Daily Southtown: Illinois Muslims Suspicious Of Charges

Three days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Mohammed Salah gathered with hundreds of fellow Muslims at a rally outside of the Bridgeview mosque where he would worship.

Perched on his shoulders, his 3-year-old son grasped an American flag in his right hand and waved the red, white and blue in the autumn breeze.

Salah said he was sickened by the attacks and the massive loss of life ordered by Osama bin Laden, calling the destruction of that day “inhuman” and contrary to the precepts of his Islamic faith.

But in the eyes of the U.S. government, bin Laden and Salah share common cause in the world of terror.

In 1995, two years after he moved to Bridgeview, the U.S. Treasury Department labeled Salah a “Designated Terrorist,” his name listed in the same column of suspect terrorists as that of bin Laden.

The government froze Salah’s assets and severely restricted his ability to live a normal American life.

Last week, after more than 10 years of investigation, federal agents took the 51-year-old Bridgeview man into custody during a traffic stop in Oak Lawn, accusing him of money laundering and recruiting young men for terrorist activities.

Members of Salah’s family say they are tired of what they call biased and politically motivated attacks on their community leaders.

Salah’s nephew Abdullah Salah described the indictment as “the same tired allegations we heard from the U.S. attorney’s office 15 years ago.”

Before Friday, however, Salah hadn’t been charged with a crime in the United States.

“We know that there was an open investigation, everyone knew that,” Abdullah Salah said. “Why (the indictment) is now, we have no idea.”

Muslim and Arab community leaders said they have learned to be skeptical of any terrorism-related criminal cases brought to court since Sept. 11.

“Indictments have been exploited in the past by people who want to blame someone just because he or she is Muslim,” said Yasser Tabbara, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations‘ Chicago chapter. “He is innocent until he is proven guilty, and we should remember that…
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