Tuesday, May 23, 2006

After Muslim arrest debacle, FBI seeks harmony, recruits Meeting planned with Egyptian-Americans

Posted by the Asbury Park Press on 05/19/06

In September, a group of Muslim men praying near the main air intake duct at Giants Stadium was detained by suspicious FBI agents.
On Saturday, the federal agency and an Egyptian-American group plan to meet at the stadium in the latest FBI push to recruit Arab-Americans and repair relations strained in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks.
"It's an effort to build bridges with this community," said Les Wiser Jr., special agent in charge of the FBI's Newark bureau, who has made improving ties with New Jersey's Muslim community a priority.
The FBI accepted an invitation from the Egyptian American Group, an interdenominational organization that was formed after Sept. 11 when hundreds of New Jersey Muslims, Arab-Americans and south Asians were taken into custody as part of the investigation.
"It was thought by many people that the FBI is the enemy," said Suzanne Loutfy, a member of Egyptian American Group. "That's the perception we're fighting against."
Part of the event is aimed at interesting young Arab-Americans in law enforcement careers, particularly with the FBI, which needs their help as investigators and translators.
Loutfy's 18-year-old son will be at the event with six or seven of his friends. Kareem Loutfy, a senior at Carteret High School, says he's considering a career with the agency.
"Because of my background, I can easily approach people" in Arab-American communities, he said. "They would feel much more comfortable dealing with me because of who I am, and that would be great for both sides."
Other law enforcement agencies also are trying to better understand and connect with Muslims.
Through a new training film, officers in Union County will learn why the Arab-American driver might act a certain way. The film was seen for the first time Thursday by local police chiefs.
Union County Prosecutor Theodore J. Romankow said the 12-minute film will be shown to 1,950 police officers in the county.
Gannett New Jersey reporter Chad Hemenway contributed to this story.

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