Citing the highly publicized case involving an undercover informant who spied on an Irvine mosque, a coalition of U.S. Muslim organizations has announced it may suspend relations with the FBI.
"Muslim communities throughout the United States have made significant advances in promoting and contributing to a fair, free and pluralistic society," reads the statement from the American Muslim Taskforce on Civil Rights and Elections (AMT). "Through civil rights advocacy, civic and political engagement, and the promotion of dialogue with interfaith leaders and law enforcement agencies, Muslim Americans continue to be a positive and stabilizing force in keeping our nation safe and secure from acts of violence and foreign threats."
Muslim Americans are productive, law-abiding citizens who have naturally been allied with law enforcement, reads the AMT statement, but "recent incidents targeting American Muslims lead us to consider suspending ongoing outreach efforts with the FBI."
"In California, the FBI sent a convicted criminal to pose as an agent provocateur in several of that state's mosques. An FBI agent allegedly told one of the mosque attendees that the agency would make his life a 'living hell' if he did not become an informant."
The mosque attendee is 34-year-old Afghan native Ahmad Niazi, who was arrested at his Tustin home on Feb. 20 on five fraud and perjury counts. At his Feb. 24 bail hearing, Niazi was alleged to have talked in an unnamed informant's e-mails and recordings of initiating jihad, getting weapons, blowing up buildings, sending money overseas to the Afghan mujahedin and even calling Osama bin Laden "an angel." At the hearing, Irvine fitness instructor Craig Monteilh (pictured in this John Gilhooley portrait) filed court documents identifying himself as the informant.
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Monteilh had arrived at the Islamic Center of Irvine in 2006 and befriended members, including Niazi, who informed mosque leaders that Monteilh was talking about jihad or holy war. The leaders turned to the Anaheim office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which contacted the FBI while the mosque got a restaining order against Monteilh. At CAIR's behest, an FBI official later came to the Irvine mosque to reassure members the government was not spying on them.
The coalition includes CAIR as a signatory of the statement that bemoans the FBI for suspending contact with CAIR earlier this year "pending the resolution of unspecified 'issues.'" A 15-year investigation by the FBI into Hamas fundraisers resulted in convictions in December at a trial where CAIR was listed as an unindicted co-conspirator. The bureau announced the following month it was severing its once-close ties with CAIR.
In response, the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California, an umbrella organization of many Muslim groups, suspended outreach to the FBI in February. The coalition statement called the FBI's shunning of CAIR and other Muslim groups and disseminations of false accusations "McCarthy-era tactics" that "are detrimental to a free society." The coalition also expressed fears that "counter-intelligence programs are quelling lawful dissent," and that the FBI's actions could "negatively impact U.S. interests" given President Obama's "initiative of dialogue with the Muslim world."
Statement signatories also include: Islamic Educational Center of Orange County; American Muslim Alliance; American Muslims for Palestine; Islamic Circle of North America; Muslim Alliance in North America; Muslim American Society-Freedom Foundation; Muslim Student Association-National; Muslim Ummah of North America; and United Muslims of America.