Congressman Jim Matheson stood in stocking feet before about 150 members of Utah's diverse Islamic community Saturday and promised to keep fighting what he views as the harshest aspects of the post-9-11 Patriot Act: unreasonable search provisions and racial profiling.
"I believe that some of the search provisions of that act go too far. I have voted to take those out," said Matheson, who held his first town meeting ever at the Khadeeja Islamic Center. The 2nd Congressional District Democrat removed his shoes before entering the main room of the mosque, in keeping with Islamic tradition.
Male Muslims gathered on the ground floor to hear and question Matheson; women members sat apart from the men upstairs, also in keeping with their religious custom.
The Patriot Act, which the Bush administration tailored in an effort to root out suspected terrorists living in the United States, gives federal law enforcement authorities unprecedented power to search homes and businesses, seize property and monitor activities of private citizens. Matheson reminded his audience the act was authorized by Congress "while the smoke was still rising from the Pentagon a couple of miles away" from the nation's Capitol.
The act is set to expire at the end of 2005.
"The Patriot Act has been a good object lesson for us. But as we move into this post-9-11 world, we want to react to global events in a rational way. Putting an expiration date on the act was a wise move. We will have lived with it for four years by then..."