How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Making sense of the new hate crime numbers

Photo by seanbonner/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A church sign in Los Angeles, January 2010

This week, both the FBI and the Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations released reports on 2010 hate crimes statistics; a few months ago, the California Department of Justice released hate crime numbers for the state.

Going just by the headlines this week, the messages have been mixed. "Hate crimes drop to 21-year low in L.A. County," reads a headline today in the Los Angeles Times, while NBC Los Angeles' website displayed a more ominous sounding "Hispanics Top Target of Hate Crimes."

Which is it, bad news or good? A bit of both. While overall hate crimes in Los Angeles county have declined, down to 427 in 2010 from 593 in 2009, anti-Latino hate crimes within the county lines are up somewhat. This is reflected in the state numbers, which show the number of overall hate crimes in California staying fairly flat since 2009, but the number of anti-Latino crimes rising.


Readers sound off on racial-ethnic profiling

Photo by Jeffrey Beall/Flickr (Creative COmmons)

A post from Friday that featured five American Muslims discussing racial-ethnic profiling in light of the New York Police Department's Muslim profiling case, a report on FBI profiling and other recent news drew a long string of comments over the weekend, and the discussion among readers continues on the site.

The reactions have been surprisingly civil, considering. Some readers believe that law enforcement officials are within their rights to target specific ethnic communities for surveillance, while others hold firm that this kind of law enforcement action is an infringement on the civil rights of law-abiding Americans. Here's a taste of the discussion that's been taking place:

The first comment this weekend came from Jason Van Bemmel, who wrote:

How do we expect anti-terror law enforcement to protect us from future terrorist attacks if they do not monitor communities most likely to have terrorists in them?  The terrorists who have attacked us and who have plotted to attack us are Muslims.  That doesn't mean that all Muslims are terrorists or even that most Muslims harbor or sympathize with terrorists.  However, if you're looking for Islamic terrorists, the place to watch is Islamic communities.  That's really just common sense and good police strategy.  We cannot realistically expect them to do otherwise.


Five American Muslims on racial-ethnic profiling: 'This is my country. I feel insulted.'

Photo by Jeffrey Beall/Flickr (Creative COmmons)

Over the past several weeks, a growing number of law enforcement documents have surfaced pointing to the institutional profiling of Muslims in the decade after the September 11, 2001 terror attacks. First, an Associated Press investigation revealed a large-scale New York Police Department effort to collect intelligence on Muslims in the New York area, with police conducted surveillance on Muslim neighborhoods, mosques and businesses, even checking out immigrants who changed their names to sound more American.

Also controversial has been the use of counterterrorism training materials by the Federal Bureau of Investigations, under fire for using materials portraying Muslims in a negative light. And late last month, the American Civil Liberties Union issued a report alleging that the FBI targeted specific ethnic communities across the United States based on race, ethnicity, religion and nationality for potential criminal investigation.


What's alleged in the FBI Muslim surveillance lawsuit

Photo by sadaqah/Flickr (Creative Commons)

The Islamic Center of Irvine, a mosque allegedly targeted by the FBI informant

A federal lawsuit filed earlier this week alleges that a former FBI informant, an ex-fitness instructor and ex-convict named Craig Monteilh, violated Muslims' freedom of religion when he spied on Orange County mosques for the FBI between 2006 and 2007.

Monteilh posed as a new convert to Islam, the lawsuit alleges, recording conversations and meetings with a device hidden in his key ring and a camera embedded in a shirt button.

What did some of these conversations entail? According to the complaint, the informant pressed people on the topic of "violent jihad," scaring some at the Islamic Center of Irvine to the point of calling the cops:

Agents Allen and Armstrong had instructed Monteilh to ask general questions about jihad from the beginning of the operation. In early 2007, they instructed him to start asking more pointedly about jihad and armed conflict, then to more openly suggest his own willingness to engage in violence.

Pursuant to these instructions, in one-on-one conversations, Monteilh began asking people about violent jihad, expressing frustration over the oppression of Muslims around the world, pressing them for their views, and implying that he might be willing or able to take action.

In about May 2007, on instructions from his handlers, Monteilh told a number of individuals that he believed it was his duty as a Muslim to take violent actions, and that he had access to weapons.

Many members of the Muslim community at ICOI then reported these statements to community leaders, including Hussam Ayloush. Ayloush both called the FBI to report the statements and instructed the individuals who had heard the statements to report them to the Irvine Police Department, which they did.