On any given day, Mahmoud Alzebak can be found ringing up
orders at the specialty food store or readying a tray of freshly baked
spinach pies for customers at the lunch counter.
Is the FBI infringing on the rights of Muslims by asking them questions
they claim will help prevent terrorist attacks?
But nearly three weeks ago, the 24-year-old Palestinian found himself
answering questions -- not about food, but about ties to political or
militant groups during two rounds of interviews with a pair of curious FBI
"They asked me about Hamas, did I know them or if I knew of anyone that
would do America harm," said Alzebak, a newlywed who recently moved from
Chicago to Palm Bay to work with his cousins at the Holy Land Food store.
"I was shocked . . . it was the first time in my life I've ever been
through anything like that."
Alzebak was one of several Muslim men recently questioned in Florida by the
FBI following reports of increased "chatter" among groups plotting another
terrorist strike on U.S. soil.
A similar sweep of interviews occurred after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks
with federal agents interviewing at least 5,000 Muslim men across the
country. There were at least 30 people questioned then in Brevard, but FBI
officials would not say how many were questioned this time...
The Council on American-Islamic Relations has fielded at least half a dozen
complaints about such interviews in Central Florida.
"Some of these measures are counterproductive," said Ahmed Bedier, the
state spokesman for the Counsel on American Islamic Relations in Tampa.
"You alienate the people you're trying to get help from, and they feel like
you're targeting them..."