On Feb. 17, a young Moroccan Muslim man, Amine El Khalifi, was arrested in an FBI sting operation as he prepared for what he thought was going to be an attack on the U.S. Capital. Some critics cried foul and charged law enforcement with“entrapment” while others view this technique as a tool to ensure public safety.
During the civil rights era undercover FBI agents were used to “entrap” and convict members of the Klu Klux Klan to rave reviews from black leadership. Why isn’t what’s good for the goose also good for the gander?
Michelle Alexander, author of "The New Jim Crow" charges "the system" to explain why African-American males are overrepresented in the U.S. prison population; others such as Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter proclaim the mantra of “personal responsibility” as the solution to street violence .
The life of Malcolm X, assassinated 47 years ago this week, provides us with an interesting insight into this dichotomy. Malcolm X was more than a Muslim or a black man, he was also a social reformer with deep insights into our American psyche.
As Malcolm Little, he left a life of drugs and crime to become a law-abiding yet militant non-violent change agent in the 1950's and 60’s. As a leader within The Nation of Islam, he became a staunch advocate for self-upliftment with his phrase, "Wakeup, cleanup and standup!"
He reminds us that those who believe they are being exploited must take the first step by practicing honesty, sobriety and uprightness along with a radical, persistent and militant nonviolent resistance for social change and justice.
While pointing the finger at social injustice, Malcolm X was consistent in his argument that black Americans needed to take destiny into their own hands. While his radical critique stated that "the system" placed drugs into black communities and then accused them of being “full of addicts”, he offered a solution by telling blacks to foil this plot by “cleaning up” and avoiding drugs altogether.
It should not matter whether a terrorist thinks he's working with the FBI or a terrorist cult, if his intent was to do harm then he should be punished based upon what he intended.
As the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) stated,
Upon the authority of 'Umar bin Al-Khattab (ra) who said,
I heard God's Apostle saying,
"The reward of deeds depends upon the intentions and every person will
get the reward according to what he has intended.. . ."
Prophetic traditions collected in Sahih Bukhari
(volume 1, book 1, number 1)
Quran teaches: In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
Say: Whether you hide what is in your hearts or manifest it, Allah
(God) knows it, and He knows whatever is in the heavens and
whatever is in the earth, and Allah (God) has power over all things.
The Family of Imran (chapter 3,verse: 29)
In the context of the current FBI sting operations, Malcolm’s legacy reminds us that those who have grievances with the government can avoid entrapment by simply obeying the law while simultaneously working to establish justice. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and many others were jailed for civil disobedience, not for burglary, drug trafficking or bombing.
The approach of Al-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz —Malcolm X — in hindsight was a middle path. It was a strategy of an acceptance of personal responsibility, albeit against the odds, with an indefatigable commitment to building a just society for all.
Imam Johari Abdul-Malik is the director of outreach at the Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center in Falls Church.