LOS ANGELES (FinalCall.com) – The Southern California Muslim community’s complaints of harassment and intimidation by the Federal Bureau of Investigations have increased since an informant admitted recently that he infiltrated at least six mosques and tried to incite members to violence against the United States.
“People are scared now. They’re afraid to go to mosques, afraid to make donations … there’s a general fear of anxiety and a general feeling of anger and mistrust in the Muslim community, because there’s been damage between the FBI and the Muslim community,” said Munira Syeda, communications director for the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR).
On March 29, CAIR will conduct a “Know Your Rights” workshop in conjunction with local mosques to help ease fears and tensions throughout the Muslim community. After the incident, CAIR issued a call for people to report any kind of harassment or intimidation by FBI agents. So far, Ms. Syeda said, it has received quite a number of complaints from members saying that they were approached and questioned by the FBI.
“If the FBI does not accord fair and equitable treatment to every American Muslim organization, including CAIR, ISNA (Islamic Society of North America) and NAIT (North American Islamic Trust), then Muslim organizations, mosques and individuals will have no choice but to consider suspending all outreach activities with FBI offices, agents and other personnel,” said the American Muslim Taskforce on Civil Rights and Elections, a coalition of national Islamic organizations, in a written statement.
The Final Call reached out to Lourdes Arocho, public affairs coordinator for the FBI’s Los Angeles office for an interview but was unable to obtain a response by press time.
According to Ms. Syeda, CAIR received reports that Craig Monteilh, a convicted criminal, was sent by the FBI into several California mosques, including the Islamic Center of Irvine, where he “converted” to Islam.
During the six to eight months there, he started to change his clothing to Muslim attire, then to Middle Eastern-type clothing, and began making violent statements about planning a terrorist attack to some community members.
“He was talking about America not being very good with ‘our brothers and sisters’ overseas and ‘We needed to do something about it,’” Ms. Syeda told The Final Call. Then Mr. Monteilh later befriended two worshippers at the Irvine mosque and made the same violent statements to them, which they reported to local law enforcement and the FBI, she continued.
“We actually got a restraining order against him. CAIR contacted the FBI and for a number of months we did not hear anything from them. We reported a suspected criminal, a threat, but the FBI kept saying it’s an open investigation and we can’t talk about it,” Ms. Syeda said.
That was in 2007.
According to CAIR, the FBI also tried to recruit Ahmadullah Niazi, one of those who reported Mr. Monteilh’s statements, to become an informant and when he refused, an agent threatened to make his life “a living hell.”
Then on Feb. 20, the FBI arrested Mr. Niazi, claiming that he lied about his citizenship and passport documents. He was released on $500,000 bail and has a pre-trial hearing set for April 6, according to Ms. Syeda.
“They arrested him but the interesting thing is the FBI is claiming that he has a brother-in-law who’s a terrorist who supposedly worked for Osama Bin Laden, although all charges are immigration-related. He’s not arrested with any terrorism-related charges,” Ms. Syeda said.
CAIR believes that the Afghanistan immigrant was targeted as retaliation for refusing to become an FBI informant. Thus far, the organization is unaware of anyone else in the Muslim community who has been arrested or is facing any charges.
Reports indicate that Mr. Monteilh, who went undercover as Frederick Jordan, according to an FBI agent’s court testimony, stopped working as an FBI informant shortly after the Islamic Center of Irvine complained about him. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, since then, Mr. Monteilh has spent eight months in prison on a grand theft charge in connection with another informant job he worked for a narcotics program.
“The FBI trusted this kind of guy, who had a history of lying and cheating, with issues of national security … We actually help support law enforcement’s efforts and try to cooperate in our nation’s fight against terrorism and still we’re being scapegoated and treated as suspects. The concern that the Muslim community has is we cannot be partners with law enforcement, yet be suspects at the very same time,” Ms. Syeda said.
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