Tuesday, May 16, 2006
ACLU seeks FBI records on monitoring of Islamic groups
By ANN PEPPER
The Orange County Register
Six groups, including the Anaheim-based Council on American Islamic Relations in Southern California, filed a Freedom of Information Act request Monday asking about suspected law enforcement monitoring of Islamic religious institutions.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California filed the request on behalf of CAIR, the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California, area mosques and six leaders in the Muslim community. Four from Orange County include:
Muzammil Siddiqi, imam of the Islamic Society of Orange County in Garden Grove.
Hussam Ayloush, executive director at CAIR.
Sabiha Khan, CAIR spokeswoman.
Shakeel Syed, executive director of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California.
The federal government has 20 days to respond to the public-records request, which seeks to learn whether area mosques and community leaders are being monitored and, if so, why, said Ranjana Natarajan, the attorney handling the matter.
The Freedom of Information Act, which outlines request procedures, was enacted by Congress in 1966 to give the public greater access to the federal government's records. Natarajan said the ACLU decided to request FBI records after working with the Muslim community and conducting "know your rights" presentations at mosques.
Natarajan said worshippers at mosques have been asked what their imam is preaching, where they go and what they do on pilgrimages to Mecca, and for details about religious practices.
"People are asking me if it is safe to worship. People began to worry that maybe there is something wrong with going to the mosque," Natarajan said. "So they need to know, is there monitoring going on and, if so, why? If there is monitoring, can we assure people it is not just their religion that is being targeted, that there are other reasons?"
CAIR wanted the records request filed on the belief that no person or organization should be monitored because of peaceful religious practice, Khan said. There must be a legitimate probable suspicion of illegal activity, she said.
"Also, based on the history of innocent people who have gotten into trouble due to incompetence, human error or even untruthful informants, it is necessary to insist on transparency from our government," Khan said. "This is our right as Americans."
She pointed to American lawyer Brandon Mayfield, 37, a convert to Islam who was mistakenly arrested in 2004 in connection with terrorist train bombings in Spain. The case was dismissed, and the FBI later apologized.
Posted by Editor at 9:58 PM