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Secret Service bars Muslim guard from DC hotel floor

Secret Service bars Muslim guard from DC hotel floor

A prominent national Islamic civil rights and advocacy group today called on the Secret Service to explain why a Muslim security officer at a Washington, D.C., hotel was denied access to a floor in the building because of his faith and ethnicity.

The Muslim guard at The Madison hotel, a native of Ethiopia and a U.S. citizen, told the Maryland office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) that his supervisor said he could not go to a floor occupied last month by a visiting Israeli official because “you are Muslim and Arab.”

According to the guard and a top hotel official, that order came directly from the Secret Service, the agency charged with guarding the Israeli guest. The hotel’s general manager cited the “Patriot clause,” an apparent reference to the USA Patriot Act, as justification for the agency’s request. Another Muslim employee, a housekeeper, allegedly told the Muslim guard that she too was barred from the floor based on the same Secret Service directive.

“We are concerned that an American citizen may have been singled out for discriminatory treatment based solely on his religion and ethnicity,” said CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad. Awad called for an investigation and an apology to the Muslim employees.

Last year, the Secret Service took responsibility for sending an Arab-American waiter home from his job at a Baltimore hotel before a presidential fundraiser. The waiter said he was sent home by a manager who asked him just one question: “Is your name Mohamad?”

Awad noted that the alleged discrimination by the Secret Service would contradict recent government actions in defense of American Muslims and their religious rights. Just this week, the Justice Department was allowed to join a lawsuit supporting a Muslim girl in Oklahoma suspended for wearing an Islamic head scarf to school.

In today’s Oklahoman newspaper, CAIR Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper praised the Justice Department for its support of religious accommodation. “The government is sending a message that it will defend its Muslim citizens,” said Hooper.

CAIR, America’s largest Islamic civil liberties group, is headquartered in Washington, D.C., and has 26 regional offices and chapters nationwide and in Canada.


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