FBI reaches out to local Muslims

Special Agent John E. Lewis, who overseas all FBI operations in Arizona, talks with Muslim community members regarding their concerns while visiting the Kingman mosque, Masjid-E-Ibrahim, Tuesday night. Photo: AARON ROYSTER/Miner

Special Agent John E. Lewis, who overseas all FBI operations in Arizona, talks with Muslim community members regarding their concerns while visiting the Kingman mosque, Masjid-E-Ibrahim, Tuesday night. Photo: AARON ROYSTER/Miner

KINGMAN - Local members of the Muslim community got the opportunity to voice their concerns and have a dialogue with FBI officials at the Kingman mosque Tuesday night.

Dr. Farid Farooqi, the imam of Masjid-E-Ibrahim, welcomed the head of all FBI operations in Arizona, John E. Lewis, to help open communication between the two groups.

"We highly appreciate their efforts," Farooqi said. "Now the distance (between communication) is reduced."

Farooqi said he felt the night went well. He invited Lewis and two accompanying agents to share a meal with Muslim community members.

The evening began with Farooqi providing an explanation of Islam and the beliefs of its members. He said the Islamic faith is based upon a total submission to God and establishing a means of peace on earth.

"Islam is the religion of peace," Farooqi said. "Muslims are the people of peace."

Lewis followed Farooqi, explaining the FBI to the more than 20 community leaders present to help dispel misconceptions about his organization.

Lewis and Farooqi had met at the Phoenix FBI office in December, which led to the visit by Lewis.

Lewis explained the different focuses of the FBI: counter-terrorism, counter-intelligence, cyber-crime, public corruption, violent crimes, white-collar crimes, organized crime and drug trafficking.

He said counter-terrorism is the current No. 1 priority of the FBI, but white-collar crime was the No. 1 priority before 9/11.

Lewis said that he is here to serve the community, but didn't gloss over the actions of the FBI.

"It is a rare event for us to be on the street conducting an investigation between us and a private citizen that would be a positive experience," Lewis said. "We're not in business, unfortunately, to deliver good news to you."

Individuals in attendance expressed concerns over the name checklist, profiling at airports and at the borders, and a general poor attitude from law enforcement during all interactions they had. Lewis offered few solutions or answers to the tough questions presented to him, but was attentive and expressed concern to the community leaders.

Lewis added he has received complaints in the past from citizens who felt scared or mistreated following interactions with his office. But with that stark reality, he presented some hope for the future.

"The only way that we're going to correct the way we are today is ... time," Lewis said. "We got to push forward in time and get past this."

Lewis said he felt when he started over 30 years ago with the FBI that the open forum and discussion with community members wouldn't have happened. He said that one purpose of the outreach to the community by the FBI is to make it easier for community members to get involved with the FBI.

"We cannot do our job effectively if we believe we can do it alone," Lewis said.