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Muslims protest new U.S. restrictions

http://www.jewishworldreview.com | (UPI) -- Muslims have urged the United States not to block future immigration from Islamic countries as it would only aid those wanting to widen the gulf between the Islamic and the Western worlds.

Muslims have been reacting to a Justice Department directive asking male visitors from 13 additional countries to show up for fingerprinting and questioning at immigration offices nationwide starting Dec. 2.

Since 12 of the countries are Muslim, the move has increased the worries of American Muslims already living in a difficult environment since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

"This is profiling. It is just a way to put a halt to immigration from the Muslim countries," said Faiz Rehman, communication director for the American Muslim Council, an umbrella organization representing dozens of Muslim groups across the United States.

"The new immigration policy is only targeting Muslim countries," he added.

Rehman said that by stopping immigration from Muslim countries, the U.S. administration would be playing into the hands of those who want to further widening the gulf between the Islamic and Muslim worlds.

Syed Asif Alam of the New York-based Association of Pakistani Professionals referred to a recent statement by the Malaysian Prime Minister Mahatir Mohammed who said targeting Muslims would only encourage people such as Osama bin Laden who want to prevent the Islamic and the Western worlds from understanding each other.

"Such restrictions will change America for worse. It is the land of the free and it should remain so. Imposing restrictions against any group because of its color or creed goes against the American spirit," Alam said.

Although Pakistan is not on the list, through a secret memo, later confirmed by U.S. officials, the Justice Department has advised immigration officials also to register and fingerprint Pakistani males entering the United States.

The decision also shows a significant expansion of the registration program beyond the State Department's list of state sponsors of terrorism.

Ibrahim Hooper of the Council on American-Islamic Relations criticized the expansion as a move that could harm instead of aid the war on terrorism.

"It's one more case of singling out of Muslims and Arabs for special treatment, instead of following real leads and real evidence," Hooper said.

"It creates a lot of resentment, whenever you're singled out based on your religion and national origin. And it's creating resentment at a time when the United States needs to improve its image in the Arab and Muslim world. It's counterproductive," he added.

The new registration rules apply to males 16 and older from a number of nations: Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Eritrea, Lebanon, Morocco, North Korea, Oman, Qatar, Somalia, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen. North Korea is the only non-Muslim nation on the list.

The rules apply to those who entered the United States on visitor visas before Sept. 30 and who plan to stay at least through Jan. 10.

The rules require visitors to appear by Jan. 10 at an Immigration and Naturalization Service office to "answer questions under oath before an immigration officer," and to show travel documents and proof of where they are living, studying or working. They must also be fingerprinted and photographed.

Visitors who fail to comply can be deported.

The order said the expansion of the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System, first announced in June by Attorney General John Ashcroft, was taken "in light of recent events and based on intelligence information available to the attorney general."

The registration rules were published this week in the Federal Register.

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