BOSTON – Muslim groups and civil libertarians demanded an apology from Gov. Mitt Romney (search) on Friday for his comments about wiretapping mosques and monitoring foreign students. But the governor refused, saying he was only advocating for improved homeland security.
The groups delivered a letter to Romney that said "your desire to wiretap mosques is an affront to the values and principles that make America a great country." The groups include the American Civil Liberties Union and various mosques and Islamic organizations.
After the letter was delivered, spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom said the governor would not apologize or retract his comments.
Romney made the remarks Wednesday during a speech in Washington at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. He referred to the state's 120 colleges and universities and speculated about students who are from countries that sponsor terrorism, asking "Do we know where they are, are we tracking them?"
He also spoke about gathering intelligence at mosques "that may be teaching doctrines of hate and terror."
"Are we monitoring that? Are we wiretapping?" he asked. "Are we following what's going on? Are we seeing who's coming in, who's coming out? Are we eavesdropping, carrying out surveillance on those individuals from places that sponsor domestic terror?"
Romney, who is considering a run for president in 2008, said Friday morning he wasn't suggesting anything beyond the scope of what's done by the FBI today. But some Muslims said that Romney is stereotyping all Muslims as terrorists and promoting dangerous policies that erode civil liberties.
Hamza Pelletier, spokesman for the Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation, said his group planned to attend all of Romney's public appearances until he retracts the statements.