Don't Talk To The FBI

Fox News reports the Council on American-Islamic Relations is in hot water for a poster that spokesman Ibrahim Hooper says is “subject to misinterpretation,” so they took it down out of “extreme caution.” 

The poster in question says “Don’t Talk to the FBI,” and encourages the viewer to “Build a Wall of Resistance.”  The FBI is represented by a sinister black silhouette that looks like a cross between The Shadow and one of the characters from the “Spy vs. Spy” cartoon.

That doesn’t sound difficult to interpret correctly.  It’s not exactly a Samuel Beckett play.  To put the poster in context, it was used to promote a February conference called “FBI Raids and Grand Jury Subpoenas: Know Your Rights and Defend Our Communities.”  Nope, still not difficult to interpret.

Hooper says the poster “crossed a line” but will not renounce it, two thoughts that don’t fit together terribly well.  Naturally, if you think encouraging the Muslim community to avoid cooperating with the FBI, it’s a sign of your Islamophobia.  “We’re used to this kind of attack by the Islamophobic hate machine, and in this case there is some justification in terms of the possibility of misinterpretation of this poster.”  Hooper is usually so much better than this.  It’s sad to see a seasoned professional just phoning it in.

The poster incident is part of a cycle of paranoia and isolation that grips far too much of the Muslim community in the United States.  The conference advertised by the poster will feature Hatem Abudayyeh, a community organizer whose home was raided by the FBI in October, as part of an investigation into domestic support for international terrorist organizations.  Abudayyeh hasn’t been indicted for anything, although he has a history of objecting to the description of Hamas and Hezbollah as “terrorist groups,” when “the real terrorists are the governments and military forces of the U.S. and Israel.”  He seems like the kind of guy who would just be kidding around when he told you not to talk to the FBI.

Abudayyeh’s group, the Arab-American Action Network, which hosted a notorious 2003 Chicago event in honor of Rashid Khalidi, an academic who used to work as a spokesman for the Palestinian Liberation Organization.  The event was said to include some incendiary rhetoric about Israel, and was attended by a certain Chicago politician who would go on to much bigger things.  During the 2008 election, the L.A. Times threw itself on top of a videotape of this event as if it were a live grenade.

It seems like everywhere American Muslims turn, they run into “leaders” like this, people with a network of questionable connections who reflexively employ charges of rank bigotry to protect themselves.  That “wall of resistance” the poster encourages building is already tall, thick, and topped with razor wire. 

There is simply no good reason to encourage resistance to FBI investigations.  A group that feels justified in doing so, as a matter of general principle, does not belong to the United States of America.  No one can pledge loyalty to a nation without respecting its lawful authority.  Pretending there is a more nuanced interpretation for this nasty little poster does a terrible disservice to anyone who takes Ibrahim Hooper seriously.