LOS ANGELES — U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has invoked state secrets rules to prevent information from being released in a lawsuit filed by Southern California Muslims who claim the FBI monitored their activities solely because of their religion.
In a legal declaration filed late Monday, Holder makes a rare assertion of the state secrets privilege, arguing that it could cause significant harm to national security if the government is forced to reveal the subjects of a mosque-surveillance operation in 2006 and describe how the monitoring was carried out.
The FBI has said it does not initiate counterterrorism operations based solely on a group’s religion.
SAN FRANCISCO — A federal appeals court unanimously reinstated a lawsuit Tuesday filed by a Muslim woman who accused Southern California jailers of violating her religious freedom when they ordered her to take off her head scarf in a courthouse holding cell.
An 11-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals also said plaintiff Souhair Khatib had the right to wear the scarf unless jailers can show it was a security risk.
Khatib filed the lawsuit in 2007 against Orange County. She had been jailed for several hours in November 2006 after a judge revoked her probation for a misdemeanor welfare fraud conviction.
As the revolt has transfixed the world, scores of Egyptian Americans throughout Southern California have also joined the call for the embattled Mubarak to step down.
They have demonstrated at the Egyptian Consulate in Los Angeles. They are fasting in solidarity with the protesters. They have written missives of support for the people, including Nobel laureate and Caltech professor Ahmed Zewail, who returned to Egypt this week and is widely seen as a leading candidate for a post-Mubarak government position.
Suliman A. Suliman, president of the Los Angeles-based Society of Egyptian Americans, said he would be open to allowing Mubarak to step down at the end of his term this fall so long as his corrupt government officials were swept out and genuinely free and fair elections were held.
A group of Muslim students accused of disrupting a speech by Israeli ambassador Michael Oren at the University of California, Irvine, were charged Friday with misdemeanor conspiracy counts, ending speculation about what would come from their actions nearly a year ago.
The 11 students each face one count of misdemeanor conspiracy to disturb a meeting and one count of misdemeanor disturbance of a meeting, the Orange County district attorney’s office said. If convicted, they could face anything from probation and community service to six months in jail.
The students were arrested Feb. 8, 2010, after shouting and protesting during Oren’s speech on U.S.-Israeli security, forcing the diplomat to stop his remarks for 20 minutes. Eight of the students were from UC Irvine, and three were from the nearby campus of the University of California, Riverside.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California said it is “deeply troubled” by the decision and called on the district attorney to dismiss the charges immediately.
“We are unaware of any case where a district attorney pressed criminal charges over this type of nonviolent student protest,” the ACLU said in a statement. “The district attorney’s action will undoubtedly intimidate students in Orange County and across the state, and discourage them from engaging in any controversial speech or protest for fear of criminal charges,” the statement said.
Since the 2001 terrorist attacks, the FBI has used informants successfully as one of many tactics to prevent another strike in the United States. Agency officials say they are careful not to violate civil liberties and do not target Muslims. But the FBI’s approach has come under fire from some Muslims, criticism that surfaced again late last month after agents arrested an Oregon man they said tried to detonate a bomb at a Christmas tree-lighting ceremony. FBI technicians had supplied the device.
In Irvine, California, a sting backfired when the infiltrated FBI informant, Craig Monteilh, himself was turned in by the mosque leaders as a possible jihadist. Muslims were so alarmed by his talk of violent jihad that they obtained a restraining order against him. He had helped build a terrorism-related case against a mosque member, but that also collapsed.
Compounding the damage, Monteilh has gone public, revealing secret FBI methods and charging that his “handlers” trained him to entrap Muslims as he infiltrated their mosques, homes and businesses. He is now suing the FBI.
Some Muslims in Southern California and nationally say the cascading revelations have seriously damaged their relationship with the FBI, a partnership that both sides agree is critical to preventing attacks and homegrown terrorism.
“The FBI wants to treat the Muslim community as a partner while investigating us behind our backs,” said Kurdi, the Loyola student. “They can’t have it both ways.”
The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California is demanding via federal court that the FBI release docusments on its surveillance of Muslim groups and mosques in the area.
Earlier this year, 46-year old father of three Craig Monteih said that he worked as an FBI informant and given the task to uncover suspected terrorist plots. Monteih came fortward saying that he feared for his life beause people may think he is a terrorist.
The ACLU of Southern California alleges that Monteih “baited religious leaders, created suspicion with his extremist rhetoric, and sent a chilling effect into an already wary community.” “Documents show that the FBI conducted extensive surveillance on lawful First Amendment activities of Muslim Americans where there appears to be no reasonable suspicion of criminal activity,” the ACLU/SC said in a statement.
In a somewhat surprising relationship, the Lost Angeles Times reports on the befriending of Mormons and Muslim in the United States. While the two religions have very little theology in common, both have some shared values and have felt a feeling of isolation from mainstream America. The Mormon Church has become the largest contributor to Buena Park-based Islamic Relief, touted by some as the West’s largest Muslim based charity. Relief officials say that $20 million in goods and services has been donated by the Mormon church since the 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia – about 20% of the charity’s annual budget. “We both come from traditions where there has been persecution in the past and continues to be prejudice… that helps us Mormons identify with Muslims” said Steve Gilliland, the LDS director of Muslim relations for Southern California. Muslims also echo the sentiment: “When I go to a Mormon church I feel at ease… When I heard the president [of LDS] speak a few years ago, if I’d closed my eyes I’d have thought he was an imam” said Haitham Bundakji, former chairman of the Islamic Society of Orange County.
LOS ANGELES: A Muslim woman arrested for riding a commuter train without a valid ticket has filed a federal lawsuit in the United States, claiming her religious freedom was violated when she was forced to remove her headscarf when she was taken to jail. Jameelah Medina also said she was intimidated by a deputy who accused her of being a terrorist and called Islam an “evil” religion, according to the suit filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California.
It grew out of the 1992 riots, a vision by a small group of Muslim medical students to bring charitable, high-quality healthcare to the needy residents of South Los Angeles. Eleven years later, the UMMA clinic on Florence Avenue has served nearly 20,000 patients, the great majority of them non-Muslim. It has become a mainstay of its largely low-income neighborhood, sponsoring blood drives, literacy promotions and even tax return workshops, along with its medical services. And in an era when Middle Eastern conflicts and terrorist attacks have often brought uncomfortable attention to America’s Muslim communities, the clinic has become a source of considerable pride for Muslims in Southern California and nationwide…
Families in Anaheim apartments say they are victims of religious and housing bias. Manager calls it just a landlord-tenant dispute. By David Reyes, Times Staff Writer Seven Muslim families filed a lawsuit Friday alleging religious and housing discrimination at an Anaheim apartment complex. The suit alleges that the owner and the manager of Chaumont Villas refused to make repairs to apartments, don’t allow Muslim children to play in public areas and have harassed Muslim families because of their faith. The suit was announced at a news conference in front of the complex at 1600 W. Broadway, attended by several tenants and representatives of the Southern California office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. The suit was filed in Orange County Superior Court on behalf of Tawfiq M. Mousa, Mustafa A. Suleiman, Waleed M. Abdullah, Jamal Almasri, Mohammed Wali Hakami, Abdullah T. Assaf and Issam H. Wahby. Listed as defendants were property management firm Swami International, businessman Ram K. Mittal, and corporations DKM Investments and RKM Investments. “This is nothing more than a landlord-tenant dispute,” said Pat Mitchell, a vice president for Swami, located in Rolling Hills Estates. Mousa said he, his wife and three children had lived three years in their $1,450-a-month, 3-bedroom unit with no problems until a new manager arrived at the complex a year ago. “Since then, there’s been a pattern of harassment against Muslims renting here,” said Mousa, 43, an engineer. Manager Bridgett Phillips yelled at Muslim children and chased them from common areas, and frequently referred to Muslim tenants with profanity, the suit alleges. Phillips, named as a defendant, could not be reached for comment. In June, the dispute escalated when Mousa circulated a petition seeking a new manager and asking for repairs to units, including fixing rusted plumbing and peeling paint. It was signed by two dozen Muslim and non-Muslim tenants at the 61-unit complex. “That’s when I was handed a 60-day eviction notice,” he said. But Mitchell said Mousa was evicted for causing friction between Muslim tenants and the apartment manager and said Mousa followed Phillips around the complex snapping her picture. “He has been harassing the manager and not allowing her to do her job,” Mitchell said. “We can’t have somebody creating a hostile environment.” Although Southern California is home to an estimated 500,000 Muslims, it’s a population that doesn’t file many housing complaints, said Connie Der Torossian, a spokeswoman for the Fair Housing Council of Orange County. “It’s a hard population to reach and similar to some of the ethnic minorities like Vietnamese,” Der Torossian said. “They’re afraid to make complaints out of fear of retaliation.” According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, 27 cases of religious discrimination were filed statewide in the year ending Sept. 1. Of those, five were brought by Muslims. Of the seven families that are plaintiffs in the suit, two have moved out of Chaumont Villas after they sought larger apartments there but were told none were available, said their attorney, Federico C. Sayre. The apartments were then rented to non-Muslims, the suit alleges.