Call it a generational shift, or simply a difference of opinion, but it was a moment that stuck with me forever. It was the night of the 2004 presidential elections, Kerry v. Bush, the first election I voted in. I was over at the home of an old friend, watching the results come over live television. My friend’s parents asked me who I voted for, I replied without hesitation, “Kerry of course.” My friend’s mother shook her disagreeably and said, “You guys are young, you don’t understand. We’ll need to get them before they get us.” I was confused by that and asked, “What do you mean they?” “The terrorists,” she said.
Ever since that fateful day on September 11, 2001, the American psyche has been trained and focused on the new Red Scare, where the communists have been replaced by Muslims or simply anyone who appears to be Muslim. The American public now sees Muslims as only a possible threat. Echoing back to what my friend’s mother said to me on the night of the 2004 election, the American public has embraced an irrational fear of the Muslim community in the U.S., which has been termed “Islamaphobia.” This exaggerated fear has helped foster this us verse them mentality against the Islamic community, as my friend’s mother stated back in 2004. Covert surveillance of Muslims by U.S. law enforcement and an increase in hate crimes against Muslims in the U.S. is now common place. According to a 2010 report by the FBI found that anti-Islamic hate crimes in the U.S. had rose by 50 percent over the pervious year, amounting to 2.4 percent of total hate crimes for 2010.
This past week, This American Life and film maker Sam Black aired the story of Craig Monteilh. A former FBI informant, who in 2006 was hired to infiltrate a Mosque and flush out possible terrorists in Orange County, CA, which came to be known as “Operation Flex.” The failed undercover operation shined some light onto how the FBI is spying on Muslims and has helped to strained relationships between law enforcement and the Muslim community. During Monteilh stint has an informant, he attempted to find radicalized Muslims plotting terror attacks, but instead found a group of guys who were more obsessed with playing xbox than carrying out Jihad. During the operation, Monteilh himself was reported to the FBI as a possible terrorist by the very so-called terrorists he was trying to uncover, due to Monteilh’s strange and frightening behavior.
In the end, no terror plots were uncovered and the only person arrested was Monteilh, who in an unrelated crime was convicted and served eight months in prison for conning two women out of $150,000, in an attempt to traffic human growth hormones. Monteilh attempted to sue the FBI over the arresting, stating that the FBI plotted to have him arrested after he became useless in “Operation Flex.” The suite was thrown out of court. Due to the fallout from “Operation Flex,” a second law suite had be filed on behalf of Monteilh against the FBI, this time by The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR). The very group of people who Monteilh was out to expose and have arrested, are now on his side, since Monteilh is a key witness in the case. The story plays out like a stranger than fiction hollywood movie that the Coen brothers wrote and directed, complete with laughs and a strange twist of fate at the end.