Terror Suspects — What Went Wrong?

E-mail Father Jonathan

August 14, 2006

Transparent plastic containers have a way of leveling the playing field. The older couple, she in a formal skirt and he with a smart-looking tie, looked alarmingly similar to the teenagers in hip-hop attire. Even I, in a clerical collar, almost blended in. You see, we all toted our dearest belongings in Ziploc bags. Unprecedented airport security made people more friendly than usual. Maybe it was a coming-together, old-fashioned comraderie in tough times. Or maybe it was the result of a good dose of humble pie. How can you put on airs of importance when you’ve checked your Gucci purse or Tumi laptop carrier and now sport the same airtight bags we all use for culinary leftovers?

That’s the first thing I’ll remember about my trip from New York to Rome via London.

The second thing: I never made it to Rome. I’m still in London, even as flights continue to connect this isle to the Italian peninsula.

A simple voicemail changed my plans. It was from the FOX producer who is coordinating our efforts to cover the thwarted terror plot in London. She informed me that this would be a good time to do a story I had proposed earlier in the weekend — to go to the mosque where a large group of the 24 suspects in custody had attended prayer services. I wanted to interview the imam and find out what the spiritual leader of these young men had to say.

I didn’t know if I could do it. Nobody had up until now. The only news out of the mosque was a simple memo to the press which did little to answer the questions we all have.

As we made our trek to the small Muslim community of Walthomstow in East London, I hoped we could do something worthwhile. I wasn’t looking for something material — a big interview to break a story. I was hoping to get into the heart of the Muslim community, to find out what went wrong, to hear from the mouths of the imams themselves, and perhaps bridge some communication gaps. Would they unequivocally denounce terrorism? Would they say bad foreign policy justifies the killing of the innocent? It would be a talk from one religious person to another — a unique look at the inside workings of a problem that is not going away.

My hat goes off to the leaders of the mosque. From the beginning, I told them clearly that I was working with an American television network, and later I did tell them that I was with FOX News, an American sister network of Sky News in England. We talked at length. They were cordial, forthcoming, and all this as they let the camera roll. Other news media jumped in and tried to cause a stink, but that’s how it is in the news world. Some people are willing to break up something very good, just to get a story.

I’ve got to fly, but I’ll update you about everything that went on just as soon as I can. It was fascinating, informative, and very positive.

I’ve posted a good number of photos here on the blog. Take a look and tell me what you think.

God bless, Father Jonathan

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