(WASHINGTON, D.C., 1/5/05) – A prominent national Islamic civil rights and advocacy group today called on the Bush administration to clarify whether American Muslims participating in this year’s Hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca, will be fingerprinted or singled out for special security measures based on their participation in the annual religious rite.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) also created a “Hajji Hotline” and a downloadable incident report form for those who believe their constitutional rights are being violated by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials. (“Hajji” is the term used to describe a Muslim who has completed the Hajj, which begins later this month and concludes around January 21st. Some 10,000 American Muslims go on Hajj each year.)
CAIR’s actions follow reports that dozens of American Muslim citizens were singled out recently for security checks and fingerprinting based on their attendance at an Islamic conference in Canada. Several of the Muslim
detainees told CAIR they objected strenuously to being fingerprinted, but were informed by CBP representatives that “you have no rights” and that they would be held until they agreed to the fingerprinting procedure. An agency spokesperson later admitted that the Muslim citizens were
fingerprinted because of their participation in the Canadian conference.
CAIR called for an investigation of that incident, saying it was a disturbing example of religious profiling that would have a chilling effect on the constitutional rights of American Muslims. SEE: “Muslims Seek Probe on Being Fingerprinted,”
Despite repeated requests for clarification from the Department of Homeland
Security (DHS) and CBP, no clear response has been given as to whether mere
participation in Islamic religious activities is now being viewed as
“probable cause” for increased security checks or forced fingerprinting of
U.S. citizens. In a letter to the DHS civil rights office, CAIR Legal
Director Arsalan Iftikhar asked the following questions:
“1. Under what U.S. law(s) are border and customs agents given broad
authority or discretion to fingerprint and detain American citizens with
the threat of arrest for noncompliance? 2. If fingerprinting and detention
are refused by an American citizen, what are the legal repercussions of
such a refusal? 3. Does mere attendance at an Islamic conference constitute
sufficient ‘probable cause’ of a criminal act to justify a detention which
could be legally tantamount to an arrest?”
He urged anyone who believes their constitutional rights have been violated
to call CAIR’s “Hajji Hotline” at 1-800-784-7526. During business hours,
the hotline number rolls over to CAIR’s Washington, D.C., switchboard.
After hours during the Hajj, a recording will give cell phone numbers for
CAIR civil rights staff and the latest information on the legal rights of
U.S. citizens at border crossings.
Iftikhar also urged those going on Hajj to download an incident report form
from http://www.cair-net.org/downloads/hajji.pdf and keep it handy for
the return trip to the United States. CAIR’s Civil Rights Department can
also be reached by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
CAIR, America’s largest Muslim civil liberties group, has 30 offices and
chapters nationwide and in Canada. Its mission is to enhance understanding
of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American
Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.
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