CANADA: AIRPORT ORDEAL ANGERS MUSLIM LEADER
Detained without explanation for hours at the Detroit airport, a Muslim leader says he feared for his family in London and couldn’t stop thinking about Maher Arar.
Critics yesterday demanded action from Ottawa and apologies from the U.S. after Dr. Munir El-Kassem was questioned and fingerprinted during a stopover in Detroit last month, while flying from Quebec City to Milwaukee.
While detained, an ordeal he said lasted four hours, the imam said he was intimidated.
The Islamic scholar said he was asked if he knew Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein and whether he loved “God or Allah.”
“You can’t help but be intimidated, and the thought of Maher Arar when he fell in the hands of U.S. authorities without any regard for innocence or anything else,” El-Kassem said yesterday.
“I did think in those terms and did fear for my large family in London, Ontario.”
A director at UWO’s Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry, El-Kassem said he’s still “quite upset and angry” about the experience but hopes it can help so that such “things will never happen to me or anyone else again simply because of their faith.”
El-Kassem said his interrogation began after he told an immigration officer he was Muslim. He had been travelling from Quebec, where he had lectured, to Milwaukee to give a lecture on Islam at an interfaith conference.
When he told the officer he’d be talking about Islam at a conference, she ordered him to accompany her to a room where he says he was questioned by another officer at length in an ordeal he called “dehumanizing.”