US Newswire – December 20. 2005
CAIR issues travel advisory for U.S. Muslims
WASHINGTON, Dec. 20 /U.S. Newswire/ -- A prominent national Islamic civil rights and advocacy group today issued a travel advisory for Muslim citizens who will be attending a conference in Canada this weekend or participating in the upcoming Hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca. (The Hajj will take place in the second week of January. Some 10,000 American Muslims go on Hajj each year.)
The Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is concerned that American Muslim travelers returning to the United States will be singled out by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials for special security checks and fingerprinting based solely on their attendance at both religious events.
CAIR created a "Civil Rights Hotline" (1-800-784-7526) and a downloadable border incident report form for those who believe their constitutional rights have been violated by CBP personnel.
Last year, dozens of American Muslim citizens said they were targeted for security checks, fingerprinting and photographs based on their attendance at an Islamic conference in Canada. Many American Muslims will attend that same conference this year.
"Americans of all faiths should be free to travel without fear of being singled out based solely on their religious practices or associations," said CAIR Legal Director Arsalan Iftikhar.
Iftikhar said CAIR is asking those traveling to the conference or going on Hajj to download an incident report form from http://www.cair.com/downloads/borderincident.pdf and to keep it handy for the return trip to the United States.
He said anyone who believes their constitutional rights have been violated is urged to call CAIR's hotline at 1-800-784-7526. During business hours, the hotline number rolls over to CAIR's Washington, D.C., switchboard. After hours, a recording will give cell phone numbers for CAIR civil rights staff. CAIR's Civil Rights Department may also be reached by e-mailing: email@example.com. (CAIR's "Your Rights and Responsibilities as an American Muslim" pocket guide will also be distributed at the Toronto conference.)
CAIR, America's largest Muslim civil liberties group, has 31 offices and chapters nationwide and in Canada.
Detroit Free Press – December 28, 2005
U.S. Muslims return smoothly
By Shabina S. Khatri
No news was good news Tuesday -- at least for American Muslims returning to the United States after a weekend convention in Toronto.
Despite a federal judge's ruling Thursday that empowered customs officers to conduct security checks on people who went to the Reviving the Islamic Spirit conference, there were no reports of border-crossing difficulties, said Arsalan Iftikhar, civil rights director of the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).
Ron Smith, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman, confirmed Tuesday that customs officers reported no border incidents.
"On behalf of the American Muslim community, it is heartening to see that, in this case, American Muslim citizens are finally being treated like other American citizens upon their return back to our country," Iftikhar said. "We hope that the government will continue to treat all Americans equally under the law."
Razi Jafri, 23, of Woodhaven said he and his friends were stopped and questioned for more than two hours after last year's conference. Jafri, who returned to Michigan on Monday night, said the customs officer asked a handful of questions before letting the car he was in pass into the United States.
Last week, CAIR, a Washington, D.C.-based civil rights group, advised Muslims attending the four-day conference in Toronto to report any incidents with customs officers.
Last year, dozens of conference attendees said they were targeted for hours-long security checks, fingerprinting and photographs. The New York Civil Liberties Union sought an injunction this year prohibiting border agents from stopping and searching American Muslims basely solely on their attendance at the conference.
The Toronto Star – December 23, 2005
U.S. Muslims face searches after Toronto visit
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- A judge Thursday refused to prohibit U.S. border officers from conducting potentially lengthy security checks on Muslim-Americans on their way home from a religious conference in Canada that begins Friday.
The New York Civil Liberties Union sought the court action on behalf of five New York residents who were among dozens of people fingerprinted, photographed, questioned and delayed for up to six hours at the border following last year's "Reviving the Islamic Spirit" convention in Toronto.
U.S. District Judge William Skretny, while characterizing last year's stops as "understandably frustrating," disagreed with the NYCLU's contention that they violated the group's constitutional rights to practice religion and avoid unlawful searches.
"Plaintiffs were delayed for an extended period of time and subjected to unexplained inspection techniques that were inconvenient and made them feel uncomfortable," Skretny wrote. "The government readily admits that plaintiffs' experience at the border was not ideal ... As unfortunate as this incident may have been, I find that it was not unconstitutional."
The NYCLU sought the injunction preventing similar inspections based solely on attendance at this year's conference as part of a lawsuit that also sought the destruction of any personal information collected during the stops.
In addition to denying the injunction, Skretny dismissed the case altogether.
NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman promised an appeal, saying a decision allowing such searches "without an iota of suspicion of any wrongdoing" could not be allowed to stand.
"We're shocked that the court has approved this unprecedented expansion of government authority to treat U.S. citizens as terrorists simply because they exercise their fundamental right to attend a religious conference," Lieberman said…….