The FBI”s announcement last week that agents would be questioning more than 70 Arab Americans in the Ann Arbor area has left some Muslim students at the University fearing they might be singled out as terrorists based on their ethnicity, gender and age.
Eastern Michigan U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Collins and Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Cares wrote a letter last week to more than 560 Arab Americans in southeastern Michigan asking them to schedule an interview as part of the investigation into the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
While no University students have yet been identified as being on the list, the letter has frightened some students who fear it unintentionally targets students at the University living in Ann Arbor on visas. The letter states: “Your name was brought to our attention because, among other things, you came to Michigan on a visa from a country where there are groups that support, advocate, or finance international terrorism.”
University officials say they are unaware of any students being included on the list. But LSA senior Kenan Mossa-Basha said several members of the Muslim Student Association have received the letter and are waiting to schedule an interview while others believe they will soon be contacted by the FBI because they fit the same profile as terrorists involved in the Sept. 11 attack.
“My biggest fear stems from the fact that the list is made up entirely of Arab males, ages 18 to 25,” Mossa-Basha said. “Terrorism comes in all shapes and sizes and my only fear is that this might turn into a case of racial profiling.”
University Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Diane Brown said DPS has not received word that students or faculty are involved in this investigation. While the list of people who are being questioned is secret, Brown said the FBI has been closely watching these people over an extended period of time.
“We still have not been officially contacted by any government agency,” Brown said. “The federal agencies are not any particular obligation to contact us before questioning students, but as far as I know, they have not yet asked us for any student records.”
Brown said if the FBI does contact her office, the University will only address concerns with students living in the residence halls unless the FBI asks for specific student files.
FBI Special Agent Maria Llompart in Detroit said the investigation was initiated by the U.S. Attorney”s office and the FBI is in charge of executing the interviews.
The interviews are designed to follow the status of United States immigrants and make sure they are here for a specific and valid purpose, Llompart said.
She said the interviews are designed for “people who are from another country, and come to this country on a temporary basis. We just want to make sure they are who say they are, so we do some (intelligence) gathering.”
Ann Arbor Police Chief Daniel Oates said he has not been contacted by the FBI but that he intends to cooperate with any requests. He is working to hold a meeting between FBI and immigration officials and leaders of Ann Arbor”s Muslim community to confront any fears residents may have regarding the interviews.
“The best thing would be to get their approval of this,” Oates said.
Interviews will be carried out on a voluntary basis and residents will have the opportunity to have attorneys present during the interview, Oates said, based on several informal conversations with the FBI bureau in Detroit.