CAIR Seeks Answers on Fingerprinting of Hajjis
(WASHINGTON, D.C., 1/5/05) – CAIR today called on the Bush administration to clarify whether American Muslims participating in this year’s Hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca, will be fingerprinted or singled out for special security measures based on their participation in the annual religious rite.
To assist returning pilgrims, CAIR also created a “Hajji Hotline” and a downloadable incident report form for those who believe their constitutional rights are being violated by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials. (Some 10,000 American Muslims go on Hajj each year.)
CAIR’s actions follow reports that dozens of American Muslim citizens were singled out recently for security checks and fingerprinting based on their attendance at an Islamic conference in Canada. Several of the Muslim detainees 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. An agency spokesperson later admitted that the Muslim citizens were
fingerprinted because of their participation in the Canadian conference.
CAIR called for an investigation of that incident, saying it was a disturbing example of religious profiling that would have a chilling effect on the constitutional rights of American Muslims. SEE: “Muslims Seek Probe on Being Fingerprinted,”
Despite repeated requests for clarification from the Department of Homeland
Security (DHS) and CBP, no clear response has been given as to whether mere
participation in Islamic religious activities is now being viewed as
“probable cause” for increased security checks or forced fingerprinting of
U.S. citizens. In a letter to the DHS civil rights office, CAIR Legal
Director Arsalan Iftikhar asked the following questions:
“1. Under what U.S. law(s) are border and customs agents given broad
authority or discretion to fingerprint and detain American citizens with
the threat of arrest for noncompliance? 2. If fingerprinting and detention
are refused by an American citizen, what are the legal repercussions of
such a refusal? 3. Does mere attendance at an Islamic conference constitute
sufficient ‘probable cause’ of a criminal act to justify a detention which
could be legally tantamount to an arrest?”
1. Any returning pilgrims who believe their constitutional rights have been
violated should call CAIR’s “Hajji Hotline” at 1-800-784-7526. During
business hours, the hotline number rolls over to CAIR’s Washington, D.C.,
switchboard. After hours during the Hajj, a recording will give cell phone
numbers for CAIR civil rights staff and the latest information on the legal
rights of U.S. citizens at border crossings.
2. Those going on Hajj should download an incident report form from
http://www.cair-net.org/downloads/hajji.pdf and keep it handy for the return trip to the United States. CAIR’s Civil Rights Department can also be reached by e-mailing email@example.com.
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