A Muslim civil rights group is calling for an investigation by the U.S.
Department of Homeland Security after nearly 40 American Muslims were detained,
photographed or fingerprinted upon returning to the United States after
attending a religious conference in Toronto last weekend.
The Council on American Islamic Relations said the group was singled out at
Canadian border crossings Sunday night and Monday morning on their way back
from the three-day Reviving Islamic Spirit conference at SkyDome.
“It is absolutely outrageous that American citizens are being forced to undergo
such unwarranted inspection,” Washington-based council spokesperson Ibrahim
Hooper said yesterday.
Kristie Clemens, a spokesperson for Homeland Security’s Customs and Border
Protection, said 34 people were stopped at the Lewiston crossing and four
others were checked at the nearby Rainbow Bridge in Niagara Falls. They were
held for an average of 21/2 hours and offered coffee and tea. “We have ongoing
credible information that conferences such as the one that these 34 individuals
just left in Toronto may be used by terrorist organizations to promote
terrorist activities, which includes travelling and fundraising,” Clemens
“As the front-line border agency, it is our duty to verify the identity of
individuals – including U.S. citizens – and one way of doing that is
Hamza Yusuf, a keynote speaker at the conference attended by thousands of North
American Muslims, had met with U.S. President George W. Bush after the Sept. 11
attacks. He was detained and interrogated for several hours by U.S. Customs
officials at Pearson airport Tuesday afternoon before boarding his flight to
“They asked me about the religion of my family and wanted to make photocopies of
my notebook and other material without being able to tell me what I was accused
“When I said I have rights as an American citizen, they said they don’t
apply at the border”¦”
“If anyone is to blame, it is those who are giving orders, not the people
following them,” he said after arriving in California