Muslim Conference Goers Fingerprinted At Border
- American Muslims Fingerprinted By U.S. at Canadian
Border; CAIR Calls for 'Profiling' Probe, Says
Incident Chills Religious Freedom
12/29/2004 12:40:00 PM
To: National Desk, Legal Reporter
Contact: Ibrahim Hooper, 202-488-8787 or 202-744-7726,
or Ihooper@...; or Rabiah Ahmed, 202-488-8787
or 202-439-1441, or Rahmed@..., both of
Council on American-Islamic Relations
WASHINGTON, Dec. 29 /U.S. Newswire/ -- A prominent
national Islamic civil rights and advocacy group today
called for a formal investigation by the Department of
Homeland Security (DHS) into an incident at the
Canadian border in which American Muslim citizens were
apparently singled out for special security checks
based on their attendance at an Islamic conference and
then held until they agreed to be fingerprinted.
The Washington-based Council on American-Islamic
Relations (CAIR) said the incident was a disturbing
example of religious profiling that would have a
chilling effect on the constitutional rights of
American Muslims, particularly the right to the free
exercise of religion, freedom of speech, peaceful
assembly, and the right to be "secure in their
personsagainst unreasonable searches."
A number of the up to 40 Muslims who were singled out
for questioning and fingerprinting told CAIR that they
were returning from a weekend Islamic conference of
more than 10,000 in Toronto when they were stopped by
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials at
the Lewiston Bridge crossing near Niagara Falls, N.Y.
(CBP is part of the Department of Homeland Security.
For conference details, see:
Several of the Muslim citizens held at the border for
up to six hours on Sunday night and Monday morning
told CAIR they objected strenuously to being
fingerprinted, but were informed by CBP
representatives that "you have no rights" and that
they would be held until they agreed to the
fingerprinting procedure. One person was allegedly
threatened with arrest if she attempted to leave the
detention area without being fingerprinted.
CBP officials on the scene cited "orders from above"
to justify their actions. One CBP official reportedly
agreed with a Muslim traveler that "it would not look
good" if the news media saw the detention area filled
exclusively with Muslims in Islamic attire. CAIR is
investigating similar reports of demands for
fingerprinting of conference attendees at other border
When contacted by CAIR, a CBP spokesman in Washington,
D.C., initially said fingerprinting of American
citizens would be a "violation of policy." He later
said fingerprinting would be allowed "if there was a
law enforcement reason for doing so," but would not
state what that reason might be.
Media reports on the incident quote CBP officials as
saying some of the Muslim citizens who were
fingerprinted had names similar to those on watch
lists. But that claim does not explain why everyone in
the group of conference attendees, even Muslim
converts, were fingerprinted.
SEE: "Muslim-Americans Say Border Inspections Were
Local DHS officials now say they will hold a community
meeting next week to address the concerns of those who
were forced to be fingerprinted.
"The image of a room full of American Muslim citizens
apparently being held solely because of their faith
and the fact that they attended an Islamic conference
is one that should be disturbing to all Americans who
value religious freedom," said CAIR Executive Director
Nihad Awad. "This incident must be investigated to
determine what the policy on fingerprinting Muslim
citizens is and who is behind it."
Awad also urged anyone treated in a similar manner to
contact CAIR's Civil Rights Department by calling
202-488-8787 or e- mailing Civilrights@....
CAIR, America's largest Muslim civil liberties group,
has 30 offices and chapters nationwide and in Canada.
Its mission is to enhance understanding of Islam,
encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower
American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote
justice and mutual understanding.
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