U.S. Muslims Shouldn’t Talk With FBI Unless They Have a Lawyer, Activist Tells Senators

By Penny Starr | March 30, 2011 | 4:01 AM EDT

Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) said at the March 29, 2011 hearing focusing on American Muslims and their civil rights that it is the civic duty of every American to help fight domestic terror threats. (CNSNews.com/Penny Starr)

(CNSNews.com) –  A Muslim civil rights activist told Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) that she stands by the advice posted on her Web site that tells Muslims not to speak with the FBI or other law enforcement personnel unless a lawyer is present.

Kyl said he was “stunned” that Farhana Khera, president and executive director of Muslim Advocates, would “issue those kind of instructions,” given the connection between many domestic terror attacks and radical Islam and the importance of cooperation from American Muslims to help thwart those attacks.

“I would think that Muslim Americans would feel a special obligation to help intelligence agencies root this out,” Kyl said Tuesday at a hearing on the civil rights of American Muslims held by the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights.

On the home page of the Muslim Advocates Web site under the heading “URGENT COMMUNITY ALERT: Seek Legal Advice Before Talking to FBI,” the warning reads:

“The FBI is contacting Pakistani, South-Asian and other Muslim Americans to solicit information and advice about addressing violent extremism. Muslim Advocates strongly urges individuals not to speak with law enforcement officials without the presence or advice of an attorney.”

The two-page alert states cooperation with law enforcement without a lawyer present “places you and your family at great risk of criminal prosecution or adverse immigration consequences (including deportation),” and “there is no legal obligation to speak to law enforcement officials.”

Farhana Khera, president and executive director of the Muslim civil rights group Muslim Advocates, defended her advice to American Muslims not to cooperate with law enforcement unless a lawyer is present at the March 29, 2011 Senate hearing. (CNSNews.com/Penny Starr)

The alert further says, “If approached by the FBI or law enforcement, ask for their business cards and say that your lawyer will contact them.”

Kyl recited a long list of cases from the last couple of years involving suspects with ties to radical Islam, including American Muslims who apparently had been radicalized. These included the following:

Nov. 27, 2010: Mohamed Osman Mohamud was arrested and charged with attempting to explode a car bomb at a Christmas tree lighting in Portland, Oregon. 

Oct. 27, 2010: Farooque Ahmed was arrested for attempting to assist others whom he believed to be members of al Qaeda in planning multiple bombings on the Metro in Washington, D.C. 

Oct. 19, 2010: Jordanian National Hosam Smadi was sentenced to 24 years in prison for attempting to blow up a skyscraper in Dallas, Texas in 2009.

Oct. 18, 2010: A federal court in Manhattan found James Cromitie, Onta Williams, Laguerre Payen and David Williams IV guilty of attempting to detonate explosives near two synagogues in the Bronx and a plan to shoot down U.S. military planes in Newburgh, New York in 2009.

Aug. 2, 2010: Russell Defreitas and Abdul Kadir were convicted of a conspiracy to attack John F. Kennedy Airport by exploding fuel tanks under the airport in 2007.

June 21, 2010: Faisal Shahzad pleaded guilty to attempting to detonate a car bomb in Times Square, New York in May 2010 and was sentenced to life in prison. 

March 18, 2010: David Headley pleaded guilty to charges that he participated in planning the November 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India, which killed 164 people.

Kyl said every American has a responsibility to fight terrorism.

“It seems to me that it’s the civil obligation of all Americans to assist in preventing these heinous crimes, especially given the participation of Muslims in all the attempted attacks that I mentioned,” Kyl said. “I would think that Muslim Americans would feel a special obligation to help intelligence agencies root this out.”

Khera said she was aware of the terrorist threat, including her personal experience of being at the U.S. Capitol on Sept. 11. But she said it is every American’s right to have a lawyer.

“So you stand by the statement on your Web site?” Kyl asked.

“I stand by all the statements on my Web site,” Khera said.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), chairman of the subcommittee, had only praise for the hearing, and its witnesses – aside from Khera, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, archbishop emeritus of Washington, and Tom Perez, assistant attorney general for the U.S. Department of Justice’s civil rights division, testified.

Durbin said that anti-Muslim “hate crimes, employment discrimination, bullying in schools, restrictions on mosque construction and Quran burnings” should be stopped.

“It is our government's responsibility to prevent and punish this kind of illegal discrimination,” Durbin said. “And it is incumbent upon all Americans who love this nation and the values our Constitution protects to make it clear to defend the civil rights of our Muslim neighbors are as important as the rights of Christians, Jews, and non-believers.”