(WASHINGTON, D.C., 9/1/13) — The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation's largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, today issued an advisory reminding Syrian-Americans of their legal responsibilities and rights when contacted or visited by law enforcement authorities.
CAIR's advisory comes amid reports that FBI agents “are expected to interview hundreds of Syrians in the coming days” as the United States is poised to launch a military attack on that nation. The Washington-based civil rights group has also received reports that Syrian-Americans who travel to the Middle East have been approached by military authorities when they return to the United States.
In its advisory to the American Muslim and Syrian-American communities, CAIR said:
American Muslims strongly support law enforcement and the protection of our national security. As Americans, we also value the civil rights of every individual. All Americans have the constitutional right to due process and to be represented by an attorney.
Know your responsibility as an American Muslim:
If you know of any criminal activity taking place in your community, it is both your religious and civic duty to immediately report such activity to local and federal law enforcement agencies.
Know your rights when contacted by a law enforcement officer:
- Understand that providing information to the FBI or any law enforcement officer, absent a subpoena, is strictly voluntary. You are not obligated under law to answer any questions from law enforcement officers other than providing them with an official identification card.
- You may choose to have an attorney accompany or represent you for any interview or questioning. We strongly recommend you consult with an attorney regarding the risks and benefits of being interviewed by law enforcement agents in your specific case. CAIR may provide legal assistance, or can refer you to an attorney.
- If FBI agents show up at your home or workplace and do not have a search or arrest warrant, you have no obligation to let them in.
- If they do have an arrest or search warrant, you can still exercise your right to remain silent. Comply with all directives and do not physically resist an officer. Be polite and respectful at all times. You also have the right to an attorney.
- If an agent or officer says they have some questions for you, you have the right to not speak to them and/or you may tell the agents or officers that you will have your attorney contact them if they wish to speak to you. Again, CAIR can provide legal assistance, or can refer you to an attorney.
- Note that anything you say to an agent or officer can be used against you in a court of law and that lying to an agent or officer is a criminal offense.
- Should you decide to speak to agents alone despite the risks, note that you may set the conditions of the interview, including choosing when and where the interview is to take place, having a third party present such as a family member or community leader, deciding which questions to answer, and refusing to sign any documents. You may cancel the interview at any time. (Ask the agent if you may record the interview.)
- Be sure to get the names, agencies, badge numbers, and business cards of all agents or officers.
- Contact your attorney and/or CAIR to report the interview/incident and to discuss what may happen next. If you feel that your civil rights were violated, you may also file a complaint with the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division. CAIR can help you with this process.
- To file a civil rights complaint with CAIR, please visit: http://www.cair.com/civil-rights/report-an-incident.html
CAIR is America's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.
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CONTACT: CAIR Staff Attorney Gadeir Abbas, 720-251-0425, firstname.lastname@example.org; CAIR National Legal Counsel Nadhira Al-Khalili, 202-646-6034, email@example.com; CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-744-7726, firstname.lastname@example.org; CAIR Communications Manager Amina Rubin, 202-341-4171, email@example.com