Report: Western Union blocks funds over name ‘Muhammad’
A national Islamic civil rights and advocacy group today called on Western Union to clarify its policy on racial and religious profiling after receiving a report that the money transfer service demands to know the national origin of any customer named “Muhammad.”
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said a Muslim by that name recently attempted to send $80 to relatives in Connecticut from a Western Union site in Brooklyn, N.Y. After returning home, the African-American customer says he received a call from Western Union’s main office demanding that, because of his name, he must provide photo identification and state his country of birth, otherwise the funds would not be delivered. When the customer protested that policy and requested a refund, he was told that the funds would not be returned unless he met the company’s demands.
“Western Union must clarify whether this incident truly reflects company policy or is merely the product of individual prejudice and stereotyping. To single out customers transferring funds within the United States based solely on a religiously-specific name, and then to demand that they reveal their national origin, violates basic principles of equality that all Americans hold dear,” said CAIR Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper in a letter faxed to Western Union President Michael Yerington.
A year ago, Western Union had to apologize for freezing the funds of a Muslim family apparently based on religious and ethnic profiling. In that incident, an African-American Muslim was informed that the money his family sent him from Virginia was not in Western Union records. When his mother called to see what had happened to the funds she transferred, she discovered that the money was frozen until her son provided further documentation of his American citizenship.
There an estimated seven million Muslims in America and some 1.2 billion worldwide.
ACTION REQUESTED: (As always, be POLITE.)
Contact Western Union to ask that the company clarify its policy on racial and religious profiling.
Mr. Michael C. Yerington
Western Union North America
12500 East Belford Avenue
Englewood, CO 80112