Local Muslim Community Boasts Positive Relationship With Kansas City FBI

Jun 21, 2016

Moben Mirza, secretary of the Islamic Center of Johnson County, addresses his congregation.
Credit Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.3

Earlier this month, a gunman opened fire at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., killing 49 people and injuring 53 more in a mass shooting. The vast majority of the victims were LGBTQ individuals, mainly Latino or other people of color.

When news broke that the gunman's name was Omar Mateen, another group came into the spotlight: the Muslim community.

"Automatically when [Mateen's] name popped up, he’s Muslim," says Moben Mirza, secretary of the Islamic Center of Johnson County. "What are we going to think? It’s ISIS-related. That happens automatically."

After attacks like Orlando, or the one in San Bernardino, Muslim-Americans experiences scrutiny and suspicion from the community at large.

But Mirza says he doesn't feel his community is being monitored or unfairly targeted by law enforcement.

"We actually have a very strong relationship with our local FBI," Mirza says.

According to Mirza, an FBI agent and public affairs officer meet regularly with the Islamic Center's board of directors. Additionally, the FBI calls to ask questions and verify information if they receive a tip about someone in the Muslim community.

Former FBI agent Michael German says that hate-based violence stems less from ideology and more from criminals looking for excuses to commit violence.

"The criminal element is a very small subset, and that's where law enforcement needs to focus, rather than focusing on ideology, which is what draws them away from the people actually intending violence," German says.

In Kansas City, the FBI notifies the Islamic Center of Johnson County of demonstrations planned by hate groups. After the San Bernardino attack, Mirza says the FBI alerted them that an extremist group was going to picket outside of the mosque.

"As a result, we canceled Qur’an lessons at the mosque, because we didn’t want children being in and out of that area while something like that was happening," Mirza says. "We have an open, fluid relationship with them."

He says this kind of relationship also extends to the Overland Park Police Department.

"We ... see the protection of our congregation from law enforcement," Mirza says. "We can call them with concerns we have from within our own community without fearing a backlash that's much wider."

Andrea Tudhope is a freelance reporter and producer for KCUR 89.3. You can reach her on Twitter @adtudhope.