By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
Common logic dictates that since a suspected terrorist stepped foot on that mosque, every congregant is now responsible for that terrorist's actions. Strolling around my mosque, I find it hard to believe these docile people—the aunties sitting around, drinking cups of chai; the uncles discussing whether or not Phil Jackson should coach the Knicks; mouth after mouth savoring the tastes of the best made-from-scratch samosas in town—could be on the bottom end of the al-Qaeda puppet master's strings. But who is going to argue with common logic?
Almost everyone at my mosque has experienced countless amounts of hatred during the past twenty-some years, and the majority of it seemed to be aimed at children: boys getting their faces smashed to unrecognizable pulps; girls pushed around and their scarves pulled off; students the target of college professors' racist remarks, not to mention the odd beer can, lit cigarette and trash thrown at them. Retaliation against Muslims created a fear that caused many to lock themselves in their houses and pray to one day see the salad-bowl analogies of this country transpire itself into myth.
That fear found its way into my own house. My parents had a whole spiel rehearsed. It's the same one they told me during the Sept. 11 tragedy, the same one they told me during the Gulf Wars, they same one they told me over and over again: "You know, you should really be careful nowadays. Maybe you shouldn't be so political at school. Maybe you shouldn't go to so many protests. Would it hurt you to stick an American flag up? We could hang one outside the house. I'll get you a sticker for you car. . . ."
And now, with an indirect link to suspected-terrorist Gadahn, the members of the Islamic Society of Orange County (ISOC) find ourselves presented with the task of clearing our names once again. Gadahn first came to ISOC in 1995 for conversion. After a brief stint at our mosque, Gadahn got into a physical fight with one of the mosque's board members, claiming we were too "liberal" for his tastes. He pleaded guilty to assault and battery charges, was asked to leave the mosque permanently, and was never seen again there.
But you probably couldn't tell that by watching the news. No, if you get your news from NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN, KCAL or FOX News, you would probably think Gadahn not only converted to Islam in my Orange County mosque, but was also introduced to al-Qaeda there, learned combat techniques there, got his bombs there, and plotted his every terrorist-related activity there.
Even the FBI, which "has no information indicating that this individual is connected to any specific terrorist activities," had come to my mosque and spoke to members of the board in hopes of getting some sort of a lead on Gadahn. Their reasoning: Gadahn is a Muslim, and we're Muslims, so wouldn't every Muslim know every other Muslim in the entire world? And he was seen there only 10 years ago before he was excommunicated. To no one's surprise, the bureau's investigations at my mosque were fruitless.
"It wouldn't surprise me if they [the FBI] asked us to hand over a list of all our converts," my dad told me. "Can they do tha—" I stopped myself from asking. Sure they can. They're the government. They can do anything they want, can't they?
Taking everything he's been through and seen in his life, my dad knew nothing good could have come from responding to our post card accusation except a handcuffed walk down to Room 101—actually Room 702, according to the post card. If the cops thought he was a terrorist because of his last name, they probably wouldn't be convinced otherwise over an $8 cup of coffee from Starbucks, froth or no froth. You gotta love his balls.
Nearly a year later, I'm left asking myself, what happened? Isn't the government going to pursue this surefire method of catching the bad guy with post cards? Aren't they going to apprehend the very people striking fear in the hearts of the ever-so-victimized American society? Shouldn't my 69-year-old father be marking the days off a cell wall in Guantanamo right now? The weird thing, considering the historic reliability of police-department and other government officials, was that no follow-up was ever made.
"It was all a big joke," a lawyer friend of mine said. Several others who had received the same post card had also spoken to an associate of his. The outcome was all the same: no follow-through. Maybe the LAPD and the Anti-Terrorist Division (ATD) were too busy to call us back. Maybe America had already won the War on Terror and there was no more use for the ATD anymore. Better yet, maybe the Afghani family was off the hook, and Mike, our mailman, might have just lost the post card telling us that. Or—could it be—had a flock of senile, old terrorists taken the whole ATD out? I decided to give my old pals a call and make sure they were okay.
Thankfully, the ATD is still there, serving our country as frontline crusaders—fighting the everlasting battle against America's deadliest, freedom-hating enemies—arming themselves with the most dangerous weapon known to civilized man: post cards! Post cards that say, "Hey, we think you're a terrorist. Don't worry, we're probably not going to do anything about that, but can you give us a call and let us know if you're planning on bombing anything any time soon? That'd be great!"