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Local Muslims May Support Terrorists or Strive for Peace -- Depending on Whom You Ask

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If you believe the feds, the group of local Muslims arrested across South Florida this past weekend were supporters of terrorism and worked to fund those who would kill and kidnap in the name of Islam.

The four-count indictment claims the six men conspired with Pakistani terrorists and provided $45,000 in support. They face up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

"The indictment and arrests were based on the defendants' words, actions, and bank accounts," U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer told reporters. "They were providing anything the Taliban needed in Pakistan to sustain their effort."

Ask their families and friends, though, and these were men with nothing but peace in their hearts. "He has nothing to hide -- he's a wonderful guy," a parishioner at one of the

mosques told the Sun-Sentinel of one of the two imams arrested Saturday. One of the men's sons described his father's mosque this way to the New York Times: "It only does good things for people, and it only does the right thing."

Those are two very different descriptions, and it's not uncommon in these arrests of Muslims accused of aiding terrorist organizations. It's also not uncommon for these types of charges to end much differently from what the government had hoped. Proving that the money sent to Pakistan ended up in the hands of terrorists can be difficult in front of a jury, as the feds figured out recently in a similar case.

Last week, the feds dropped charges against South Florida head-shop owners of mostly Lebanese descent. The men were accused of selling cocaine and sending profits overseas for terrorism. A two-year investigation by the FBI ended without enough evidence to even charge the men with drugs, let alone aiding terrorists.

The U.S. Attorney's Office made the rare move of explaining why charges were dropped in that case, issuing a statement to the Miami Herald that said "new information surfaced that, in our discretion, made it appropriate to dismiss the charges."

It was odd timing considering the bust that would follow days later, arrests the feds are surely hoping don't end the same way.

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