(ANAHEIM, CA, 3/5/10) — The Greater Los Angeles Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-LA) announced today that it has filed a misconduct complaint against police officers in Henderson, Nev., who allegedly detained seven California Muslims for “suspicious behavior”after they prayed next to their vehiclein a parking lotas they traveled through the town.
According to the CAIR-LA complaint, the men were detained after they stopped for gas and food at a Henderson shopping center. While in the center’s parking lot, the men took time to perform their sunset (maghrib) prayer, one of five daily prayers performed by Muslims. They prayed in a non-disruptive manner and neither the men nor their vehicle were blocking traffic or preventing others from parking.
As the men returned to their vehicle, two police cars arrived and the officers asked the men if they knew why they were being stopped. When they said they did not know why police were on the scene, one officer allegedly said he was responding to a report about a “bunch of guys doing weird moves.”
The officers questioned the men about their employment, schooling and places of birth for more than a half hour. The officers also performed a cursory search of the vehicle.
According to the Henderson Police Department incident report, the officers responded to a report that “7 MIDDLE EASTERN MALES ACTING 425, BY A GRY MINI VAN, UNK CA PLTS, SEV OF SUBJS ARE KISSING THE GROUND.” (The men are of various ethnic backgrounds, including Middle Eastern and South Asian. The police code 425 generally refers to a “suspicious situation.” Muslims place their foreheads to the ground briefly while praying.)
In a letter to Henderson Police Chief Jutta Chambers, CAIR-LA Staff Attorney Ameena Qazi wrote in part:
“We fail to see how the civilian report of ‘suspicious behavior’ or the actions of Complainants gave rise to reasonable suspicion that Complainants were engaged in criminal activity to justify a stop, or gave rise to probable cause to justify the ensuing detention of Complainants. The scope and length of the stop was not reasonable under the circumstances, nor did it serve any legitimate investigative purpose.”
She asked for an investigation of the incident, “appropriate disciplinary action” against the officers involved, changes in officer training, and compensation for the emotional distress suffered by the Muslim travelers.
Qazi noted that CAIR publishes a booklet, titled “A Law Enforcement Official’s Guide to the Muslim Community,” which outlines basic information about Islamic beliefs that are relevant to law enforcement agencies. It also covers issues such as the rights of Muslim law enforcement officers, religiously-sensitive techniques for body searches, etiquette for entering Muslim homes, and advice on outreach to the Islamic community.
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-Greater Los Angeles Area Communications Manager Munira Syeda, 714-776-1847 or 714-851-4851, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-488-8787 or 202-744-7726, E-Mail: email@example.com; CAIR Communications Coordinator Amina Rubin, 202-488-8787, 202-341-4171, E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org