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U.S. policy persecutes Muslims, professor says

©Associated Press
December 11, 2001

LARGO -- A Palestinian professor who was removed from his job because of security concerns after the Sept. 11 attacks said Sunday that U.S. policy unfairly persecutes Muslims.

Sami Al-Arian, a computer engineering professor put on paid leave by the University of South Florida, also said the U.S. government is helping terrorists by rounding up Arab-Americans without evidence.

"By persecuting Arab-Americans and Muslims, those who perpetrated the attacks have won," he said during a 20-minute speech to the Tampa Bay branch of Amnesty International, a human rights group.

Al-Arian also referred to Attorney General John Ashcroft as "J. Edgar Ashcroft."

Al-Arian was put on paid leave Sept. 28, two days after he appeared on cable television's The O'Reilly Factor and was questioned about his links to known terrorists.

The professor founded the World and Islam Studies Enterprises, a now-defunct Islamic think tank that was located at USF until it was raided by the FBI in 1995 and its assets were frozen. A judge later said there is no evidence the think tank was involved in terrorism.

In his speech, Al-Arian cited the treatment of his brother-in-law, Mazen Al-Najjar, as proof that the government has violated civil rights.

Al-Najjar was jailed for 3 1/2 years on secret evidence for alleged terrorist ties. He was freed last year when a judge ruled the evidence was not sufficient to continue holding him.

In November he was arrested again for overstaying his visa. He is being held in maximum security at a federal prison.

"When are we going to stop the humiliation and persecution?" Al-Arian said. "It's not his fault he was born Palestinian."

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