A Muslim legal advocacy group Tuesday charged that federal agents routinely target Muslim American travelers – or simply those perceived to be Muslim – for “deeply intrusive, personal questions and searches about their politics, faith, finances, charitable giving and associations with lawful organisations, all without any evidence or even suspicion of wrongdoing.”

In a new report, Muslim Advocates – a sister not-for-profit of the National Association of Muslim Lawyers (NAML) – charges that law-abiding Muslim, Arab and South Asian Americans returning home after overseas travel are experiencing “widespread, systematic and profound privacy intrusions by federal agents at the nation’s borders and airports.”

The report, entitled “Unreasonable Intrusions: Investigating the Politics, Faith & Finances of Americans Returning Home,” says U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Customs & Border Protection (CBP) agents have questioned individuals about their political beliefs, religious practices, and charities they support. Agents have also sought to review and copy business cards, credit cards, and data on laptops, digital cameras and cell phones.

“These interrogations and searches are taking place without evidence or even suspicion that the travelers have engaged in wrongdoing,” Muslim Advocates says.

“Far from serving legitimate aims, such profiling undermines security, wasting scarce government resources and generating mountains of false leads, as well as eroding trust between law enforcement authorities and the public,” the report claims.

Other civil libertarians have also expressed concern about this issue. Typical is Michael Ratner, president of the Centre for Constitutional Rights. He told IPS, “The question we need to ask is when will profiling because of race and ethnicity stop? Since 9/11 the harassment of Muslims and Muslim-Americans has been open and notorious.”

He added, “Under the FBI guidelines issued in the waning days of the Bush administration, using racial and ethnic criteria as a basis for FBI investigation is permitted. One immediate action Obama must take – get rid of those guidelines. This administration needs to issue regulations absolutely prohibiting such discrimination and harassment. Enough is enough.” …

In a related development, more Islamic and civil liberties organisations have signed on to a statement by the American Muslim Taskforce on Civil Rights and Elections saying it is considering suspending outreach relations with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) over recent incidents in which U.S. mosques and Muslim groups have been targeted. The taskforce (AMT) is a coalition of major national Islamic organisations.

The new signatories include the Coordinating Council of Muslim Organizations, which represents more than 50 Washington-area mosques, Islamic schools and Muslim organisations. (More)


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