The FBI interrogated Muslims in eight states over the weekend, apparently trying to gather information on possible Al Qaeda threats for Election Day, according to a Muslim civil rights organization.
Hassan Shibly, lawyer and executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), alleged that FBI agents approached a number of Muslim individuals of Pakistani and Afghan origin. The law enforcement agency questioned them about their connection to Al Qaeda leaders killed by U.S. airstrikes and general knowledge of any possible threat to U.S. public safety. Shibly said the investigations were baseless and unfair.
"The FBI actions . . . to conduct a sweep of American Muslim leaders the weekend before the election is completely outrageous and . . . borderline unconstitutional," Shibly told The Washington Post. "That’s the equivalent of the FBI visiting churchgoing Christians because someone overseas was threatening to blow up an abortion clinic. It’s that preposterous and outrageous."
Authorities announced Friday they were looking into potential Election Day threats by Al Qaeda in New York, Texas and Virginia. No specific plot was being investigated, however, local authorities were reportedly on high alert. In an online publication, the Islamic State group called Saturday for "slaughter" and "mayhem" at the polls and urged Muslims not to participate in the election.
Shibly contacted FBI agents who had left their business card after questioning some of the Muslim individuals who reached out to CAIR. The agents claimed the individuals, who were from Florida, Michigan, Texas, California, Washington, Pennsylvania, Kansas and Oklahoma, were not under investigation or suspected of any wrongdoing. Shibly suggested that the damage was done and condemned the FBI for voter intimidation.
FBI Director James Comey has come under heat for announcing 11 days before Election Day that authorities were re-examining their case against Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and her use of a private email server while in office as Secretary of State. Clinton's supporters as well as officials from the Justice Department criticized Comey for a move they considered politicized. Shibly drew an analogy between the FBI's targeting of Clinton and interrogation of Muslims in the days leading up to the election.
Despite facing a reactionary backlash, Muslims have taken an increasingly active role in politics. The Muslim vote is reportedly expected to top other religious demographics and will be crucial for a number of swing states, such as Florida, Michigan, Ohio and Virginia.