FBI courts relations with Arabs, Muslims
But community leaders, bureau officials agree post - 9/11 tensions remain

By Laura Sullivan
Sun National Staff


WASHINGTON -- A month ago, officials at the FBI announced that they would be awarding the bureau's prestigious exceptional service award to a prominent Detroit man who helped forge a relationship between the bureau and Michigan's numerous Arab communities.

But two days before Imad Hamad, director of the state's American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, was to be flown to Washington to accept a plaque, bureau officials yanked the award without explanation and said Hamad would no longer be receiving it.

Michigan's Arab and Muslim communities were incensed.

"Yeah," one FBI official said, "we probably could have handled that better."

Hamad is not suspected of any wrongdoing, said FBI spokesman Ed Cogswell, and he is not under investigation. But sources in the bureau said agents became concerned with what they believed were "problematic" associates of Hamad who support terrorism.

The incident with Hamad and the award highlights the FBI's sometimes-stumbling efforts to reach out to Arab and Muslim communities throughout the country. Relations, by most accounts, are improving, but Muslim leaders and bureau officials agree that tension remains.

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