In 2011, an excellent article, How FBI Entrapment is Criminalizing Islam, was featured on the BORDC web site. It is well worth reading right now, because the concerns it describes have only become greater. Two recent films also deal with the issues of entrapment and Islamophobia as they relate to specific cases.
The first film, The Newburgh Sting, tells the story of The Newburgh Four—impoverished African-American men who became involved with an FBI undercover informant and wound up being arrested as terrorists in 2009 and sentenced to 25 years in maximum-security prison. In 2010, BORDC wrote about the their trial and the possibility of Muslim entrapment.
The Newburgh Sting was screened at The World Cultural Center in Raleigh, NC on September 8, 2015 and at the Phillippi Church in Greenville, NC on September 11, 2015. The World Cultural Center screening was followed by a panel discussion that featured scholar and activist Layla Brown; Shafeah M’Balia, an organizer for Black Workers for Justice; Imam Salahuddin M. Muhammad; and Laila Yaghi.
Laila Yaghi is the mother of Zayid Yaghi, who was convicted as part of a North Carolina terrorism conspiracy group in 2011. There are conflicting reports about Zayid’s participation in this plot, and his mother maintains that her son was entrapped and continues to work for his release. The Newburgh Four case and Zayid Yaghi’s case are both mentioned in the July 2014 Human Rights Watch report, Illusion of Justice: Human Rights Abuses in US Terrorism Prosecutions.
Manzoor Cheema, an organizer with the Movement to End Racism and Islamophobia (MERI) and cofounder of Muslims for Social Justice, which cosponsored the screening of The Newburgh Sting, reported to BORDC: “It was a powerful film, and we had an important discussion afterward on how to prevent entrapment. We also had a discussion on the connection between imperialism and Islamophobia.” At the Challenging Racism and Islamophobia forum that took place on June 15, 2015 at the Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in Raleigh, NC, Mr. Cheema described North Carolina as a “battleground state for Islamophobia.”
The second film that screened in North Carolina in early September 2015 was (T)ERROR. BORDC recently awarded the September 2015 Patriot Award to the directors of (T)ERROR, Lyric Cabral and David Felix Sutcliffe. Ms. Cabral was present for a discussion after the September 10th screening of (T)ERROR, which was part of the Diaspora Festival of Black and Independent Film at the Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History at The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. (T)ERROR details yet another FBI sting operation that calls into question both the counterterrorism tactics used in America and the justifications for them.
FBI entrapment is still criminalizing Islam, and it is part of a broader pattern of the FBI’s use of paid informants to entrap members of activist groups and others.