HBO Documentary 'Newburgh Sting' Begs for Police Reform in Muslim Communities

Al-Marayati Speaks at AFI Docs Screening with Co-Directors in DC

June 20, 2014

Yesterday, MPAC President Salam Al-Marayati participated in a panel discussion following a screening of HBO’s new documentary “The Newburgh Sting” at the AFI Docs Documentary Festival in Washington, DC.

SEE: “The Newburgh Sting” Trailer (YouTube)

Moderated by New York Times Magazine Chief National Correspondent Mark Leibovich, the panel included co-directors Kate Davis and David Heilbroner, attorney Sam Braverman, Brennan Center for Justice Fellow Mike German, CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad and Al-Marayati.

The documentary, which will debut on HBO on July 21, reveals the FBI’s involvement in the domestic terror case of the “Newburgh Four,” which targeted a Muslim community in the disadvantaged neighborhood of Newburgh, NY and lured individuals into agreeing to commit acts of terrorism.

Through riveting surveillance footage and interviews with former FBI agents, defense attorneys, local imams and family members, the powerful documentary demonstrates that there is more to the story than the so-called jihadist narrative. The directors take a close look at the personal lives and motivations of the men involved, the way they were entrapped by a paid undercover informant, and their subsequent conviction on terror charges.

"We wanted to bring stories to life and bring characters to life to break down stereotypes," said Co-director Kate Davis. "Just by humanizing imams or other Muslims in the film, we're helping break down stereotypes."

Panelists discussed issues such as the FBI’s investigative tactics and engagement with American Muslim communities, the current status of those convicted and the role American Muslims should play in the political process.

“We, as American Muslims, have to be in front of the discussions on national security to provide solutions,” Al-Marayati told the audience, because progress cannot be achieved until “we control the narrative on what national security actually is.”

He emphasized that American Muslims should take leadership in discussions with policymakers, given their power to create policies that will prevent such injustices from reoccurring in the future. Rather than vilifying our government or claiming victimhood for ourselves, Al-Marayati advocated that we work alongside our governmental allies to secure the safety of all Americans.

As Al-Marayati told Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson in Chicago last week, “There should be a wall of separation between community and law enforcement, where community leaders focus on theological, social and civic engagement – and law enforcement focuses on criminal investigations. In order to push out surveillance as a law enforcement tactic, we need to replace it with effective partnership programs.”

SEE: "DHS Secretary Applauds Safe Spaces Initiative" (MPAC)

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