS TODAY THAT IS LEADING THEM TO BECOMING COMPLETELY ISOLATED FROM MAINSTREAM AMERICA OR EUROPE WHERE THEY RESIDE.


WHEN THE PUBLISHING OF CARTOONS OF THE PROPHET MOHAMMED CAN CAUSE SUCH AN UPROAR AND VIOLENCE AMONGST MUSLIMS BECAUSE IT HURT THEIR FEELINGS,THEN WHY IS IT WHEN A BUNCH OF CRIMINAL MUSLIMS COMMIT AN ACT OF GANG RAPE OF ANOTHER MUSLIM WOMAN AS IN THE CASE OF MUKHTARAN MAI IN PAKISTAN A FEW YEARS BACK,THERE WAS NO PROTEST OR ANY HUE AND CRY AGAINST SUCH A BARBARIC ACT.WERE THEIR FEELINGS NOT HURT AT THIS BARBARIC ACT OF BLATANT VIOLENCE.WAS IT BECAUSE THIS HENIOUS ACT WAS COMMITTED BY FELLOW MUSLIMS AND NOT BY THE INFIDELS?IT EVEN TOOK A JEWISH JOURNALIST,MR KRISTOFF OF THE NEW YORK TIMES TO BRING THIS STORY TO OUT IN THE OPEN. MS.KHAN IS APPROACHING THIS TOPIC FROM A RIGID MUSLIM MINDSET WHICH IS, "A MUSLIM CAN NEVER KILL ANOTHER MUSLIM".WHAT ABOUT THE "KILLINGS OF NON-MUSLIMS,IS THAT JUSTIFIED???

Posted by: PAKIBOY100 | November 7, 2009 2:22 AM
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good article and relevant especially with the news about Ft Hood. Too many people have jumped to conclusions. This article addresses that nicely.

Posted by: markbonfield | November 6, 2009 9:55 PM
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It is too bad that Islamic extremists are identified as Islamic extremists, to the embarrassment of other Muslims. But it won't wash to say that Abdallah's religion had nothing to do with his criminal activities. And, frankly, I get a little tired of the "respectable" members of various religious groups disavowing the more extremist members of their faith when they get caught out, while providing a lot of tacit support for them betweentimes. "Respectable" Mormons, for example, condemn the polygamists when they appear on television being charged with child abuse, but discourage the Utah authorities from actually pursuing cases of polygamy. Polygamy is, the Utah public schools teach, a "lifestyle choice."
"Respectable" Catholics condemn the murder of abortion doctors, but they support the EWTN's constant identification of abortion with murder.

I think it would be nice if all those "respectable" religious people, Muslims and others, were a little less respectable and a little more concerned about encouraging their co-religionists to obey the law. That's the U.S. law, not the sharia.

Posted by: GlennfromCOS | November 6, 2009 9:41 PM
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Zeba:

It is spurious to draw a categoricaly correct conclusion from a premise that you know, or should know, is uncertain.

Had you begun with the supportable premise that Abdallah was not a Muslim extremist, it would have been right for you to reach the conclusion that the reports regarding his religion were wrong. However, as this premise is admittedly unproven, and perhaps even unproveable, both the allegations supporting and denying his radical Muslim ties were essential to any story objectively reporting his story.

Your fallback position that Muslim are being treated unfairly is similarly without merit. Lest you disagree, consider how reports regarding the Ku Klux Klan commonly refer to it as a white supremacist organization even though the vast majority of American whites no more agree with the racist precepts of that organization than a majority of American Muslims concur with the views of radical Islamism.

The unfortunate result is that your argument deconstructs itself. Even worse, it unfortunately blurs the lines between punditry and propaganda.

Posted by: mmcsorley | November 6, 2009 8:03 PM
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As a reader, I'm not buying it. It's supposedly a piece on abuse/excessive force meted out by a government agency. Where it falls down, for me, is that the writer is perhaps too preachy in defending someone of (presumably) her own faith. It smacks of provincial nationalism -- 'my people, right or wrong.'

It would have been much stronger if a person of color/minority religion were criticizing the government agency's handling of a KKK member's killing or a Christian televangelist's killing, for instance.

For good or for ill, readers will make assumptions about a writer's heritage/faith, and few like picking up the morning paper to hear someone whining about 'how bad our gang has it' and all that.

Posted by: malcolmexeter | November 6, 2009 5:32 PM
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Zeba, you picked a serious news story. You addressed it with integrity and extreme sensitivity to those involved. I'm not surprised it took a person of color to broach this topic in the current political climate. You did play it safe though and I think you could because you seem to understand it. But frankly I don't think many readers here have the kind of backdrop you seem to on this. You've got the raw material and this piece is well-written and has the potential to be powerful. Cross the boundaries of comfortable and educate the readers and the editors for that matter. It's a good editor's job to push a talented young writer like you further. But if an editor or a reader doesn't understand the significance of the issue, for whatever reason: a person has no experience with the topic, an editor doesn't find that it's relevant to his life, etc., then how can he be expected to understand the fine nuances of the story. This is exactly why someone like you is needed in this contest. Keep up the good work. I want to hear more from you.

Posted by: JennB1 | November 6, 2009 3:04 PM
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@lietome This begs the question - did the human agents value the dog agent's life over the suspect's? Does race have nothing to do with this? Tell that to black America.

Posted by: JennB1 | November 6, 2009 2:22 PM
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Zeba, 1st, the only comparison I saw between your 2 pieces is the mention of Dearborn, Michigan. Are you from there? Anyway, it hard to comment on this morning after the Fort Hood massacre. The purported faith of the criminals seems to their only link but you seem to be careful to not address another contrast. Nowhere in your piece do you mention that Abdullah was not Pakistani, Arab or Persian but in fact an African American convert. You do mention that he had a criminal record which leads me to surmise that he picked up his "faith" in prison where various sects promote their versions of the hereafter or whatever. Back in the day when Cassius Clay became Muhhamed Ali we called them "Black Muslims." There is a saying that you can take the liquor out of the horse thief and all you end up with is a sober horse thief. Add some version of jihadist rhetoric to the mind (certainly not the soul in this case) of a native criminal underclassman and this outcome is not surprizing, both the event and the commentary. What I'm suggesting is that your effort to separate criminality from mainstream Muslim Americans was hindered by political correctness. Given the fact that the Fort Hood murderer was a native born Arab American...well, that's going to be even harder. So don't try to avoid what was obvious to many of us...confront the realities. As I've said in other comments, don't chicken out. Abdulla was a fringe thug with immature beliefs in all ways. You're trying to be a pundit...so pontificate!

Posted by: mfkpadrefan | November 6, 2009 12:35 PM
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A well-written piece. But in the end, the dead man's twisted beliefs must be described and analyzed just as much as the beliefs of the McVeigh and Waco fanatics are.
Other commenters are right to ask: where is the outrage by Muslims at terrorist atrocities or at familial violence carried out in the name of Islamic beliefs, with social practices and religious texts cied as justification?

Posted by: johnwood1 | November 6, 2009 12:25 PM
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One piece of info a little further investigation may have uncovered; the dog is considerd an agent. So yeah, he fired at an agent. Good prose, though.

Posted by: LieToMe | November 6, 2009 12:22 PM
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Thank you for this important piece, Zeba. I'm not sure how many Post readers on here are familiar with what life is like on the wrong side of the tracks in Detroit, but I know Detroit and I know what this kind of killing can do to escalate racial tensions in the surrounding areas. As you state, it appears there are a lot of unanswered questions surrounding this case and the reasons for the shooting of Christopher Thomas a.k.a. Luqman Abdalla. Mishandling of such a case by authorities and subsequent inflammatory media coverage can do a lot to undermine community building in impoverished innercity areas that are already suffering much.

Innocent or guilty, as you point out, the courts will decide (though this will be made more difficult with a dead suspect). The manner of the killing is what is disturbing to many black Americans. This story’s been buried by many of the major media outlets. It's hard to find much but here's what I came up with: A black American, who believes in the right to carry a firearm (I don't like guns), gets caught in a planned raid on a storage facility with four other people and stolen property: furs, tvs, etc. The fbi tell all five to lie down. They all lie down except for Thomas/Abdalla. The fbi release an attack dog on him. Thomas/Abdalla shoots the dog and the fbi agents riddle the man with 18 bullets. Apparently, at no time did he fire on agents. This is what is making neighbors wonder whether this was an actual “shootout” or something more akin to abusive authority, reminiscent of days…still here.

It doesn’t help that the man killed was an associate of Jamil Amin/H. Rap Brown, formerly of the Black Panther Party, that kind of collective memory and the insensitivity shown by authorities in characterizing the suspect following the killing are now at issue. You’re right, Zeba, questions will continue to be asked. Kudos to you for keeping this story alive. Your’s is a fresh voice from the heartland about an issue that should be relevant to the nation.

You've got my support.

Posted by: ralphie4 | November 6, 2009 1:20 AM
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The criticism of Khan's piece highlights why it is relevant. During a time when our security issues are too often cast as a clash of civilizations, Muslims have insufficient exposure in the media.

Khan is articulate, raises important issues, makes reasonable use of research for an amateur (professionals have research assistants). She doesn't make herself the center of the piece, and is not overly partisan. I'm not blown away, but she's definitely OK. A-.

Posted by: j2hess | November 5, 2009 9:59 PM
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Ms. Khan is a good writer, but not an engaging columnist. I thought her arguments were weak, but I understand that word limitations inhibit a columnists ability to close all the gaps in an argument. Her real sin was in not making this interesting enough to encourage a second read. The topic was not the problem, it was the execution.

Posted by: homesower | November 5, 2009 9:22 PM
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The author of this op-ed piece argues that it's sinister for Americans to be more suspicious of Muslims than they might be of, say, people from Norway, when it comes to terrorism - and does so with the weakest of arguments.

Preposterously weak arguments include:

"At the very worst, Abdallah was an incompetent criminal who talked big about committing acts of violence against the government. If that description proves to be accurate, Abdallah was certainly not the first, and will not be the last, American to fit that description" and

"if any aspect of the authorities' claims of Abdallah's violent ambitions is true, this would put Abdallah in a fringe category of Muslims, regardless of race, and his group would share more similarities with armed white separatist groups."

Today isn't a good day to be posting apologies for murderous wannabe Islamic terrorists, no matter how incompetent.

Come to think of it, no day's a good day for that.

Posted by: douglaslbarber | November 5, 2009 7:54 PM
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Posted by: kurrambero | November 5, 2009 5:47 PM
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Zeba,

The idea for this column is great, and it's refreshing to find a story I hadn't already read about.

However, I can't get past your last line. Is that really the point of your piece? That religious profiling/discrimination exist? Or is it something deeper, about our fears and our inclination to link criminal activity to our stereotypes?

I understand the desire for a big finish and a thought provoking question at the end, but you need to make sure it actually fits your piece.

Posted by: mn_gal | November 5, 2009 4:39 PM
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Ethnic status should not serve as a shield against investigation. We can not afford to ignore threats of terrorism made by anyone against the USA. If our law officers are prevented from investigating someone who threatens acts of terrorism against the USA out of fear of ethnic sterotyping backlash, then our agents will be truely hamstrung in the performance of their official duties, and innocent civilians may be put at risk.

If am man shouts he has a bomb on a plane, and holds a pipe in his hands that could be a bomb, then one must treat that threat as credible and act accordingly. If that man bears the markings of the Islamic faith, then we can not afford to ignore the threat or avoid treating him as if he is a terrorist out of fear of reprisals for ethnic stereotyping. Any man who threatens terrorism, regardless of ethnicity or race should be investigated, and no reporter should ever portray such acts as ethnic stereotyping without certain proof that it was.

If you look to the rules of engagement in Afghanistan, you will find rules designed to err on the side of protecting the populace at the expense of the safety of the UN peacekeepers there. You can not return fire unless you can see the target, which means you run for cover and hope you don't get hit. I have problems with these rules because I value our soldiers lives more than I do the populace which the terrorists use as deliberate human shields. The more you restrict our actions with rules of engagement, the more you put our own soldiers at risk.

It is very easy in hindsight, with the distance of time, and the absence of uncertainity to judge the actions of our law officers as unjust. Were you in their shoes with the very real possiblity that the target might actually pull off a threat, you may have acted just as they did.

Posted by: Wiggan | November 5, 2009 4:27 PM
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Branch Davidians, Jonestown, Charles Manson, McVeigh and a number of other nutbars preceded this week's events. Because they grew out of the American cultural framework they were mentally ill crimnals. Because the Detroit nutbars were Muslims (despite being born and bread Americans for the most part) they are terrorists.

It's the same thing.

Posted by: MHawke | November 5, 2009 4:10 PM
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Maybe should have picked a different topic. I have heard alot about the Muslim stereyotyping, and this doesn't really add to it.

Posted by: joshlct | November 5, 2009 3:26 PM
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Extremely well written. Tracks top to bottom. Hooks you in with a hint in the first sentence and nails the subject sentence one, second paragraph.

Factually correct. National story with huge implications regarding religious tolerance, war policies, and simply telling the truth with accurate news stories. Indicates news coverage was akin to Fox news type headlines: The Russians are coming, the Muslims are coming, the Russians are coming!!!!!

Well done Zeba!

Posted by: chucky-el | November 5, 2009 2:06 PM
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Next Great Pundit Scorecard:

Selected: 5 men, 5 women – no surprise there. Met the D word requirement – Diverse group.

Seven were either bad, dumb, light weight, single issue writers(3), Obama bashing, Fox news supporting, or watered down with “fair and balanced” writing (5). Not one did a credible job covering a big, national issue. Not one supported the president.

Three were actually quite good, all by women. One was youth’s view, one single issue, one was personal and very insightful. All covered big, important national issues.

Bottom line, WP did a poor job selecting. 5 men, 5 women - seriously? Several were so bad the contestants have no chance to win. Single issue writers, gone in 60 seconds. Excluding the 3, no depth, no insight, no original thought. Oh, I guess in that way it does mimic with current crop of opinion writers in the WashPost.

Posted by: chucky-el | November 5, 2009 1:45 PM
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It is largely the statements by the deceased that are cited in the Post article as identifying him with Islam. It seemed to be (at least according to the article) entirely the actions of the deceased that lead to confrontation with the police.

That both appear in an article about the same person does not seem to me improper.

Posted by: Peter22 | November 5, 2009 12:53 PM
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What is missing from this column is any discussion as to whether the FBI had linked the criminal activity to the terrorist activities.

Was the criminal activities used to generate money to conduct planned terrorist actvities?

If so, then the linkage of the two is fully justified.

Addressing this potential linkage would have either strengthed or totally killed her argument. It makes me suspect that there was a linkage.

Posted by: Davidsonville | November 5, 2009 11:58 AM
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I for one have a hard time reconcilling the Quran's religious conversion should not be coerced with militant Islamist jihad (jihad in my understanding is the advancement of Islam). As a righteous person of the book, could Umma explain this to me, for it makes no sense.

Posted by: jameschirico | November 5, 2009 11:36 AM
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Ms. Khan seems comfortable with the FBI’s statement that Mr. Abdallah and his group “follow ‘a very hybrid radical ideology’ that most Muslims ‘would not recognize.’" But earlier in the column she is offended by the headline ‘Radical Islamic Cell Broken up in Detroit.’ The word “radical” is used in both and the word “cell”, implying smallness in the headline, substitutes for “most Muslims ‘would not recognize.’” So I am left scratching my head over why Ms. Khan is offended by one and comfortable with the other.

As for the FBI’s intentions to arrest the group for criminal activities and hoping to later expand the charges to include terrorism, law enforcement at all levels routinely arrest people for lesser offenses in order to get those arrested to plea-bargain and spill the beans on larger crimes involving rivals or higher-ups. Ms. Khan did not provide me with a convincing argument as to why this possibility didn’t apply in this case.

Ms. Khan also states that being an incompetent criminal precludes one from being a terrorist. While I happen to disagree with that line of reasoning, I would have been willing to give her the benefit of the doubt had she argued the point rather than stated it.

Finally, while I understand Ms. Khan’s general point in her final paragraph she stretches things a bit with her statement that there is “an unfair burden” on Muslim Americans having to disassociate themselves from Mr. Abdallah and his group. The inference is that American non-Muslims are stereotyping their Muslim neighbors as loony criminals because of this story. She is dangerously close to committing the same act of religious oversimplification she rails about in the first place.

Posted by: MsJS | November 5, 2009 11:27 AM
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Khan could undo stereotyping by doing something more corrageous than to defend, exculpate, or trivialize an armed person with violent intentions, who would himself insist that his religion is his core motivation. Her column is essentially a brief for his defense.

Precisely what, if anything, separates "most Muslims" from the beliefs or sentiments of the "radicals"? Don't all concur that shariah standards apply to inheritance, child custody, divorce, employment, or acts of impiety or apostacy? Isn't a Danish cartoon more reprehensible than a zealot's bombing of a mosque or marketplace? If a woman marries outside the faith, isn't her family more or less entitled to kill her, or at least anul any inheritance rights? Aren't these matter of actual doctrine, not stereotype?

Posted by: jkoch2 | November 5, 2009 10:26 AM
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All jihadists are Muslims. Some terrorists are Muslims. All terrorists are bad. Can one draw the conclusion that all Muslims are bad. Certainly not.
For the sake of national security, during WWII, Japanese-American citizens were imprisoned in camps. Was this right? Absolutely not. In this day and age do many Americans fear Japanese-Americans. Nope.
It takes time for fears to subside once a threat is removed. In this case, the threat of terroism by radical jihadists is still very viable. Sorry, but that's the reality and somthing that you will have to live with for years to come.
Is it fair? Nope. Is it there? Yes. Maybe your grandchildren will experience a better reality. That is, if some jihadist doesn't employ the nuclear option.
Writing is good. Subject is more realistic than your first.

Posted by: Lizadoo2little | November 5, 2009 10:21 AM
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This article starts a conversation on a very important topic, and it is well written, but it needs to take the conversation in a particular direction. What is the correct response to the radical jihadist movement? Where are the public statements made by the mainstream Moslem community? While it is completely appropriate and necessary to decry the stereotyping and prejudice that has blanketed this country since 9-11, shouldn't there also be a public condemnation of those who would use their faith to justify terrorism?

Posted by: bagsl79 | November 5, 2009 10:20 AM
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I have no doubt the issue is important to the author but she fails to identify, early on, why it might be important to the audience. This is the first task of a writer. I found myself wondering where the post was going.

Posted by: felicerobinson1 | November 5, 2009 10:10 AM
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I agree with this but I don't think it's specific to just Muslims. For a country that supposedly values freedom of religion, we tend to enjoy showing the worst representatives of any religion in the media. Have 8 kids and homeschool? You are going to be shown as a extreme fundamentalist. And an ignorant one at that. Every stereotype is abused when it comes to religion. If you looked at the media coverage of Mormons you will read that all the women are regarded slaves to the men and all the children are sexually abused not to mention the polygamy. In fact, the only religion I think that doesn't currently get negatively attacked in the media would be Judaism. And really, that is only because they have been so persecuted and abused that people have finally become sensitive to the horrors they have been subjected to. Look at how much they as a culture had to go through to get that sensitivity. It just shows how insensitive and judgmental we are as a nation toward religion. For a county that grants such freedom, I think culturally, we are made to be embarrassed by our beliefs and we enjoy thinking the worst of everyone who believes something else.

One final thing. In defense of this article there was a terrible trend I saw during the presidential election. People would accuse (like it was a crimet) Obama of being Muslim. Others would strike back denying the allegation and claiming he was a devout Christian. Here's my problem: it shouldn't have been an allegation. If he practiced Islam, that should have been accepted and never once did I see someone point that out.

Posted by: oakmoxy1 | November 5, 2009 9:41 AM
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This the best submission I've read so far. She takes a timely topic and makes an original point that I haven't heard anyone else make about this case. It's short and to the point.

Her column got me to think about this case in a different way that I hadn't before.

Good job Zeba!

Posted by: Eric12345 | November 5, 2009 9:38 AM
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Ms. Khan's submission here is marred by overstatement and her apparent determination to see Muslims in America as uniquely persecuted. However, she makes a fair point about the media's rush to judgement as to the Abdallah incident and the role of Abdallah's religion in it. She made it fairly well, too, but ran out of material.

Posted by: jbritt3 | November 5, 2009 9:20 AM
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Lets face it , we in this country have our own Taliban problem - from both the Christian right and the Islamist. They may not represent the majority of thier fellow believers, but they are a huge problem. The Muslims extremists trying to convert by force and the Christian extremists by political and legal intimidation. This is a secular nation and religions does not belong in our government. People should be free to beleive what they want but not free to force their beliefs on anyone else.

Posted by: sux123 | November 5, 2009 9:15 AM
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So what is her point? The press blew the arrest out of proportion? The FBI? Who. And I would suggest that there was an event in Waco Texas that had similar outcomes. She needs to get out in the World and get some experience and to do better research. I finally ended by believing that she was condeming the press for its quick step to condemn the crook for his religion not his crimes.

Posted by: staterighter | November 5, 2009 9:12 AM
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I'm sorry, while the idea that Muslims are all too rapidly vilified and stereotyped is obvious I see no discussion of the reasons why the FBI choose this characterization or even a clear expression of whether the author believes this man was a jihadist or a dumb thug.

If the point is that it wasn't clear enough yet the FBI acted any way, then this is a really weak column based on half an argument. There are much clearer examples of the FBI actually screwing up and railroading an innocent Muslim. Examples that don't rely on conjecture about attitude.

Posted by: joebanks | November 5, 2009 8:37 AM
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I agree 100% with Zeba's comments; however I would point out that when the Dr. Tiller was murdered over the summer that the press was swift to paint him as a conservative Christian and quickly all liberals in American rushed out to paint all pro-life Christians with the same brush as Roeder the murderer.

Islam is not the only religion to get a kick in the teeth when a radical member does something wrong.

Posted by: flonzy3 | November 5, 2009 8:08 AM
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I score Zeba's column slightly above Jeremy's. She takes a clear, strong, and consistent stance and makes me think. I score her down a little for equivocating sometimes as to the possibility of this man acting in league with a 9-11 related group. And I find it hard to fully accept her idea that the media overplayed the religious connections when this country faces the real threat of another 9-11 by the religious fringe she cites.

But she makes me think and re-think this which is an excellent result, maybe not achieved by any other column in this contest that I've read so far. Maybe she needs a little more self-honesty like Jeremy has, and maybe some humor like Kevin has.

Posted by: Chicory | November 5, 2009 7:52 AM
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So he refused to follow a demand to surrender to law enforcement and was killed in the gunfire. If he was such a god citizen, why wouldn't he follow an order from the FBI?

I don't care if he was as innocent as a baby, he sure wasn't innocent after his refusal. And what about this I hear that the peaceful religion of Islam says that if others do not believe in it, then they are infidels and should be killed? Anyone know where this is found in the Koran?

The way things are now, one cannot go to the library or research on the internet to see what Islam truly is - you just might be put on the FBIs "watch list".

Posted by: Utahreb | November 5, 2009 7:11 AM
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We have a so-called "moderate" Muslim here. Perhaps she could talk about Iraqi Muslim father here in the U.S. who ran down his daughter for being too "western".

Or perhaps 9/11 and dozens of Muslim terror plots right here by U.S. residents/citizens. Or the plight of non-Muslims in most Muslim countries.

Posted by: Ronaldho | November 5, 2009 6:50 AM
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There is just too much bias in this writing. "At the very worst, Abdallah was an incompetent criminal ...." No. At the very worst Abdallah was a terrorist. If his criminal enterprise was motivated by his desire to spread "Islam through violent jihad" then, regardless of whether or not most Muslims would recognize his ideology, the existance of such an ideology is legitimate news and is central to the story. It is something that Americans Muslims need to address, not something they need to deny or an example of their victimization by the media.

Bias, presented as balance, is still bias.

Posted by: cybridge | November 5, 2009 5:42 AM
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At last a fresh voice and not another somebody eager to join an already abundantly populated chorus. ms Khan makes an interesting case, which is that the FBI is fooling us, and probably in the FBI's own interest, and then she puts forward evidence (from the FBI itself, no less) to support her case.

Exactly what any first-class newspaper wants. As do their readers.

Posted by: kunino | November 5, 2009 4:57 AM
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I liked this better than Ms. Khan's first entry. Having lived in the Detroit area myself many years ago and being aware of some of the ethnic influences there, I was interested enough to keep reading. Once I saw where she was going, it was territory I care about. I agreed with her conclusion.

An old college composition teacher used to tell me that rhetorical questions usually don't work. And I am still asking: was he right?

Posted by: martymar123 | November 5, 2009 3:59 AM
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Ms. Khan is right. It is only a few hundred million bad apple Muslims and every Muslim country that gives Islam a bad name.

The real Islam is too busy killing its daughters for wearing make-up or getting raped to restore Family Honor under Sharia to engage in anything besides hating the western country they all want to simultaneously destroy and live in.

Islam is going through a totalitarian slump of a millennium or two, but really, it is all about peace.

Well peace and honor killings and promoting terrorism and keeping women as fifth class chattels even though Muslims claim their religion honors women.

Posted by: wapoisrightwingrag | November 5, 2009 1:42 AM
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I agree that in this case noting this criminal's religion is appropriate. I have yet to see American Muslims demonstrating in the streets of the U.S. against jihadist violence. If anything I am reading more and more where lawsuits are being filed to hang onto Islamic traditions rather than integrate into U.S. culture. If Islamists reject our culture why to they come here? We know why this man did!

Posted by: paris1969 | November 5, 2009 1:24 AM
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Awesome article.... and I am admittedly a strong advocate and supporter of police authorities; I believe in profiling; doubt that this guy was squeaky clean; and would even suggest that if did not need to die except he returned fire.

All that said, I like the fresh perspective. The article made me go ...'hmm"

Posted by: beckycamara | November 4, 2009 11:44 PM
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I should have written "alleged motives" in my previous post. Next time I'll proofread BEFORE hitting the submit button.

On a more positive note, Zeba has helped me to see this situation from a fresh perspective. That's a genuine contribution. While the sensitivity she exhibits may be justified, this situation was not the best vehicle, in my view, to illustrate why.

Posted by: cp-in-ct | November 4, 2009 11:00 PM
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I'm afraid you lost me with your misplaced premise.

I agree that the practice of reporting irrelevant details which serve only to perpetuate unjust stereotypes should be condemned. In this case, however, the association of these criminals with their violent jihadist aspirations for the spread of Islam is relevant. Why? Because these aspirations are the motives for their crimes. They are therefore relevant, if not essential, for understanding what happened.

I don't recall reading about any petty criminals who also happen to harbor jihadist fantasies. Maybe the message is already out.

Posted by: cp-in-ct | November 4, 2009 10:45 PM
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