The Day after: Bomb-Threat to local Mosque
I take no pleasure in reporting further developments and more information that I have learned about what went on behind the scenes in the aftermath of that event.
To recap, someone e-mailed the following message to Zainab Center, a Muslim Mosque and community center in Lynnwood:
“Kindly move the f**k out of Lynnwood before more bombs go off, please.”
The congregation, quite rightly, got worried and called the Lynnwood Police and the FBI and there the matter died.
What were Muslims in the area supposed to think? As most Muslims see it, since the targets were us “trrrsts” and since the authorities are being paid to nab us and not the nice “Judeo-Christian” members of this civilized nation, it should not be surprising that crimes against Muslims would not be treated with the same seriousness as crimes against other minorities, such as Blacks, Jews, etc.,
Weeks passed as we waited for some developments or, some updating from the Lynnwood Police or, from the FBI or, the local Prosecutor…or anyone, really.
It appeared that our protectors all believed the right thing had been done and there really was nothing to act upon and nobody to report to except for the people at the Zainab Center.
Finally, I started to make a few inquiries. I found that Muslim organizations were still waiting for some report from the Lynnwood Police or the FBI and they were under the impression that something was being done and reports would be forthcoming.
A few more weeks of waiting went on and finally, I decided to find out what was going on or not going on, as the case may be.
I was informed by some senior sources, that the matter was still under investigation and that there may not be much to follow up on because the person was partially paralyzed and could not possibly have committed any act of violence and therefore, the matter may have been set aside. I was told that another senior person would do some follow up and I would know more soon.
There were suggestions from some Muslims, that we should have a demonstration, we should call a press conference and inform the Press and the people, that Muslims’ concerns and threats to Muslims weren’t being taken seriously. However, I did not believe we should escalate to such a point immediately.
I decided I should contact the Lynnwood Police Chief Steve Jenson and left a message for his assistant Michelle. I said I am from American Muslims of Puget Sound, I am a resident of Lynnwood and we Muslims are very interested and concerned about the resolution to the bomb-threat case and would she please call back?
Three weeks and several similar messages later, I decided we need to escalate matters so I e-mailed the Lynnwood Council Chair Loren Simmonds and included the Lynnwood Police in my letter. I outlined the frustration we were experiencing with the lack of information from the Lynnwood Police and how they have not responded to any of my e-mails and could he please help?
He did not have to, I received a call from Lynnwood Police almost immediately.
The person who called me was Commander Steve Rider, head of Lynnwood Police Investigations. Cmdr. Rider was extremely helpful and courteous, we had a cordial conversation and since he was not at his current position when this event took place, he offered to include Det. Sgt. Conheim who had been the officer in charge of the actual investigation in a three-way conversation. I found Det. Sgt Conheim to be also very helpful and sincere person in fact, after experiencing so much silence misinformation and stone-walling, it was a distinct pleasure to speak to two officers who were courteous, forthcoming and straightforward.
I first asked if the person making the threat was able-bodied or, if he suffered from some physical handicaps that would make him immobile. Nope, the man was able-bodied, although he appeared as if he may have some mental problems which was why the Police did not believe he was a threat.
I asked if we had never heard of mentally-impaired people going off on a violent spree (Naveed haq and the Jewish Federation killings came to mind)? They agreed.
Det. Sgt. Conheim told me that the Lynnwood Police had asked the man to report to the Police station and he did so voluntarily and they did not believe he was capable of a violent crime so they let him go, but they did refer the matter to the County Prosecutor for further action (none has been taken as of yet).
I asked if the man’s home had been searched or, his computer or, any of his personal belongings.
No, because he had reported voluntarily to the Police and they would require a warrant to conduct a search and under the circumstances, they doubted if they could get the warrant.
But why did they not ask him if the Police could look into his house and computer and thus get permission for the search and if the man declined, maybe that would give them another message about the man?
Well, the man came forth voluntarily and he sent an e-mail message (the threat) from his own computer and if he were really planning something he would have used some concealment methods.
But surely, the Police has often come across people who are caught because of their stupid mistakes?
Yes, that is a point.
I was still mystified by the impressive understanding the Police had shown this man. I told them if I had made such a threat…
Oh no, it was not really a threat
No? Would they have responded so calmly if someone had called a Black Church and said , “Get out of Lynnwood before bombs go off”?
I continued. If I had made such a threat, I know as a Muslim, I would still be hanging by my nose while the Police and the FBI investigated every pore in my body. What precisely, made the Police decide this was a harmless man?
26 years of experience. They apologized if I was not happy with their work.
I told them I was having great trouble accepting the ease with which this man was deemed harmless. How do you know he was not a part of a gang planning to blow up the Mosque? How do you know he did not have explosives and weapons in his home when even basic checks were not made; checks so basic that even Police at traffic stops sometimes, search the car and here we have something that Muslims would definitely consider a threat and it did not appear that it was even given a few minutes of serious attention?
I am sure they did all that they thought was needed under the circumstances, but regardless of their extensive experience with criminal investigations they need to be seen to be doing their best as well.
This matter, how the investigations were conducted and how there were no meetings with Muslims other than members of Zainab Center is what concerns Muslims and my happiness is NOT on the table; this is what they need to keep in mind for future because I am certain there will be more events targeting Muslims.
They agreed that this could have been more open for Muslims on a broader scale than Zainab Center. The discussion was over and we parted on cordial terms.
A couple of hours later, Cmdr. Rider called me back and said he and Det. Sgt. Conheim had visited the man who had sent the e-mail, they got permission to search the property, they looked in his room, in the garage, in his computer and found nothing incriminating.
I expressed surprise and gratitude that they had taken this action. I told them I shared their belief that the man was harmless, but that was only because Zainab Center had not yet, been blown up.
We parted again on cordial terms.
This is what latent bias is all about.
Sincere, decent people can and often do, exercise bias without even being aware of what they are doing. WE, the people, WE, the Muslims of this area, need to make them aware.
If a Muslim does something, the authorities project what the man was thinking and how he was planning to commit violent acts. All kinds of connections are inferred because he is Muslim and goes to Mosque. This is not conjecture, we actually have cases where Muslims have been convicted, in one case, where Muslims were playing paintball and the FBI accused them of training and planning to go to Kashmir to fight “violent ji-had”…all without proof and yet seventeen paintball-playing Muslims were convicted in Toronto and eleven in DC because of the biases of our protectors, backed by battalions of anti-Muslim vigilantes who always stand ready to hang ‘em high, when it comes to “Muzlems”. Watch the video in the above link and pay attention to the anti-Muslim biases in the reportage and in the attitudes of the “expert” speakers.
This is why most of the hate-crimes against Muslims remain unnoticed and un-represented in annual national hate-crime statistics; it takes a lot for Police and FBI to take notice when a crime against a Muslim occurs.
We Muslims need to change that.
If we are to expect to be treated with respect and equality by our Police, our FBI and our political leaders, then we need to share our expectation with them and insist on their professional respect; we are not looking for friends, we are looking for trustworthy leaders and protectors; friendship may or may not follow, but equal justice is the most important element that WE Muslims need to insist upon.