FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III yesterday encouraged the American Muslim Council to cooperate with the FBI to prevent future terrorist attacks and criticized some of the organization’s members for their past support of terrorism.
In a speech in Alexandria that had been criticized by some organizations because of the AMC’s history of supporting terrorist groups, such as Hamas and Hezbollah, Mr. Mueller the keynote speaker for the group’s 11th annual meeting called on the members “as Americans to continue working with us to defeat terror.”
“As I am sure you are aware, my appearance here today has generated some controversy. And while that did not deter me from coming, as with most such matters, I believe it is best to address it openly,” Mr. Mueller said.
“My reason for being here is simple: to continue our discussion and help build a relationship that I am convinced is beneficial to us all. But I think it is also important to be open and frank about the concerns of those who urged me not to attend,” he said.
Mr. Mueller told the organization that despite the shock and outrage it expressed after the September 11 terrorist attacks, “You have not always spoken with one voice.
“Unfortunately, persons associated with this organization have in the past made statements that indicate support for terrorism and for terrorist organizations,” he said.
“I think we can Muslims and non-Muslim alike justifiably be outraged by such statements,” he said
” No perceived political or other agenda justifies acts of terrorism.
“We need to pull together as a nation. We in the FBI need to do our part, and we are counting on the American Muslim community to do its part. I look forward to working with members of your community in the weeks and months ahead,” he said.
Mr. Mueller’s comments were greeted with applause by the nearly 100 AMC members in attendance, although two early protesters opposed to the detention by the Justice Department of Middle Eastern men in the wake of the September 11 attacks sought to disrupt the session.
The men, who were quickly hustled out of the meeting, carried signs reading, “Shame on Mueller” and “The FBI Should Protect Americans From Terror.”
Mr. Mueller, who rejected demands that he cancel the speech, urged the AMC members to report suspicious activity to the FBI, adding that it could help prevent future attacks.
“I appreciate the help and support many in the American Muslim communities have already given us, especially over the past nine months, and I call on you, as Americans, to continue working with us to defeat terror,” he said. “As we all know, it will be a long and difficult struggle.”
Mr. Mueller told the organization he was aware the Muslim community had “suffered in other ways” after the September 11 attacks, including the questioning of their loyalty to the United States because of their race and religion.