WASHINGTON (JTA) — The FBI convened a round table meeting of leaders of Muslim, Jewish and Christian groups to discuss means of preventing bias-based attacks on religious institutions.
The event Tuesday at FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C., appeared to be the first of its kind; the FBI has in the past convened similar forums for Jewish groups. There has been broader awareness of the danger facing faith groups with the deadly attacks over the last year on synagogues in the United States, mosques in New Zealand and churches in Sri Lanka.
A session was dedicated to identifying potential attackers in one’s midst. A special agent broke down data analyzing 63 recent active shooting incidents. There was no single warning sign, although a number of factors were shared by a majority of the attackers, including being male (94 percent), single (57 percent) and having mental health issues (62 percent).
In the session where participants shared tips, differences of approach emerged. Michael Masters, who heads the Secure Community Network, the security umbrella for national and regional Jewish groups, emphasized the benefits of information sharing with police, while Salam Al-Marayati, the president of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, said Muslims tended to still be wary of law enforcement because of perceptions that police profiled Muslims after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001.
Kerry Sleeper, the FBI’s assistant director for partner engagement, advised participants to watch the news for developments that could portend threats. He noted, for instance, with rising tensions in the Persian Gulf between the United States and Iran, the likelihood of attacks stateside by Hezbollah, a Lebanese terrorist group aligned with Iran, was increasing.