Yesterday, the Brussels departure lounge reopened six weeks after the terrorist attack at the Brussels Airport. Since March 22, police have been searching for those responsible for the attack and the same-day deadly explosion at a subway station. In recent weeks, Belgian authorities have made a series of arrests linked to a Brussels-based cell that planned the attacks in the Belgian capital and a deadly rampage in Paris that killed 130 in November.
A Critical Tip from a Muslim Woman
After ISIS claimed responsibility for the Paris attacks in November 2015, Europeans began looking for Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the mastermind behind the attacks as well as the incident in Brussels. Until recently, the public had been unaware that the critical tip in the hunt for Abaaoud came from a Muslim woman — one of millions who now face a backlash in Europe fueled by anger over the attacks in Paris and Brussels. “It’s important the world knows that I am Muslim myself,” the woman told the Washington Post, “It’s important to me that people know what Abaaoud and the others did is not what Islam is teaching.”
She showed incredible bravery and courage as she briefly left the house occupied by the bomber and called an emergency number posted by the French authorities. She spent much of that Monday evening at police headquarters providing a detailed account of her encounter with Abaaoud.
Critical Intelligence Is Regularly Provided by the Muslim Community
As I have written previously, I believe there is a critical need for law enforcement to use intelligence from American Muslims in order to help prevent terror in the U.S.
I hope our European allies realize what many of us know here in the U.S. If we are to win the war on terror, we must recognize the patriotism of most American Muslims and realize that in many respects, they are one of the primary community policing tools used on the front lines to assist law enforcement’s anti-terrorism efforts. They do so because they are Americans; Americans with a sense of duty and honor to protect our homeland. And as Americans, like all of us, they greatly value the very freedoms and rights that terrorists are seeking to take away.
I hope all of us continue to value the importance American Muslims have in combatting and preventing attacks in this country.
Here are a few examples:
- September 2002: Members of the “Lackawanna 6” are arrested. FBI first became aware of their activities in June 2001 when a local Muslim community member tipped off the FBI.
- February 2006: Muslim community members in Ohio provide information helpful to the arrest and eventual conviction of three suspects planning attacks in Iraq.
- July 2009: Mosque leaders in Raleigh, North Carolina contact law enforcement to notify them of “violent, threatening action… considered to be dangerous” leading to the arrest of Daniel Boyd and six other individuals.
- April 2010: Senegalese Muslim Alioune Niass first spots the suspicious vehicle used as a bomb to attack Times Square in New York City. Clues from the vehicle and defused explosive immediately lead to the arrest of the suspect, Faisal Shahzad.
- October 2010: Former Hawaii resident Abdel Hamid Shehadeh is arrested for attempting to join the Taliban. Local media noted that the Muslim Association of Hawaii “assisted law enforcement agencies in the case” and that it has “in the past reported suspicious activities.”
- November 2010: Mohamed Osman Mohamud is arrested for attempting to bomb a Christmas tree-lighting ceremony in Portland, Oregon. The New York Times notes, “In the Oregon [Mohamud] case, the FBI received a tip from a Portland Muslim.”
- June 2011: Two Al-Qaeda-inspired violent criminals planning to attack a military installation in Seattle are arrested by law enforcement. FBI officials first became aware of the planned attack after a fellow Muslim who was trying to be recruited into the conspiracy went to Seattle Police and informed them of the plot.
- January 2012: Violent Al-Qaeda sympathizer Sami Osmakac is arrested for planning to attack several sites in Tampa, Florida using guns and explosives. The U.S. Attorney for Central Florida noted, “This investigation was also predicated, in part, by assistance from the Muslim community.”
And we can now add this brave woman to the list as she assisted in the capture of one of the world’s most wanted terrorists.
This is another reminder that we should strive to be inclusive and work together as one community to fight terrorism. We must foster a relationship of trust in the Muslim American community so that our fellow citizens have the courage to come forward with information that may help prevent terrorist attacks.