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FBI warns of possible hate crimes against Muslims, anti-U.S. action

By Carol Cratty, CNN
The Rev. Terry Jones' church had planned to burn hundreds of Qurans on Saturday.
The Rev. Terry Jones' church had planned to burn hundreds of Qurans on Saturday.
  • FBI advisory: Planned Quran burning could cause hate crimes against Muslims
  • Proposed Islamic centers or mosques could also spark anti-Muslim sentiment
  • The plan to burn the Qurans may inflame anti-U.S. feelings among extremists, FBI says

Washington (CNN) -- The FBI is warning local law enforcement agencies that various controversies involving the U.S. Muslim community could lead to hate crimes against Muslims and encourage extremist rhetoric or actions against the United States.

In an advisory Tuesday, the FBI warns law enforcement groups to be on the watch for violence that may be sparked by such controversies -- including the planned burning of Qurans by a Gainesville, Florida, church on the anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks; and the proposed building of Islamic centers or mosques in California and Tennessee, as well as a similar project near ground zero in New York.

However, the intelligence bulletin -- a copy of which was obtained by CNN -- says the FBI "currently has no specific credible information that international terrorist organizations are planning action against the United States because of these events."

The FBI would not comment on the advisories, which are intended only for law enforcement use.

A federal law enforcement official, who was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter, confirmed to CNN that there is no credible information that any groups or individuals are planning attacks in reaction to the controversies.

The FBI bulletin says the fallout from the church's plan to burn the Muslim holy book and the proposed building of Islamic centers and mosques "could include hindering outreach and engagement efforts with Muslim communities across the country, generating hate crimes against Muslims, or even be used as propaganda tools by extremists."

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Religious leaders and terrorism experts worry the debate over these controversies and the attention given to them by the news media "can serve to isolate American Muslim youths and possibly drive them toward extremism," said the advisory, which was titled "Multiple Controversies Regarding Muslim Communities Raise the Potential for Violent Reactions."

As examples, it cited violence in recent years in Europe that was spurred by cartoon depictions of the Prophet Mohammed and other events.

The federal law enforcement official said that based on such events in the past, law enforcement must be vigilant and must not "rule out the possibility" that something might happen. There is some rhetoric on a few websites, the official said, but there's no way law enforcement agencies can determine if any person or group will take action.

Richard Westcott with the FBI in Jacksonville, Florida, confirmed to CNN that agents visited the pastor of the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Terry Jones, Thursday morning, as well as a few weeks ago. Westcott would not comment further on the meetings.