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the FBI wanted a count of all the mosques in their regional field offices. Now,
according to the Islamic Society of Frederick, Md., FBI agents who recently
requested a meeting with their leadership “mentioned casually” they would be
asking for a list of the society’s members.
This sent red flags up for the Islamic Society,
who immediately informed media outlets, interfaith partners and civil rights
groups. Local FBI officials then said they would not press for the list local
agents had requested.
“That the FBI is seeking lists of ordinary,
law-abiding American Muslims only serves to confirm the Islamic community’s
worst fears of religious and ethnic profiling,” said Council on American-Islamic
Relations (CAIR) Executive Director Nihad Awad.
“(FBI) Director Mueller needs to offer concrete
assurances that this disturbing incident is not a reflection of actual FBI
policy or the beginning of a crackdown on Islam in America. Any such policy
would contradict President Bush’s repeated declarations that the war on
terrorism is not an attack on Islam,” said Mr. Awad.
CAIR, a Washington-based Islamic civil rights and
advocacy group, called on FBI Director Robert Mueller, Feb. 20, to offer
assurances that American mosques are not being asked to turn over membership
lists to local agents. The group said such demands are a violation of civil and
religious rights that should be condemned by all Americans.
Mr. Awad has called on local Muslim communities
to report any FBI demands for membership lists by contacting CAIR. He added,
“One has to wonder how many mosques have already been intimidated into turning
over this kind of information.” In December 2002, Director Mueller instructed
FBI field agents to begin counting local mosques to determine goals for counter
terrorism investigations and secret wiretaps.
That policy immediately came under fire from
congressmen and national civil rights and advocacy groups. They asked the
Department of Justice to rescind the policy, which calls for FBI field offices
nationwide to develop demographic profiles of their regions, including the
number of local mosques.
The profiles would then be used to set specific
numerical goals for investigations and wiretaps in each area. If field offices
did not meet their goals, they could be subjected to special reviews by teams
from FBI headquarters.
In a letter to Attorney General John Ashcroft,
Congressmen John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Senator
Russell D. Feingold (D-Wisc.) wrote:
“We write to ask you to immediately terminate the
Justice Department’s new policy directing the fifty-six FBI field offices to
count the number of mosques and Muslims, as well as other community groups and
religious organizations, in their areas.
“We cannot sanction the targeting of Muslim
populations and mosques, or any other community group or institution, to gather
intelligence without any suspicion or cause that a specific individual or group
of individuals, or a particular mosque or religious organization, is engaging in
terrorist activities. We urge you to follow the constitutionally
prescribed channels of investigation to ensure that the rights of American
citizens are not violated…”
The request for the membership list and the
mosque-counting policy come in the midst of an INS registration program under
which hundreds of American Muslims have been detained, and sometimes deported.
Muslim community leaders and immigration-rights activists say that program is
also based on religious and ethnic profiling to target Muslims.