Commentary: What's Up in Lodi?

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(Sacramento, CA)
Friday, September 2, 2005

Just a few weeks ago, FBI agents testified that one of the Muslim clerics deported was an agent of Osama Bin Laden, and was in this country to recruit and train terrorists.

He had made speeches in Pakistan urging crowds to join a holy war against the United States. And this was after 9/11, so why was he allowed in this country in the first place? Still, the government never charged those deported with any terrorist acts. In fact, one of them had led an interfaith movement that brought Muslims, Jews and Christians together to work for peace.

Those deported say they only agreed to leave because they didn't want to spend months in jail with common criminals while their cases were resolved.

I have a lot of sympathy for the government. It's easier to investigate a crime after it's been committed. Proving a potential crime has been thwarted, their burden in this case, is a tough trick.

But what if there was no real threat? What if those forced to leave this country were entirely innocent? What happened in Lodi has left many Americans shaken.  Muslim Americans, especially, worry they will always be considered guilty until proven innocent. Lodi has cast a shadow of fear, suspicion and distrust that will be difficult, if not impossible, to dispel.


Ginger Rutland writes for the Sacramento Bee Opinion pages.