Washington, Jan. 28, 2003 (United Press International via COMTEX) -- A prominent U.S. civil rights and advocacy group urged the Department of Justice Tuesday to rescind a new policy directive to the FBI to count local mosques for inclusion in performance goals in counter terrorism investigations.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations made that demand following the publication of an article in Newsweek magazine detailing the policy instituted by FBI Director Robert Mueller earlier this month.

According to Newsweek, FBI field offices nationwide are to develop demographic profiles of their regions, including the number of local mosques. The profiles will then be used to set specific numerical goals for investigations and wiretaps in each area. If field offices do not meet their goals, they may be subjected to special reviews by teams from FBI headquarters.

"This policy makes about as much sense as counting Catholic churches in America in order to initiate an investigation of the Mafia, or as claiming the number of African Methodist Episcopal churches in a given area is indicative of the level of criminal activity. It is religious profiling of the worst kind and must be rescinded if America is to maintain respect for religious freedom and for equal justice under the law," said CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad.

He said that CAIR representatives have had a number of meetings with FBI officials to discuss issues related to anti-Muslim bias and that his group has encouraged American Muslims to do whatever they can to defend the United States against terrorism.

Awad added that the mosque-counting policy comes in the midst of an INS registration program under which hundreds of American Muslims have been detained, and sometimes deported. Muslim community leaders and immigration-rights activists say that program is also based on religious and ethnic profiling, a law enforcement tactic that is being heavily promoted by right-wing pundits.

Just this past week, a right-wing commentator who many American Muslims regard as the nation's leading Islamophobe, suggested that all Muslims in this country be placed under surveillance.

Daniel Pipes wrote in the Jerusalem Post: "Muslim government employees in law enforcement, the military, and the diplomatic corps need to be watched for connections to terrorism, as do Muslim chaplains in prisons and the armed forces. Muslim visitors and immigrants must undergo additional background checks. Mosques require a scrutiny beyond that applied to churches, synagogues and temples."

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