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FBI Director Says Muslims Aid in Inquiry

June 29, 2002|From Associated Press

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III thanked Muslim Americans on Friday for providing "substantive assistance" to the government investigation of the Sept. 11 attacks.

In a controversial appearance before the American Muslim Council, Mueller noted that some people associated with the group have made statements in the past that were supportive of terrorism.

But the FBI director said the organization has moved into the mainstream of American life and that "we must all be in this war ... together."

"A good relationship can only bear the fruit of a safer nation for us all," Mueller said.

Two rabbis held up signs protesting the FBI director's appearance and were ushered out of the meeting of several hundred people. There was a handful of calls beforehand for Mueller to cancel the speech.

The American Muslim Council's former executive director has been quoted as expressing support for the terrorist group Hamas.

Mueller defended his appearance, saying, "It is critically important for us to develop a strong relationship."

The United States has frozen the assets of some of the charities to which the council has urged its members to contribute, citing alleged links to terrorists.

Dr. Hahya Mossa Basha of Royal Oak, Mich., the council's board chairman, said the council does not support terrorists.

"The mission of the FBI is to protect Americans; it is not to have its director speak to an organization that has supported other organizations" linked to terrorism, said Rabbi Avi Weiss, a protester, in an interview. He is president of the Coalition for Jewish Concerns and senior rabbi at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, N.Y.

Mueller said many Muslims in the United States have volunteered to serve as Arabic translators. That allowed the FBI to double the number of its Arabic experts.

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