The Huffington Post recently published the disturbing account of Craig Monteilh and the time he spent as an FBI informant in a mosque. Although the article details many injustices committed against the Muslims in the mosque, the Huffington Post decided to run the story with the headline: “Former FBI Informant Craig Monteilh: FBI Encouraged Me To Sleep With Muslim Women For Intel.” The problem with this headline is that it reduced the larger, terrible problem of the violation of the civil rights of Muslims into a titillating account of whether or not one man coerced Muslim women into sleeping with him.
The actions of the FBI as represented by Craig Monteilh in this article are completely reprehensible. He collected for them emails, cell phone numbers, and associates who attended the mosque. He was given equipment to bug the offices of imams, as well as spaces used by local Muslim Student Unions. And yes, he dated and slept with Muslim women in exchange for information.
The attitude of the FBI in this case is completely indefensible. They completely violated the privacy of innocent citizens, who weren’t even accused of anything.
The total innocence of the Muslims in question is evident by the fact that absolutely no one initiated jihadist talk. Monteilh maintained that he had to provoke people frequently and basically coerce them to get them to express extremist tendencies.
In fact, the mosque was so far from extremist that they actually reported Craig Moteilh to the FBI, because they were suspicious that he might be a terrorist. They also filed a restraining order against him, because they were afraid of his radical leanings.
Basically, this is the story of a man who was sent to a community of innocents. Despite the fact that they were the exact model citizens, the type who said something when they saw something, they were still treated as criminals from the outset.
The Huffington Post devalued this enormous breach in privacy rights by choosing to frame the story in terms of his having allegedly slept with Muslim women. It is true that if he slept with the women after lying to them about who he was then that was coercion. It should be listed in the account of his crimes against the Muslim community.
But there is something exploitative in the way the Huffington Post reported the story. They chose to make the story salacious; they were promising their readers that they would get to read about something taboo and hot: Muslim women having sex. It is part of the larger problem of the fetishization of Muslim women.
We need to get to the point where problems facing the Muslim American community, very real problems such as the criminalization of anyone who happens to visit a mosque, are treated seriously. We would like them to be divorced from problematic fantasies about Muslim women. Let’s call this what it is: a violation of the basic rights of an entire community symptomatic of a larger distrust of the entire Muslim community. This isn’t the chance to engage in the exoticization of Muslim women.
Image from Americanfreepress