Muslim-American interns who have served in Congress should be respected, and not subject to questions about their patriotism, House Judciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.) said Thursday.

Responding to allegations from Republican lawmakers that the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) sought to plant Muslim "spies" in the Capitol, Conyers issued a scathing statement on his colleagues' accusations.

"It shouldn't need to be said in 2009, and after the historic election of our first African-American president, but let me remind all my colleagues that patriotic Americans of all races, religions, and beliefs have the right - and the responsibility - to participate in our political process, including by volunteering to work in Congressional offices," Conyers said.

"Numerous Muslim-American interns have served the House ably and they deserve our appreciation and respect, not attacks on their character or patriotism," the veteran lawmaker added.

Conyers's district includes the city of Dearborn, Mich., a city known for having one of the largest concentrations of Arab and Muslim citizens in the U.S.