Congressman John Conyers, Jr., ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, will hold a forum on Thursday, January 24th to address and analyze the civil liberties implications of recent policies and programs
implemented as a part of America's continuing war on terrorism.
Conyers and members of Congress will be briefed on surveillance and intelligence gathering, attorney-client monitoring, immigration policy, and the international impact of national security policy.
WHEN: Thursday, January 24, 2002 at 10 AM - 1 PM
WHERE: 2141 Rayburn HOB, Washington, D.C.
An Illinois National Guardsman and three private security personnel at O'Hare International Airport engaged in an unnecessary, unjustified, illegal and degrading search of a 22-year-old United States citizen of
Pakistani descent last November, according to a lawsuit filed today in federal district court in Chicago.
In the complaint, lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois assert that Samar Kaukab was pulled out of a group of airline passengers and subjected to repeated and increasingly invasive searches
based on her ethnicity and her religion. Ms. Kaukab's religion was evident because she was wearing a traditional head covering for Muslim women, known as a "hijab." The lawsuit names Major General David Harris, Adjutant General for the Illinois National Guard, and Argenbright Security, Inc., as defendants for their personnel's role in the outrage directed toward Ms. Kaukab.
The lawsuit asserts that the intrusive search of Ms. Kaukab violated the United States Constitution's guarantees of freedom of religion, freedom from unlawful ethnic and religious discrimination and protections against unreasonable search and seizure. The complaint filed today asks the federal district court to issue an injunction preventing any future unreasonable searches or searches based upon ethnic and religious discrimination, in addition to monetary damages.
"Ms. Kaukab was identified and subjected to a humiliating search not because she posed any security threat, but only because her wearing of a hijab identified her as a Muslim," said Lorie Chaiten, a lawyer for the
ACLU of Illinois, in announcing the lawsuit. "Security personnel surrounded her, detained her and subjected her to an embarrassing and degrading search simply based on her ethnicity and religion."
Lawyers for the ACLU of Illinois today cited the harassment of Ms. Kaukab as one of the numerous documented instances across the nation in which Muslims and persons of Middle Eastern descent have been the target of insidious discrimination. The ACLU noted that these acts of discrimination have taken place predominantly in the travel industry, especially for passengers on commercial airlines.
"Many of our nation's highest public officer holders have publicly decried any acts of discrimination or violence being directed at Muslims and persons of Middle Eastern descent," said Harvey Grossman, legal director of the ACLU of Illinois. "This case is symptomatic, however, of the fact that these same public officials have not provided appropriate training and oversight to ensure that no person is singled out for abuse and discrimination based upon their ethnicity and religion."
Ms. Kaukab, a citizen of the United States and resident of Columbus, Ohio, was traveling home on November 7, 2001, after attending a conference in Chicago hosted by Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA). Ms. Kaukab and a number of attendees from the VISTA conference traveled to O'Hare, checked their luggage and proceeded to the security checkpoint in Terminal 1 of the airport.
Ms. Kaukab passed through the metal detector without setting off the machine. A member of the Illinois National Guard present at the security station then approached an employee of Argenbright Security and insisted that Ms. Kaukab be searched further despite the fact that there was no indication that she was carrying any banned materials on her person or in her carry-on bags. Following the instruction from the National Guardsman, a security employee repeatedly passed a handheld metal detector over Ms.
Kaukab's body, including placing the metal detector into Ms. Kaukab's boots. In addition, the security employee patted Ms. Kaukab's upper body, pulled at the straps and hook on her bra.
As a crowd of persons gathered, some delayed by the search of Ms. Kaukab and others simply watching the event, a security guard passed the handheld metal detector slowly over and around Ms. Kaukab's head. Although the security device was not "set off" on any occasion when passed over and around Ms. Kaukab's head, a security employee, again based upon instruction from the National Guardsman, demanded that Ms. Kaukab remove her hijab. Ms. Kaukab responded by telling the security personnel that she could not
remove the hijab in public, but would be willing to do so in a private location and only in the company of women. She made it clear that this was not an attempt to be uncooperative, but was necessary as part of her religious beliefs. After a further conversation with the National Guardsman, the security employee repeated the demand that the hijab be removed in public, ignoring Ms. Kaukab's pleas.
"The security personnel and the National Guardsman were completely insensitive to Ms. Kaukab's religious beliefs. Moreover, there was no valid security concern to justify her removing her hijab," added the ACLU's
Chaiten. "The search continued to escalate even though Ms. Kaukab passed through the metal detector without incident, and further searches produced no indication of anything being hidden beneath her hijab. The escalating nature of the search was completely unjustified."
After further discussions between the security personnel and the National Guardsman, Ms. Kaukab was escorted to a small office area adjacent to the security checkpoint. Despite repeated objections from Ms. Kaukab, the male employee insisted on entering the small room with her and conducting the search. After Ms. Kaukab again asserted her religious beliefs and requested that a woman conduct any search involving the removal of her hijab, the male security employee finally acceded to her request and she entered the private area with two female employees.
Once the hijab had been removed, one of the security personnel ran her fingers through Ms. Kaukab's hair and over her scalp. The security employee then felt around her neck and collarbone, opened her sweater and felt around her chest and breasts and felt up and down her legs on the outside of her pants. The security employee then unbuttoned and unzipped Ms. Kaukab's pants, opened her pants and patted down her lower abdomen and between her legs over her underwear.
At no time did security personnel discover any contraband, nor did the initial searches with the metal detectors give any indication that contraband might be present, suggesting no reason for the escalation of the search.
Abruptly, the security personnel ended the search and released Ms. Kaukab, who felt frightened and humiliated by the entire event.
"During the entire experience, I was scared not only by what was happening, but also by what might happen next," said Ms. Kaukab at a news conference today announcing the lawsuit. "I kept wondering what else might happen to me - would I be detained or subjected to a body cavity search."
"The entire experience was degrading. I felt as though the security personnel had singled me out because I didn't belong, wasn't trusted and wouldn't be welcomed in my own country. Nothing like this ever happened to me before," added Ms. Kaukab. "When it was over, I went to the restroom to gather my emotions and telephoned my mother. I was just so humiliated."
Lawyers for the ACLU of Illinois noted that the search of Ms. Kaukab fits an emerging pattern in which security personnel at airports target Muslims and persons of Middle Eastern descent. Recent media reports indicate that many Muslims have been subjected to unnecessary harassment and searches because of their ethnicity or religious affiliation. One such incident involves security personnel surrounding a 17-year-old Muslim high school student from Virginia, and intimidating her into removing her hijab in public.
Charles Peters, Laura Weinberg and Carolyn Morehouse of the Chicago law firm Schiff, Hardin & Waite and Kamran Memon, a Chicago attorney in private practice, are assisting lawyers from the ACLU of Illinois in this case.
The Rev. Patrick Sookhdeo, an expert on Islamic history and politics, directs the Institute for the Study of Islam and Christianity in London and the Barnabas Fund, a charity…The following are excerpts from a talk he
gave Sunday in Fairfax County.
I think we have a greater problem in Islam than we realize. Much as I understand why politicians in the U.S. and UK have made the kinds of affirmatory statements they have made, I think time will show they have
made a mistake.
In dealing with Islam, you have to tell the truth. And you have to meet it head on. It understands power and only power. And so you have to know how to exercise power. I believe we face a much greater threat from Muslim communities within our own countries than we realize…
…With the advent of Islam in the West, the Western countries have to come to terms with a minority and they didn't know how to do it because of civil liberties. We have got societies that are strong liberal democracies. Our own legal framework stops us from dealing with extremist religion.
Historically, Islam has never learned to live as a minority because its basis exists in power…
…I think we must drive Islam to have a reformation, which is what Salman Rushdie is saying, that Islam unreformed will be brutal and barbaric…
…If I say the history of the West has been infinitely superior to that of the Muslim world; that freedom, democracy, human rights and religious liberty have come out of Christianity and the West…