A group of Muslim-Americans say they were detained for hours at Kennedy Airport when they came back to the U.S. last week after trips abroad, and they say it was only because of their looks, their backgrounds, or their faith. In the following report, NY1’s Dean Meminger takes at look at what some are calling racial profiling, and others, tighter security.

Sisters Arwa and Sumia Ibrahim say they were treated like terror suspects at Kennedy Airport simply because of their Middle Eastern background.

“It initially confused me, and then it angered me, and then it saddened me,” says Arwa. “I think the whole experience is really humiliating because I am a U.S. citizen and I do consider myself American.”

The Council on American Islamic Relations says the sisters were victims of racial profiling, and that they were not alone. The council says as many as 200 others were also detained on August 15th, and some shot video and took pictures as they were held at JFK.

The Ibrahim sisters and their mother were returning from a trip to Jordan. They say Homeland Security and Customs officers took their U.S. passports and held them for about six hours.

They say they were questioned about their lives, if they ever had weapons training, and what they thought about the situation in Iraq, even though they have been in this country for 15 years.

“I was returning to a place that I call home, and to have those rights thrown out the window and to also be mistreated by officers for several hours was really an exhausting, humiliating experience,” says Sumia.

“At that moment truly you are so afraid, so tired, so frustrated, you don’t know what is going to happen to you,” says Magham Alyaqoubi, another woman who says she was detained at the airport.

The New York Civil Liberties Union says it is a clear violation to stop passengers simply because of the way they look.

“Racial profiling was not constitutional before 9/11, and it is not constitutional after 9/11,” says the NYCLU’s Udi Ofer. . .

The Council on American Islamic relations says it wants other Americans to step up now and speak out against the racial profiling of people from the Middle East.

“We need to call on all of the civil rights activists. Where is Al Sharpton? Where is Jesse Jackson? Where are all of the civil rights activist about racial profiling?” says Council President Omar Mohammedi.

The Ibrahim sisters say they wanted to go public with their situation to show how many Americans are being targeted and unfairly treated by their own government.


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