With the presidential debates and upcoming election, the FBI isquestioning the nation’s Arab and Muslim populations, in aneffort to gather intelligence to prevent a terrorist attack.
This May, Attorney General John Ashcroft andFBI Director Robert S. Mueller III announced the interviewingprogram. Though focused mainly in the debate states andseveral others, numerous citizens are being questioned. Manycitizens of Arab descent are still faced with discrimination threeyears after the September 11 attacks, and feel that thisinterviewing program is adding insult to injury.
Nihad Awad, the executive director of theIslamic interest group, the Council on American-Islamic Relations(CAIR) criticized the operation. In July, Awad told Los AngelesTimes reporters,
“The way it’s being done stigmatizes theentire community and makes Muslims objects of suspicion to theirneighbors and co-workers…This is not right. This ismore politics than security…Muslims should be enlisted inthe war on terror, not blacklisted.”
Of the stigma that has been attached toIslamic denizens, Mahmoud Noubany, president of the Islamic Centerof Tucson, said in a September 8 Tucson Sun article, “We’re hurtmore by it than the average person…Only the Muslims arelabeled because of the acts of a few. We chose this countryto be our home…We live in this community and we want to bean integral part of it.”
Arizona Muslims were under fire up until thisweek’s 90-minute presidential debate in Tempe, AZ.
The FBI’s Arizona spokesperson SusanHerskovitz has said in several media outlets that the real concernis “an attack on American soil,” and identifyingpotential threats to national security and that the questioningprogram “isn‘t really targeting any group.” Executive Director of the Phoenix chapter of the CAIR, DeedraAbboud begs to differ.
According to the Associated Press, Abboudsaid, “They are contacting Muslims they‘ve alreadycontacted, and contacting ones they haven‘t met. Theytell us they are not using ethic profiling- we tend to disagree,but we won‘t deny they are interviewing other people. You tend to wonder if you‘re on a list- why they are at yourdoor. You feel like you‘re under investigation even ifyou are not.”
In the Arizona Daily Star, Abboud also saidthat, “There’s a lot of fear of misperception ormisconception. We wanted to try to find a way to work withthe FBI to help them get the information they need and help ourcommunity feel less targeted. We need to show the communitythat the FBI is not necessarily the enemy. Even though wedon’t always like how they do it, we want to be part of how they doit.” FBI agents in Arizona have been “very good” intheir sensitivity toward Muslims, she said.