FBI interviews of Arab Americans nationwide seeking information about possible terrorists among them are "racist and humiliating," according to former Utahn Omar Kader.
"It's outrageous that in this day a federal agency can target an entire ethnic group," said Kader, former executive director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee."Can you imagine labeling all Jews, blacks or Hispanics as possible terrorists and interviewing them? They are doing that with Arab-Americans. And you don't see the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) or any one else complaining about it."
Kader's remarks came after press reports earlier this week that the FBI is interviewing 200 Arab American business and community leaders to collect information about possible terrorist threats, and to offer them protection against any backlash here.
But Kader - who was also a Brigham Young University professor and a Democratic activist in Utah - said those interviewed feel more threatened by the FBI. "They are being asked details about people they know. They may own a store that the Internal Revenue Service could create problems with if they don't cooperate. It's threatening."
Kader wrote FBI Director William Sessions to complain.
His letter said, "During the last five to 10 years, several FBI agents have attempted to interview me for the same stated reasons . . .. In each case, I have asked the same question, which I will now put to you.
"If you are interested in `protecting' Arab-Americans rather than intimidating us, why don't you demonstrate it by making a genuine effort to apprehend and prosecute the assassins of Alex Odeh."
Odeh, 45, was a Palestinian activist killed when a pipe bomb exploded as he opened his office door in Santa Ana, Calif., two days after the Achille Lauro terrorist incident in 1985. At the time, he was working for Kader at the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination League.
"All indications are that this terrorist act was the apparent work of the Jewish Defense League. The culprit took refuge in Israel and has not been extradited to this day. Few of us believe the FBI has made or is making an honest effort to bring this case to justice," Kader wrote Sessions.
Kader said Odeh's assassination created fear throughout the Arab-American community. "The names of several Arab-Americans, including my own, appeared on a `hit list' published by the JDL. However, no FBI agent appeared at that time to offer me protection or support."
He added, "Arab-Americans have no pattern of involvement in terrorist activity." But he wrote Sessions that the program to interview them and publicity about it "could easily lead to the subtle practices of social, economic and political discrimination.
"The blatant and obvious discriminatory policy of targeting a whole community, under the guise of attempting to guard against terrorism, is both sloppy law enforcement and racist at its core," he wrote.
Kader's parents are Palestinians who moved to Utah. Kader is a convert to the LDS Church and has been an activist in Palestinian issues. He is currently a security consultant, and - somewhat ironically - is considered an expert in anti-terrorism.