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But this is home, and Magid began mobilizing his mosque to protect it. "There's no way you can be a quarter-citizen in this country," he told his congregants during Friday prayers soon after the Sept. 11 attacks. "You have to be a full citizen and defend it." For Magid, that meant working with the FBI. In early 2002, leaders of two Arab-American organizations who had been conferring with the agency on counterterrorism programs asked Magid and other local imams if they too would work with the bureau. The lawmen badly needed contacts among Washington's Muslims to help them check out leads and alert them to anything out of the ordinary, but they were getting nowhere in setting up those ties because "there was so much fear and animosity toward the FBI in that community," says an agent.
Magid was willing to cooperate, but he knew he would have to convince his congregation that getting cozy with the FBI was in their interest. Some members--particularly those who had come from countries with repressive regimes where the security service was an organization to be avoided--were uneasy. The imam invited agents to the mosque to explain how Muslims could help, but the initial meetings were heated, and the lawmen had to sit through "some very harsh questioning," says Uzma Unus, vice president of the ADAMS board of trustees. The congregants vented about law-enforcement profiling, which they felt targeted all Muslims as suspects. Agents were showing up at their workplaces to make routine inquiries about anyone they might want to report, and some Muslims were fired because of the public stigma of being questioned by the FBI.
The agents promised to be less heavy-handed in investigations, and over the next three years relations improved. Now Magid often serves as an intermediary, coaxing reluctant congregants who might have useful information about unusual activities in their neighborhoods into meeting with the FBI and advising the bureau on how to be more culturally sensitive--for example, by having male agents schedule interviews with women only when their husbands could be present. Magid regularly tips off the bureau when a stranger with a questionable background wanders into his center. In one case, mosque members alerted him to a newcomer who dealt only in cash and wanted to list the ADAMS-center address as his home on his driver's license application. The next time the imam saw the man in his mosque, he kept the newcomer in his office until agents showed up to question him. In the end, the FBI cleared the man. It turned out he had gone through a messy divorce in another state and was simply trying to start a new life in Virginia.
So far as Magid knows, no terrorist has tried to infiltrate the mosque, but he always worries that one might. ADAMS prides itself on being an extremist-free zone. Newcomers who mutter thoughts of jihad quickly discover they are not welcome. During Ramadan, guest speakers for evening prayers were carefully screened to make sure they preached religious tolerance.