The Atlantic interviewed author Steven Weitzman about his new book on FBI religious discrimination.
In an interview with The Atlantic about his book titled, The FBI and Religion: Faith and National Security Before and After 9/11, Steven Weitzman discussed the effects the FBI has had upon American religions, from intimidation of Martin Luther King Jr. to the idea that religion hides communism rhetoric stemming from the Cold War.
Weitzman, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, penned the collection of essays with Sylvester A. Johnson, a Northwestern University professor, according to The Atlantic.
J. Edgar Hoover, the former director of the FBI, plays a major role in the book. Weitzman discusses in his book the division Hoover caused during the Cold War that still holds true today: “He allied America and democracy with a Judeo-Christian tradition. Communism, on the other hand, was an agent of secularism and atheism. The twist was that communists, who were clever and wily in his imagination, had figured out they should use religion as a kind of cover for their behavior—it was a way to infiltrate American society.”
The idea that religion held the key to terrorism brought in by Hoover rang louder with the changing tide of FBI tactics. “After 9/11, the FBI was charged with preempting crime, or detecting it before it happened, which meant it needed to engage in new forms of intelligence gathering,” Weitzman wrote.
Weitzman further wrote investigations into Muslim groups like we see today are not new. “Religion was seen as a pretense by which people who had criminal or traitorous intentions were trying to legitimize what they were doing.”
The concerns between the government and religious organizations with dangerous histories only continues for modern policies and fears.
“In some corners of contemporary society, there’s a similar suspicion of Islam as some kind of religious pretext or cover for criminal behavior. There’s a continuity in attitude and rhetoric between how the government once treated people suspected of having a collusive relationship with communism and how the government interacts with people suspected of links to terrorism.”