By LAURIE GOODSTEIN
Published: March 9, 2011
LOS ANGELES — Sgt. Mike Abdeen, on duty in the county Sheriff’s Department, got a call last year from a Muslim father who was worried about his son. The young man had grown a full beard and was spending a lot of time alone in his room, on the computer. The father was worried that perhaps his son had fallen in with Islamic extremists, and wanted Sergeant Abdeen to look into it.
The sergeant approached the young man after Friday Prayer, talked with him over coffee and kept in touch over the next few months. It turned out that the youth was hardly a budding terrorist; he was just a spiritual searcher, a recent college graduate who had grown a beard to express his Muslim identity.
For Sergeant Abdeen, a Palestinian-American who runs a pioneering sheriff’s unit charged with forging connections between law enforcement and local Muslims, the episode was a sign of progress. Until recently, a concern like this would probably have gone unreported because of the fear some Muslims have about talking to law enforcement.
“If the father didn’t trust us to do the right thing, he wouldn’t call us,” the sergeant said.
The question of whether American Muslims do, or do not, cooperate with law enforcement agents in preventing potential terrorist attacks is at the heart of Congressional hearings that begin Thursday in Washington. The hearings have been called by Representative Peter T. King, a Republican from Long Island, N.Y., and chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. He says that American Muslims do not cooperate, and that he will call witnesses who will prove it.