U.S. Attorney attends mosque in show of solidarity with Utah Muslims

Posted at 6:45 PM, Apr 15, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-15 23:57:06-04

WEST VALLEY CITY -- The top federal prosecutor in Utah attended Friday prayer service at the Khadeeja Islamic Center to extend a hand of friendship from the Justice Department.

"The United States Department of Justice continues this tradition of protecting those who would be bullied or intimidated or threatened because of how they look or what they believe in," U.S. Attorney for Utah John Huber told FOX 13.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch has directed U.S. Attorneys to meet with Muslim communities around the nation at a time when anti-Islamic rhetoric is ratcheting up.

U.S. Attorney for Utah John Huber speaks at the Khadeeja mosque on Friday. (Photo via Ben Winslow)

U.S. Attorney for Utah John Huber speaks at the Khadeeja mosque on Friday. (Photo via Ben Winslow)

"Because of the election year, things have become uncomfortable for Muslims," said Salman Masud, the president of the Islamic Society of Greater Salt Lake.

Huber spoke to the crowd of about 500 men and 250 women (who were in an adjoining room) about their First Amendment religious freedom rights, and vowed to protect their civil liberties and public safety. The U.S. Attorney confirmed to FOX 13 his office does have open investigations into crimes against Muslims.

"We do have active investigations that we pursue," he said. "We'll see if they result in anything."

But some of the questions from the crowd were about feeling targeted by the police. Huber encouraged them to get names and document the incidents, then complain to higher-ups within police agencies or take it to his office.

Deeb Abu-Dan said it was important for people to know their rights.

"As long as you know your rights as an American citizen, nobody can touch that," he said.

Islamic leaders in Utah said they viewed the state as overall pretty tolerant. Masud said the Islamic Society of Greater Salt Lake recently issued a security alert to its members, warning about the potential of hate crimes and offering numbers for which agencies to report them to.

"We are prepared, yet there hasn't been an increase in any cases as such," he said.

Huber said it was his hope that the ongoing dialogue with the Muslim community would build goodwill and increase cooperation in other cases that may come down the road.

"If you see something, you say something," he said. "Certainly, that's something we encourage here."