FBI-Muslim Cooperation Resulted In Arrests
SCOTT SIMON, host:
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, was the group that tipped off the FBI that the five young men from Northern Virginia had left the country. It's important to note that there's been a contentious relationship between CAIR and the FBI in recent years.
We reached Ibrahim Hooper, CAIR's communications director, in his Washington, D.C., office to ask about the group's role in this particular case.
Did the council contact the FBI because you thought this was a missing persons case, or something else might have been involved?
Mr. IBRAHIM HOOPER (Council on American-Islamic Relations): Well, we had really strong concerns about what this group of young people was up to. The parents started building some suspicion over a weekend at the end of November. They had reason to believe that they were being lied to about where their adult children were. They started to get indications like foreign cell phone rings. You know, when you call somebody, it doesn't sound like it does here in America. It has a different ringtone to it.
And they put two and two together and figured out that their children were overseas somewhere, and they just didn't know what was going on. They had, you know, of course, the worst fears as a parent. They contacted local Muslim community leaders, who brought them to us and that - we met with the five families on December 1st. Coupled with their story and the video that had been left behind, we knew immediately that we had to contact the FBI. And that's what we did. we did.
SIMON: Do you know any of these young men?
Mr. HOOPER: I don't personally, no.
SIMON: The council has been outspoken in condemning terrorism and calling on American Muslims to cooperate with government authorities in investigations. Do you get any negative reaction to that sometimes?
Mr. HOOPER: Well, remember, one of the first things we did also is connect all of the families with legal representation to make sure that their constitutional rights were protected. So that goes hand in hand with our concerns for national security. And you know, you get an occasional email, you know, why are you working so closely with the government or something like that.
But by and large, I would say no, the reaction has been very supportive from the American Muslim community.
SIMON: You don't know much about the circumstances of this case, or at least any more than has been in the news?
Mr. HOOPER: Well, we do know more but because of confidentiality reasons, we can't put out more information. People have to know that as a civil rights group, when they come to us, we're going to maintain their confidentiality. Of course, everything that we think is relevant or that has been told to us has also been told to law enforcement authorities, but that's not a violation of the confidentiality. And also, we just don't want to compromise the investigation, either.
SIMON: Yeah. Is it possible that this was all just talk?
Mr. HOOPER: Well, even talk can get you in trouble nowadays. So you know, even if it's talk, it's serious enough to be dealt with.
SIMON: In this case, by the Pakistani government.
Mr. HOOPER: You mean, talk - well, that's the issue, too. We've heard things coming out of Pakistan that we know not to be accurate, just from what we know as fact. So I would take anything coming out of Pakistan now with a grain of salt, because you just don't know what the real situation is on the ground.
SIMON: Ibrahim Hooper, communications director with the Council on American-Islamic Relations, thanks so much.
Mr. HOOPER: Thank you.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.