The FBI has stopped quizzing Arab-American immigrants about potential
election-season terrorism. But the fear and resentment linger.
“Why me?” said Matt Daghstani, a Westlake engineer interviewed by the FBI
in August. “I have no criminal background. Why would I know more about
terrorism than anybody else?”
Daghstani, a Syrian native and U.S. citizen, said the FBI agents explained
only that “my name came through.”
In May, according to Angela Albanna of Fairview Park, two agents asked her
husband, Taha, about sums of up to $4,000 wired to his Jordanian homeland.
In truth, Angela, an American native, said she had wired the money to
relatives of Taha, a legal U.S. resident.
The agents also wondered if anyone had asked Taha, a trucker, to ship
illegal goods. And “they asked if we knew anyone who didn’t like Bush . . .
that we felt would be a threat against the president,” said Angela.
Angela, an American-born Muslim and a secretary at Cleveland’s Al- Ihsan
School of Excellence, said, “It’s nerve-racking when you have the FBI want
to come visit you.”
The sweep ran in 100 cities, including Cleveland, from May until the day
after the presidential election.
“We had nothing but total cooperation,” said Gary Klein, the FBI’s acting
But critics said the interviews scared Arab-Americans here and elsewhere,
already shaken by mass roundups, secret searches, hate crimes and other
un-American assaults since Sept. 11, 2001.
“The Muslim-American community is suffering tremendously,” said Isam Zaiem,
chairman of the Cleveland branch of the Council on American-Islamic
Relations. Zaiem accused the Bush administration of talking inclusively but