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Eric Holder makes quiet visit to mosque to meet with Muslim Americans

July 17, 2009 | 11:54 am

Atty. Gen. Eric Holder Jr. made a well-publicized visit to Los Angeles this week to announce stimulus grants to help fight drug trafficking and to help the victims of domestic violence. But in a quieter event not announced to the news media or public, Holder stopped at a mosque to meet with Muslim American youths.

“The point was to engage the Muslim community here in Los Angeles and make sure they understand this administration’s commitment to work with that community,” Justice Department spokesman Matthew Miller said.

The relationship between the Muslim American community and the department has come under increasing strain. This year, a coalition of the nation’s largest Muslim organizations issued a statement demanding that the Obama administration address FBI actions, including what they described as the “infiltration of mosques,” the use of “agent provocateurs to trap unsuspecting Muslim youth” and the “deliberate vilification” of one of the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights organizations.

Thursday’s meeting was at 4 p.m. at the Omar Ibn Al Khattab Foundation, a mosque and community center near USC, said Dafer Dakhil, the foundation’s director. It lasted about an hour, during which Holder gave prepared remarks and answered questions from an invited audience of about 200 people ages 18 to 33.

Questions posed at the event covered such topics as concern about law enforcement profiling of Muslim Americans, the sanctity of mosques, hate crimes and the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba, Dakhil said.

“The attorney general got to meet face to face with a generation of Muslims born and raised in this country,” he said. “He didn’t have to depend on what he reads in the papers or what his staff tells him. He got to see them face to face. . . . I don’t believe that ever took place in the previous administration.”

-- Paloma Esquivel in Orange County