The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Washington-based Islamic advocacy group, today said raids Wednesday on a number of Islamic institutions and homes in Virginia and Georgia were a "fishing expedition" that will only serve to intimidate law-abiding Muslim citizens.
In a statement issued at a packed Capitol Hill news conference, where representatives of some 25 local, national and international media outlets attended, CAIR's Governmental Affairs Director, Jason Erb said:
"The Muslim community is deeply concerned about what appears to be a fishing expedition by federal authorities using McCarthy-like tactics in a search for evidence of wrongdoing that does not exist."
"Unfortunately, investigators are well aware that in the current climate of fear and prejudice, few people will ask the tough questions about why these respected individuals and groups were targeted. Vague and unsubstantiated references to 'links' or 'ties' to infamous names and organizations should not be a substitute for credible evidence."
"As in past incidents targeting American Muslim institutions, no one is being given their day in court to confront accusers or refute allegations. Where then does one go to retrieve a reputation damaged by an irresponsible and out-of-control investigation?"
"All Americans have a justifiable desire to feel secure in this time of international crisis. But security need not be gained by destroying the civil liberties and standards of due process that we all hold dear."
Groups represented at or endorsing today's news conference included CAIR, American Muslim Council, Islamic Circle of North America, Islamic Institute, Islamic Society of North America, Muslim Alliance in North America, and Muslim American Society.
In addition, a statement was issued by the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC). It stated that MPAC is gravely concerned over law enforcement raids of American Muslim homes and institutions that took place yesterday, March 20, 2002, in the greater Washington D.C. area and Georgia.
According to media reports, 150 law enforcement officers from agencies including Customs, Secret Service, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, FBI, Immigration and Naturalization Service, and the U.S. Postal Service served 14 search warrants in N. Virginia and one in Georgia.
The same day the Attorney General announced that he would engage in interviews of foreigners in this country based exclusively on the fact that they are Arab and Muslim, Federal law enforcement agents engage in a large-scale raid of not only American Muslim organizations, but homes. This "second phase" of raids and interviews announced by the Department of Justice is unjustifiable considering that the first raid yielded little or nothing in the way of intelligence or enhanced national security. Instead, these raids will further isolate and alienate law-abiding Muslims at a time when law enforcement should seek its cooperation.
Our community and organizations will continue to refuse to forfeit our rights as Americans, including basics such as the right to due process of the law and the full disclosure of law-enforcement action and evidence, if any, against our community.
There are an estimated seven million Muslims in American and some 1.2 billion worldwide.