(WASHINGTON, D.C., 11/9/10) — A prominent national Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization today questioned the legality of recent incidents in which United Parcel Service (UPS) flagged packages containing passports of American Muslims traveling on the hajj pilgrimage and turned them over to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
The Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said 17 Virginia pilgrims missed their flight to Saudi Arabia when UPS failed to deliver the package containing their passports that had been sent to a travel agent in California to receive visas. The package was instead turned over to CBP officials. Only after CBP released the passports and agreed to cover the additional travel costs incurred by the pilgrims were they able to leave for hajj.
A UPS spokeswoman told the Washington Post, “We did inform the customer that that particular package had a ‘government seizure exception,'” but declined to define the term. CBP would not comment on whether UPS regularly shares packages with the agency.
CAIR: Travel Delay for Mecca-Bound N. Va. Muslims (Wash. Post)
In another incident, CAIR said UPS flagged packages sent from California containing the passports of Muslims in Minnesota, California and Washington State seeking to go on hajj for “add’l security check by gov’t or other agency.” [UPS Tracking Information] A UPS official reportedly told the shipper of the packages, which were all ultimately delivered to their destinations, that they had been given to CBP.
“The American Muslim community needs to know whether packages sent from point to point within our borders are being screened based on the religion of the sender or recipient, and whether or not such packages can be seized and opened by government officials without a warrant,” said CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper.
Hooper said CAIR is asking any American Muslims who have experienced similar actions by UPS or CBP to file a report with his organization.
Some 10,000 American Muslims go on hajj each year. Hajj is one of the “five pillars” of the Islamic faith. [The other pillars include a declaration of faith, daily prayers, offering regular charity, and fasting during the month of Ramadan.]
When the main portion of the pilgrimage is completed, Muslims worldwide gather for communal prayers on the first day (November 16) of Eid ul-Adha (EED-al-ODD-ha), the second of the two major Muslim holidays.
CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.
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CONTACT: CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-744-7726, or 202-488-8787, E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; CAIR Communications Coordinator Amina Rubin, 202-488-8787, 202-341-4171, E-Mail: email@example.com