- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 13, 2003

WASHINGTON, Feb. 13 (UPI) — FBI Director Robert Mueller has invited American Muslim leaders to discuss the agency's response to terrorist threats. The meeting, scheduled for Tuesday, will also discuss the backlash against Muslims following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

An FBI letter, received Thursday by Muslim organizations, says the director wants to address "the issues regarding the agency's response to terrorist threats and backlash hate crimes against the members of the American Muslim community."

American Muslims "are fearful of backlash, discrimination, and hate crimes against them and against other American minorities, including new immigrants and people with dark complexion as the levels of threats are raised," said Yahya Basha, one of the leaders invited to the meeting. Basha heads the American Muslim Council, an umbrella organization representing dozens of Muslim groups across North America.

"The current difficult climate is giving rise to hate crimes, abuse, and mistreatment of the community members, he added.

Basha also urged Muslims to participate in mainstream American politics if they want to be heard and take part in the ongoing dialogue on cultural, social and cultural issues concerning minorities.

A new law, enacted after the first anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States, requires people from many Muslim nations to register with the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

They are also photographed and fingerprinted when they report for registration.

Hundreds of Muslims have been detained for lacking proper documents when they reported for registration and Muslim advocacy groups fear that the registration process could lead to the deportation of thousands of Muslims from the United States.

On Dec. 24, four major Muslim advocacy groups filed a class action lawsuit against U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, claiming that on Dec. 16-18, the INS unlawfully arrested large numbers of people, especially in Los Angeles, as they came forward to voluntarily comply with new "special registration" requirements.

The groups — the Alliance of Iranian Americans, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, the Council on American Islamic Relations, and the National Council of Pakistani Americans — are seeking an injunction to avoid a repetition of December's mass arrests.

They say the arrests were illegal because the government did not obtain the necessary arrest warrants.

They are also seeking an injunction preventing the deportation of detainees who have avenues available to legalize their status, and an injunction requiring that the INS not hold detainees without bond or bond hearings if the detainee has available a mechanism to legalize their status.

Muslim advocacy groups also claim that at least 15 Muslims and a Sikh have been killed in the backlash hate crime attacks on their community across North America.

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