For Immediate Release
CAIR: Another Hijab-Wearing Muslim Traveler Reports Mistreatment
Muslim civil rights group sends letter to president seeking action on airport ‘profiling’
WASHINGTON - A prominent national Muslim civil rights and advocacy group today
sent a letter to President Obama seeking action on concerns that Muslim
travelers wearing religious head scarves, or hijab, are now being
automatically singled out for additional security measures and may face
mistreatment at airports.
[NOTE: President Obama will address the nation
today at 4:30 (Eastern). He is expected to outline new procedures
intended to head off potential airline terror attacks.]
The Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations
(CAIR) sent that letter following another report of a Muslim traveler
allegedly being treated harshly during a four-hour interrogation by
U.S. officials at the Canadian border.
The Muslim woman, who holds a Canadian passport, says she was held
for questioning Monday at Halifax Stanfield International Airport,
during which she was allegedly shouted at and made to feel like a
"terrorist." She was trying to board a plane to Ohio to visit her
husband, but was ultimately denied entry to the United States. When the
Muslim traveler asked whether she had been singled out because she was
the only woman wearing a head scarf, she reportedly received no answer.
In his letter to the president, CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad stated:
"The American Muslim community appreciates your
administration's efforts to keep our nation safe and secure. American
Muslims offer their full support in that effort. We believe however
that airport safety is not enhanced by singling out travelers based on
their ethnicity, race or religion. In fact, we believe profiling is
both ineffective and counterproductive. Racial and religious profiling
serves to alienate and stigmatize entire groups of travelers, while
providing only a false sense of security for the traveling public.
alternatives to ineffective profiling include better coordination
between law enforcement and security agencies, more bomb-sniffing dogs
and bomb-detecting devices at airports, better pay and training for TSA
personnel, and - most effective of all screening of passengers based on
analysis of suspicious behaviors, not on their skin color or religious
Awad's letter also cited the president's address to the Muslim world
last year in Cairo, in which he stated: "[F]reedom in America is
indivisible from the freedom to practice one's religion...That is why the
US government has gone to court to protect the right of women and girls
to wear the hijab, and to punish those who would deny it."
Yesterday, CAIR called on the Transportation Security Administration
(TSA) to clarify whether Islamic head scarves will now automatically
trigger additional security measures for Muslim travelers.
CAIR made that request after a Muslim woman traveler taking a flight
Tuesday from Washington Dulles International Airport reported that TSA
personnel first requested that she take off her hijab, then put her
through a "humiliating" public full-body pat-down search when she
When the traveler, a resident of Maryland, questioned TSA staff
about the way she was being treated, she was allegedly told that a new
policy went into effect that morning mandating that "anyone wearing a
head scarf must go through this type of search."
SEE: Muslims Question Full-Body Search of Woman in Head Scarf (Detroit News)
On Monday, CAIR said new TSA guidelines, under which anyone
traveling from or through 13 Muslim-majority nations will be required
to go through enhanced screening techniques before boarding flights,
amount to religious and ethnic profiling.
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CAIR is America's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.