(WASHINGTON, D.C., 3/26/2009) – At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing yesterday, FBI Director Robert Mueller was questioned about a statement by the American Muslim Taskforce on Civil Rights and Elections (AMT), a coalition of major national Islamic organizations, suggesting that the groups are considering suspending outreach relations with the FBI over recent incidents in which American mosques and Muslim groups have been targeted.
Mueller was also asked about new Justice Department guidelines that took effect in December of last year, which lower the threshold for beginning FBI investigations and allow race and ethnicity to be factors in opening a probe.
SEE: Fact Sheet – New Attorney General Guidelines (ACLU)
Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) asked Mueller:
“[W]e’ve discussed before the need for the FBI to gain the trust of the American Muslim community to assist in the effort to stop terrorism. And I was disappointed to learn of a recent statement from the American Muslim Task Force on Civil Rights and Elections signed by 10 leading U.S. Muslim organizations indicating that they are considering suspending their work with the FBI. According to a news report, quote, ‘The groups claim the FBI has sent undercover agents posing as worshippers into mosques, pressured Muslims to become informants, labeled civil rights advocates as criminals and spread misinformation,’ unquote. Can you determine and report to this committee whether mosques have been entered by FBI agents or informants without disclosing their identities under the authority of the attorney general guidelines and, if so, how many?”
Director Mueller responded in part: “I will say that we do not focus on institutions, we focus on individuals. And I will say generally if there is evidence or information as to individual or individuals undertaking illegal activities in religious institutions, with appropriate high-level approval, we would undertake investigative activities, regardless of the religion. But it would — we would single that out as an exceptionally sensitive circumstance that would require much vetting before that occurred…”
Sen. Feingold then asked: “Do you think that the new attorney general guidelines are helping or hurting the FBI’s relationship with the U.S. Muslim community? In light of this [AMT] statement, how do you plan to improve that relationship?”
SEE: FBI and American Muslims at Odds (Christian Science Monitor)
Mueller responded by saying his “expectation is that our relationships are as good now as before the guidelines” and he added that the Muslim community “has been tremendously supportive and worked very closely with [the FBI] in a number of instances around the country.”
To date, 27 groups and many community activists have endorsed AMT’s statement.
To endorse the AMT statement online, go here.
AMT is an umbrella organization that includes: American Muslim Alliance (AMA), American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), Muslim Alliance in North America (MANA), Muslim American Society-Freedom Foundation (MAS-FF), Muslim Student Association-National (MSA-N), Muslim Ummah of North America (MUNA), and United Muslims of America (UMA). Its observer organizations include: Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), and Islamic Educational Center of Orange County (IEC).
Media Contact: AMT Chair Dr. Agha Saeed, Tel: 510-299-9313, E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org