Editor's note: This contribution by the late journalist I.F. Stone first appeared in our January 1975 magazine.
If you’re a Christian, you wouldn’t want the FBI planting informants in the next pew when you’re at church.
You wouldn’t want that informant trying to entice your teenage son into committing violent acts.
And you wouldn’t want your priest to be pressured by federal agents to spy on your congregation.
Yet the FBI is engaging in all of these activities in American Muslim congregations.
In one case — that of ex-convict and FBI informant Craig Monteilh, who pretended to be a congregant in order to spy on numerous mosques in Southern California — the FBI even wanted to build a gym to attract young Muslims to work out and “discuss jihad.” Ironically, mosque elders became alarmed by Monteilh’s behavior and alerted the local FBI office.
In another incident, a Miami imam was threatened with deportation if he didn’t spy on his congregants.
You might say that because of the actions of a few violent Muslims, such actions are justified.
But in the last month alone, we’ve witnessed the violent plans and wishes of a few Christians. A Southern California minister and former vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention, the Rev. Wiley Drake, prayed for God to kill the 219 members of Congress who approved health care legislation. And FBI agents in Michigan arrested members of the Hutaree, a “Christian militia,” whose twisted, apocalyptic version of Armageddon motivated their plan to kill police officers and spark a national uprising against the federal government.
But the FBI should not take these examples as an excuse to begin infiltrating all churches around the country.
Yet FBI agent provocateurs have infiltrated mosques, without evidence of wrongdoing by religious leaders or congregants, in places like New York, Florida and Southern California. The FBI defends these violations of Americans’ constitutionally protected right to freedom of religion and has even codified these new powers in its agents’ guidelines.
All Americans, regardless of faith, should be free to pray without the government listening over their shoulders. The only One hearing our prayers should be God.
Farhana Khera is executive director of Muslim Advocates, a national legal advocacy and educational organization based in San Francisco. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.