Montclair resident Sumia Ibrahim came to this realization while awaiting questioning by federal officials at a New York airport for six hours alongside 200 other Arabic and South Asian people:
"Simply because I was born in a Middle Eastern country, I didn't realize, it didn't hit me until that moment, that I'd be treated differently in a place I call home and a place where we're supposed to have democracy," said Ibrahim, who lives on Valley Road.
Customs and Border Protection officers at John F. Kennedy International Airport held Ibrahim, 20, and four of her family members on Aug. 15 along with other passengers arriving from overseas, and then interrogated them, she said.
The family feels its detention was part of a policy of racial profiling instituted right after the foiling of a terrorist plot to blow up planes departing Great Britain for the United States, but the government denies that.
Ibrahim said she, her twin brother and sister, her older sister, 22, and her mother - all naturalized U.S. citizens of Iraqi ancestry and two-year Montclair residents - were coming back that day from a month-and-a-half-long vacation in Jordan. . .
The family's attorney, Omar Mohammedi, who's also president of the Council on American-Islamic Relations of New York, agreed, and said his organization might request the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate his clients' claims about Aug. 15.
"It's guilt by association, and it doesn't have a place in our country," Mohammedi said. "You can't profile a whole community because you're not sure who's [inside it]."
The attorney said the government should be working with Arabs and Muslims, gathering good intelligence and checking up on people who act suspiciously, not on everybody who belongs to a certain race or religion.
Otherwise, the entire community becomes suspicious of law enforcement, Mohammedi said, and innocent people become unwilling to come forward with information about criminal activity for fear they will become suspects themselves.