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FBI mosque count raises constitutional issues. (In the Capital).

FBI Director Robert Mueller has ordered the bureau's field offices to start documenting the number of mosques in their areas as part of the federal government's ongoing efforts to combat terrorism, according to news media accounts in January.

A Jan. 28 article in The New York Times reported that a senior FBI official told congressional staff in a secret meeting that the bureau would use the information to help measure the number of terrorism investigations that the various field offices should be expected to open and pursue. The Times piece quoted an unnamed congressional aide as calling the FBI order "pure profiling at its worst form."

Criticism from civil liberties and muslim groups was swift. Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), said the FBI directive would undermine religious freedom and should be rescinded.

An FBI spokesman, however, told The Washington Times in early February that the counting of mosques was not part of the FBI's investigation of terrorism, but would instead be used to investigate hate crimes and vandalism against Arab-Americans and mosques. Daniel Pipes, a frequent critic of Islam, wrote in a New York Post op-ed that the FBI should not "hide its counterterrorism efforts." According to Pipes, it is common knowledge that "some mosques throughout the West have been used as a base for terror...."

The Patriot Act, which Congress and the president hurriedly set into law after the 9-11 attacks, grants the FBI greater access to mosques and other houses of worship to conduct terrorism investigations.
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Publication:Church & State
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2003
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