Polling calls to U.S. Muslims raise surveillance fears

November 23, 2016 6:57 PM EST

A woman wearing a Muslim headscarf walks past people holding U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump signs before the start of the annual Muslim Day Parade in the Manhattan borough of New York City, September 25, 2016. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith


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By Lisa Lambert

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Muslims across the United States feared they were being targeted for surveillance this week when they received automated polling calls asking them to press one if they identified as Muslim or two if they did not.

Many worried President-elect Donald Trump was making good on his campaign promise to register all Muslims in the country or private citizens were laying the groundwork for a registry.

The calls were in fact sent out as part of a survey by Emerge USA, a non-profit organization seeking to empower Muslim-Americans.

The group created an algorithm to call Muslims for a poll on their views and experiences after the Nov. 8 national election, Sarah Cochran, director of its Virginia chapter, said on Wednesday.

Cochran said she had to reassure some call recipients that Emerge USA was conducting the poll, and an anti-Islam group was not using the organization's name as a disguise.

"All of our work is affected, where we can’t get people to participate because they’re afraid," said Cochran.

Since Trump's stunning election win, Muslims living in the United States have been on edge. One of his supporters has cited camps where Japanese-Americans were interned during World War Two as a precedent for a registry. Trump's choice for national security adviser, Michael Flynn, in a recent video described Islamism as a "vicious cancer inside the body of 1.7 billion people on this planet and it has to be excised."

On Tuesday, the Council of American-Islamic Relations posted on Twitter and Facebook asking about reports American Muslims were receiving robocalls on how they "identify." Meanwhile, others posted to their own social media accounts with questions about the calls.

One call recipient posted on Facebook "Not sure if this is a scam or this is real but I have surely reported and urge you to report as well if you get the same phone call. Welcome to the new world!"

(Fixes typo in seventh paragraph.)

(Reporting by Lisa Lambert; Editing by Andrew Hay)



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