Interviews of 5,000 visa holders are concern to Muslim group
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Washington-based Islamic advocacy group, today expressed concern that plans by the Justice Department to interview some 5,000 young men who entered this country legally on non-immigrant visas since January of 2000, could create the impression of racial and religious profiling.
In a speech today in Washington, Attorney General John Ashcroft said the interviews were necessary to "expand our knowledge of terrorist networks operating within the United States." Officials said the interviews would be conducted with men from specific countries, but did not name them.
"American Muslims condemn terrorism in all its forms and hope to see the perpetrators of the September 11 terrorist attacks brought to justice. Unfortunately, this type of sweeping investigation carries with it the potential to create the impression that interviewees are being singled out because of their race, ethnicity or religion. We ask that all elements of due process and respect for civil liberties be adhered to as local and national authorities carry out these interviews," said CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad.
Awad added that he hopes the Justice Department will publish guidelines for these interviews, including the right of those being interviewed to have legal representation.
There are an estimated seven million Muslims in American and some 1.2 billion worldwide. Islam is one of the fastest growing religions in this country.