CAIR-NJ: Post-9/11 Travel a Challenge for U.S. Muslims

CAIR-NJ: Post-9/11 Travel a Challenge for U.S. Muslims

Kathie Shadeed has stopped taking her three children to meet daddy at the airport.

She always used to pick up her husband, Ahmad, who runs a travel agency and has to make frequent trips from their home in Jersey City to Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

But Sept. 11, 2001, has made his ability to travel much more difficult, he says, and his struggle goes beyond the metal detectors and baggage checks endured by every traveler.

As the passengers from the return flight exit the plane and pick up their luggage, Kathie Shadeed and her children have learned to expect that daddy won’t be among them.

“Many years down the road, it will be someone else they do this to, and it’s sad because nobody deserves this when you have your kids waiting there for you and they haven’t seen their father,” she said.

“You sit there and you wait and wait, and the plane empties out, and he’s not on it … He’s been detained.”

Ahmad Shadeed, 49, is an American citizen and he has been living in New Jersey since 1980. After Sept. 11, 2001, however, his wife cannot remember a single time when he has not been detained either at Newark Liberty or at John F. Kennedy international airport.

The couple don’t really like to talk about it. It’s too painful for them, although Ahmad has given his wife an inkling of what goes on behind the closed doors while she sits for three hours in the terminal.

“They don’t even do anything. They put you in a room. They don’t even do anything. Absolutely not. They just put you in a room and say, ‘Where are you coming from?'” she said.

Ahmad Shadeed says he tries to remain strong. He knows the constant delays he experiences when he travels are driven by fear. Like many Muslims, he almost has come to expect it.

“I feel raped every time I go into the airport. My freedom is taken away from me,” he said. “It hurts me very much … and it’s not easy, but what do you want me to do?”

Stories of Muslim-Americans detained at airports or stopped on highways, tunnels and bridges abounded immediately after 9/11.

The American Civil Liberties Union also has been hearing less and less about Muslims who say they are frequently stopped during their travels either abroad or at home, according to Reena Arya of the ACLU in Newark.

Silence does not mean the problems have gone. Some who spoke with the Road Crew said travel conditions have not changed much.

In fact, the most recent report released by the Council on American-Islamic Relations shows that between 2004 and 2003, incidents of harassment, violence and discrimination against Muslims rose 49 percent.

The biggest change that Muslims face when driving or flying is in their attitudes.

“People have gotten used to going through the process. It’s become like the norm,” said Ahmed Al-Shehab, who works with the Council on American- Islamic Relations in Totowa.

“The Muslims are getting stopped, and they say, ‘I’m a Muslim, so I’m going to get profiled.'” (MORE)