The use of informants to surveil the Muslim community is nothing new. Recently, the FBI announced that they were “losing informants” because they didn’t have the budget to pay them (due to the recent US government shutdown).
Informants are used by the FBI not only to surveil but also to agitate Muslims. As many mainstream news outlets have reported, the FBI will go so far as to entrap Muslims by using informants who pose as terrorists to coax mentally challenged Muslims and Muslims in desperate life situations to plan a terror attack. The FBI then swoops in at the last minute to foil this terror plot of their own making. It’s really sick and pointless, but it makes it look like the FBI is doing real anti-terror work.
Anyway, informants play a critical role in these kinds of malicious FBI activities. But could Muslim activists factor into this equation?
Think about. These activists are well placed in terms of being in touch with some of the most energetic segments of the Muslim community, Muslims who are dissatisfied with the status quo for one reason or another and are willing to act on that dissatisfaction. The FBI and other law enforcement agencies — i.e., forces that are meant to maintain the political and economic status quo — have a vested interest in monitoring these political activist elements and they have been doing so for decades, COINTELPRO being the most well-known example.
Now you might be thinking, “But Daniel, where is the evidence for this? Are you just wildly speculating here?” Glad you asked!
The National reports on the case of Blair Imani, the self-described “black, queer Muslim.” Imani recently had a mental breakdown on Twitter and revealed some interesting connections with the FBI.
So, what Imani says in the last tweet is that she was in contact with the FBI for some period of time and it took her a year to grasp the ramifications of that connection. Only in January of 2019 did she express coming to the realization that maybe there is something problematic with having that kind of relationship with the FBI and how that could be reminiscent of COINTELPRO and other informant programs. She also acknowledges that people might not trust her because of all this. As we used to say as kids growing up in the 90’s: No doy.
I am not saying that Imani is clearly an informant or ever was one. It is possible for a person to unwittingly be an informant. Like any law enforcement agency engaged in covert operations, the FBI uses a variety of psychological techniques to manipulate subjects for their own purposes. Perhaps Imani was manipulated in this way and only came to the realization that she was being used well after the fact. Allahu `alam.
The point here, however, is that there could be other activists being manipulated in the same way. There could even be activists who aren’t being manipulated but are willing informants. We see how certain Muslim activists are outspoken in criticizing the Muslim community, criticizing Muslim imams, going on and on about how they are “unmosqued.” Such people might feel a moral justification in reporting Muslims to law enforcement.
Let’s not forget that until very recently, some Muslims were arguing adamantly for CVE: Countering Violent Extremism, the program Obama created to police mainstream Muslims under the guise of preventing terrorism. But most of those people advocating for CVE shut up when Trump took office out of fear of losing legitimacy in the community by being connected to the Trump administration in any way, even though the substance of the CVE program didn’t change from Obama to Trump. Nonetheless, certain Muslim organizations, like Ta’leef Collective, were still tangled in Trump’s CVE money in one form or another, a fact they didn’t publicize for obvious reasons.
When we look at the kind of mainstream access certain activists get in the political and media arena, we, as the wider Muslim community, have to ask questions. There is no such thing as a free lunch. All access comes at a price. What price have these activists paid?
Look at Imani’s bio, for example:
BLAIR IMANI is a black queer American Muslim activist. She is the founder and executive director of Equality for HER, a nonprofit educational platform for feminine-identifying individuals. As a political journalist and commentator, she has appeared on Fox News and MSNBC, and has guest lectured at Yale and Harvard Universities. She has written for the Huffington Post and VICE and has been featured in Nylon,Teen Vogue, Salon, Broadly, VICE, This American Life, The 405, Public Radio International, and Bustle.
Her book was published by one of the major American publishers: Penguin Random House. There is a reason why a “feminist, queer Muslim” is being featured in all these places and promoted as a model Muslim. It is not a coincidence. This is the kind of Muslim the US political and media establishment are very pleased with: The Cultural Muslim. Muslim as purely political identity divorced from all the tenets and normative values of Islam. Of course they are going to highlight a deviant like her. She checks off all the boxes.
And she still thinks she is the one who is oppressed.