As congressional hearings opened yesterday on the Clinton administration's new counter-terrorism bill, American Arab and Muslim groups called for the measure's defeat, saying it would target their community for social discrimination and political persecution.

The bill would speed deportation of illegal immigrants suspected of terrorism, prohibit fund-raising in the United States for organizations the president deems dangerous and grant the FBI broader authority to investigate and order wiretaps.

"This bill would bring back the most abusive and repressive measures of the McCarthy era," said James J. Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute.

The groups fear the measure would inhibit American Arabs and Muslims from contributing even to social programs in the Middle East, such as orphanages or women's centers. The bill would ban fund-raising for charities in any way affiliated or connected with groups suspected of terrorism.

"The real victims will be the people in refugee camps in Lebanon and the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza," said Najat Arafat Khelil, acting president of the Palestinian American Congress. "The actual terrorist organizations are not going to be hurt. . . . They always find ways to transfer whatever funds they need without being detected."

Administration officials told the House Judiciary Committee yesterday the legislation is necessary to protect Americans in a world where 40 percent of terrorist attacks are directed against U.S. interests.

FBI Director Louis J. Freeh told the committee that the FBI "must be given new tools and resources to fight" terrorism to respond to the changing threat. He said the state-sponsored perpetrators of previous decades are giving way to more decentralized groups, which are harder to track.

The legislation, called the Omnibus Counterterrorism Bill of 1995, was drafted by the Department of Justice at President Clinton's request. The president also issued an executive order in January freezing the assets of 18 individuals and 12 groups, all Muslim or Arab except for two Jewish extremist groups.

Freeh testified yesterday that "we do not by any means identify or single out any" particular ethnic or religious groups. He acknowledged that "thousands of decent Arab Americans" live in the United States and abide by its laws.

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), said the measure strikes "a careful, rational balance between preserving our fundamental rights and protecting ourselves from the violent intentions of international terrorists."

But Rep. John Conyers Jr. (Mich.), the Judiciary Committee's senior Democrat, said the bill was filled with "complete violations of the Constitution all the way through it." In a news conference on Capitol Hill, Zogby said the only provisions of the bill that his group could support are those aimed at detecting plastic explosives and reducing trafficking of nuclear material.

The 20 Arab and Muslim groups opposed to the bill strongly oppose terrorism, Zogby said, but with Americans focused on Middle East terrorism and the World Trade Center bombing, the Arab and Muslim communities living here are the "weak link in the civil liberties chain," Zogby said.

Nihad Awad, national executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said, "Mosques, religious institutions, women in Muslim dress, men who have beards, people who have accents . . . all will be targets" for hate crimes and unwarranted government surveillance.

Law enforcement officials are investigating American ties to Middle Eastern terrorist groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which have claimed responsibility for several recent bombings in Israel. Hamas and Islamic Jihad, rivals of Yasser Arafat's Palestine Liberation Organization, oppose the peace process with Israel.

Awad asked what would happen to Middle Easterners living here "who are not happy with the peace process and support the political opposition, and they don't support Arafat." Under this bill, he said, even peaceful political activities opposing the peace agreement, such as publishing newsletters or holding rallies, could be suspect, he said.

The bill is beginning to garner opposition from other groups, such as the Irish National Caucus and the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador. Abdurahman Alamoudi, executive director of the American Muslim Council, called on Jewish groups to join the Arab-Muslim-led coalition in opposing the bill.