Update: One Muslim leader in L.A. says the FBI has failed to build trust with possible informants in every way Baca has succeeded.
We're proud to call L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca our own today, as he does both Los Angeles and the nation a solid by sticking up for thousands of innocent Muslims at the House Homeland Security Committee's hearing on U.S. Muslim radicalization.
The hearing was called by -- who else? -- Rep. Peter King (New York), the guy who recently proposed Wikileaks be declared a "terrorist organization." So yeah, this is the kind of wackjob Baca's up against.
He was the only law-enforcement official invited to speak, and he came through bigtime, dropping truth bombs like it was his job:
"It is counterproductive to building trust when individuals or groups claim that Islam supports terrorism," he said, according to the Hill. "This plays directly into the terrorist's propaganda that the West's 'war on terror' is actually a 'war against Islam.'"
He went on to give a shout-out to the Muslims of Los Angeles, revealing they've long kept him up to speed on any suspicious activity in the community, "securing our homeland" and "displaying their patriotism on a daily basis."
Kind of just makes us want to hug America for a few minutes, all together.
Baca had some hard facts up his sleeve, as well. From his prepared remarks:
"According to the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), utilizing information provided by respected organizations such as the Congressional Research Service, the Heritage Foundation, and Southern Poverty Law Center, there have been 77 total terror plots by domestic, non-Muslim perpetrators since 9/11. In comparison, there have been 41 total plots by both domestic and international Muslim perpetrators during the same period. Reports indicate that American Muslims helped foil seven of the last ten plots propagated by Al-Qaeda within the United States. According to MPAC, evidence clearly indicates a general rise in violent extremism across ideologies. Clearly, we should be examining radicalization as an issue that affects all groups regardless of religion."
Other than Baca's rock-the-boat opening statement, we hear things have been pretty peaceful at the hearing today, though some had fears it would attract a loud, angry mob of protesters. (Nah. Those kind of shenanigans only take place against Muslims, in racist free-for-alls like Arizona and... Orange County.) On KNX news radio this morning, a CBS news correspondant said that "the only shouting that took place was between members of the committee."
Why is that not surprising?
Anyway, here's to a man who manages to do the most polarizing job on Earth while maintaining complete racial neutrality. Well -- except when it comes to those damn border-hoppers.
Update: Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Greater Los Angeles Area Office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, has known Baca for years -- even before 9/11.
Ayloush says the sheriff's "formula" is simple yet crucial: "We only ask to be treated with respect -- as partners, not as suspects."
"Where others failed, such as the FBI, has been their inability to see the American Muslim community outside the prism of terrorism," he says. "Baca understands that in order to have a partnership, you have be seen as genuinely concerned about the communities you are entrusted with protecting."
How, exactly, has the sheriff gained their trust? For one, he set up a Muslim Affairs team within the department, actively recruiting Muslim deputies who would attend community events and prayers -- serving as a resource as well as an enforcer.
That way, "people feel confident enough to report suspicious activities without fearing that they will be penalized or pressured to become informants," says Ayloush. "Which is unfortunately what many in the Muslim community receive when they report to the FBI." (He goes so far as to call some FBI tactics "blackmail," alleging that agents sometimes threaten L.A. Muslims with deportation or bribe them with the possibility of speeding up immigration paperwork.)
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Baca also founded the Muslim American Homeland Security Congress, first in the nation of its kind.
"Whenever we've had complaints about a deputy, we had the ability to raise such concerns formally with the Sheriff's Department," says Ayloush. "And we know [Baca] has taken actions to address those concerns -- whereas such complaints with the FBI are totally disregarded."
Originally posted at 9:10 a.m.