The lingering anxiety over whether men in the Muslim and Arab communities will be subject to further FBI inquiry should they decide not to interview with the U.S. Department of Justice as a part of their nationwide terrorism probe has left some feeling indecisive about participating.

“Some want to schedule (an interview), but some have chosen not to,” said Haaris Ahmad, director of Michigan”s Council for American/Islamic Relations. “People are still deciding what to do.”

Twenty area men had conducted interviews as of Wednesday, and about 200 men of the 560 in southeastern Michigan who were sent letters asking them to interview had responded, according to the U.S. attorney”s office for the eastern district of Michigan.

Kenan Basha, vice president of the Muslim Student Association, said people who have received a letter are still deliberating because they were not given much time to respond.

“The news hasn”t been able to filter,” Basha said. He added that although government officials have promised they will not take any legal action against those who decide not to conduct an interview, the possibility that they could has been a factor in people”s decisions.

“I guess people want to take care of it and get on with their lives,” Basha said. “They fear they will be investigated so they go through with it, even if there is a shot at their dignity.”

He said there is a view within the United States that the Muslim and Arab communities are angry with the government over civil liberties concerns, but in Ann Arbor, at least that has not been the case.

Actions carried out by southeastern Michigan officials have helped in reducing the confusion and anxiety felt by the Muslim and Arab community, Basha said.

“They have been so compliant and accommodating,” he said. “We”re appreciative of their efforts. They”ve held a lot of meetings really changed the process. They”ve showed (interviewees) that they are not implicated in the crime.”

Ahmad said community support has remained consistent throughout the week. “The AAPD has been checking in with us, seeing what is going on,” he said. “Lines of communication have been open. Everybody is spreading the word about the negotiated deal. Everybody wants to be the best prepared.”

Federal authorities, local police and community members reached a consensus at a closed-door meeting Monday permitting the remaining interviewees to decide where the interview would be held and who would be present. Community members requested that Ann Arbor police officers be present at the interviews. The University Department of Public Safety last week announced that its officers would not participate in the interviews.

Ahmad said the climate in the community has not changed significantly since Monday”s meeting, and many have been reluctant to make a decision because they have not been fully informed about the process.

“We”re not recommending either way just providing as much information as possible based on our meeting and what we”ve negotiated,” Ahmad said.

Authorities assured community leaders Monday that those who received a letter are not under suspicion of criminal or terrorist activities and also that nothing will happen to those who did not go through with the interviews.

In addition, during the interviews federal officials will not ask questions pertaining to immigration status.

“But many feel there is the possibility that later they will come around and harass you,” Ahmad said.

Approximately 80 letters have been sent from the FBI to University students and Ann Arbor residents of Middle Eastern descent between the ages of 18 and 33 who have entered the United States on student, business or tourist visas since January 2000. The letter requested a response by Tuesday, but the deadline was extended to next Monday to allow community members to inform interviewees about their civil liberties.

Ahmad said many men who have chosen to conduct the interview have requested that he and an attorney be present. “If they ask inappropriate questions in front of us, we will go back to the community,” Ahmad said. “But we”re confident that they will stick to it.”

The Ann Arbor mosque, interviewees” homes and the Muslim Student Association office in the Michigan Union have been some places people have requested for their interviews.

For more information about the interview process, letter recipients can call (734) 652-0345 to set up an appointment with Arab and Muslim leaders, lawyers or translators. The Washtenaw County American Civil Liberties Union will also be providing lawyers and has a hotline at (734) 769-0753.

University students, faculty and staff can seek counsel from Student Legal Services by calling 763-9920.

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