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Obama administration needs to probe death of imam, say faith leaders, activists

By Diane Bukowski -Contributing Writer- | Last updated: Jun 2, 2010 - 4:08:05 PM

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Imam Dawud Walid calls on Pres. Obama to investigate killing of Imam Luqman Abdullah as others of all faiths listen. Photo: Diane Bukowski
DETROIT ( - Religious leaders of different faiths called on President Barack Obama to order the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights division to immediately conduct a thorough investigation of the killing of Imam Luqman Abdullah by a joint FBI anti-terrorism task force last October in Dearborn, Mich.

Their news conference was part of a series of community meetings building to the United States Social Forum in June. The event is expected to draw up to 20,000 activists from across the country, said Rev. Charles Williams II of King Solomon Baptist Church, co-chair of the USSF Faith and Spirituality Committee.

“I'm telling President Obama that if we have to make you do it, that's what we are going to do, with protesters from all over the country,” Rev. Williams said. “We'll have 20,000 people outside the federal McNamara Building to make sure people understand that this is not an issue of Christianity vs. Islam, but a human rights matter.”

Imam Dawud Walid of the Michigan chapter of the national Council on American Islamic Relations said the FBI has refused to disclose vital information regarding the religious teacher's killing. Imam Abdullah headed Masjid El-Haqq, a mosque which ministered to the poor in one of Detroit's most economically distressed neighborhoods, in the 48206 zip code.

“This is a historically unprecedented killing of a Muslim leader in the U.S. by the FBI,” said Mr. Walid. “We have filed Freedom of Information Act requests which have been rejected. The FBI routinely videotapes stings like that which resulted in the Imam's death, but they have refused to provide a copy of that tape. The FBI controlled the warehouse, detonated a percussion grenade inside, and let their dogs loose. If we see on the videotape that the imam fired a gun at FBI agents, instead of defending himself against attacks by the FBI dogs, then we will cease our protests.”

Autopsy reports and photos of the imam's body show puncture wounds to his face that the Wayne County Medical Examiner admitted “could have been caused” by dog bites. The examiner also said the imam's hands were not bagged to preserve them for gunshot residue testing. The gun allegedly in the position of the imam has not been shown.

Mr. Walid added that the FBI has refused to release a necropsy report on the dog killed during the raid. The FBI has accused the imam of shooting the dog, leading to their agents opening fire.

“Compare this with the treatment of the Hutari,” Mr. Walid said. “The government has freely given over audio conversations related to their arrests on charges of domestic terrorism, planning to kill police officers. The media saw a table full of guns seized by the FBI.” The Michigan-based Hutari Militia had nine members arrested by the FBI in March. They are accused of plotting the violent overthrow of the federal government and planning to use weapons of mass destruction.

Imam Abdullah and eleven other members of his mosque were charged only with petty theft-related offenses.

Twenty religious and community leaders signed the letter to President Obama May 15.

“Due to conflicting accounts of the incident and numerous FOIA requests ... which have been denied, numerous parties including Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), MI State Rep. Bettie Cook-Scott, ACLU-MI and the NAACP have called for the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice to open a thorough and robust investigation into the circumstances of Abdullah's death,” said the letter.

It added that despite repeated calls for such an investigation beginning six months ago, none have been undertaken.

Also speaking at the May 15 press conference were Imam Modiodou Ceesay, who arrived from Ghana; Dr. James Perkinson of the Ecumenical Theological Seminary in Detroit; Imam Abdul-Latif Azom of the Masjid Al-Falah mosque, whose members come from Detroit's Bangladeshi community; Imam Abdullah El-Amin who heads the Detroit Muslim Center, and the Rev. Bill Wylie-Kellerman of St. Peters Episcopal Church.

Rev. Wylie-Kellerman, who is also co-chair of the USSF Faith and Spirituality Committee and a board member of the Michigan Coalition for Human Rights, said, “If they think they are going to drag this out and we are going to go away, they are wrong.”

Related news:

Report: Detroit Imam slain by FBI agents suffered 21 gunshot wounds (FCN, 02-05-2010)

Groups pressure Justice Dept. in case of slain imam (FCN, 12-01-2010)

Activists, family demand justice in shooting death of imam (FCN, 11-15-2010)

A vigilant, determined community moves on (FCN, 11-10-2010)

Funeral held for slain mosque leader, questions remain (FCN, 11-03-2010)