News / USA

Civil Rights Groups: US Muslims' Rights Violated at Border

If any U.S. citizen knows his legal rights, Hassan Shibly does. A law student at the University of Buffalo in New York, he has also clerked for a judge at New York's State Supreme Court.

Last summer he took his wife and son on a pilgrimage to the Muslim holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia, and to visit to his family in Syria. Upon return, he says, he was taken aside for questioning at New York's John F. Kennedy airport.

Shibly says an agent asked him how many gods and prophets he believes in and whether he studies his religion full time.

"And I think one of the most offensive things was in the end," Shibly recalled, "when he was trying to wrap things up, he said: 'I hope you're not annoyed. It's just that we want to protect this country from bombs and terrorism.'"

Lawrence Ho is also a U.S. citizen, and a Muslim convert. He was stopped at a border crossing with Canada.

Ho says he was held for four hours and asked religious questions interrogation-style - in a closed room, by a special agent, with armed guards watching.

"They're treating me like a suspect," he says. "Like while I was in there, I just felt like I was a criminal. At a certain point they almost make you feel like you did something wrong."

Civil liberties groups say U.S. border officials are violating the constitutional rights of American Muslims by asking about their religious beliefs and practices on their return from trips abroad.

Ho and Shibly's testimony form part of a complaint to the government by two groups - the American Civil Liberties Union and Muslim Advocates.

It alleges that the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency, or CBP, has been questioning Muslims or people that appear to be Muslim about their religious and political beliefs, associations and activities.

Hina Shamsi is director of the ACLU's National Security Project:

"Of course we all recognize that it is the government's job to keep the country safe and secure, and we want it to do that," she said. "But questioning innocent American Muslims about their religious and political beliefs does nothing to make us safer."

She says it also violates the First Amendment of the Constitution, which guarantees religious liberty.

Shamsi says U.S. citizens and residents may only be questioned in this way if there is a reasonable suspicion, based on credible evidence, that a person has engaged in criminal activity. And the faith-related questions have to be relevant, she says.

"It cannot be a dragnet set of questions," she added. "That is simply impermissible and unconstitutional."

In response to questions by the Voice of America about the allegations, CBP says in a statement that it does not select travelers for questioning on the basis of faith or race.

Although the statement does not address the issue of religious questions, it does maintain that a reasonable suspicion is not required for travelers to be stopped and investigated with regard to their citizenship, identity and admissibility into the country.

Since the September 11, 2001 attacks, there has been a fierce debate in America over how to defend against terrorism carried out in the name of Islam - without violating the rights of this country's Muslim minority.

Shibly immigrated to America with his family at the age of four. He says his experience at the airport makes him worry about the future for his one-year-old boy.

"I want him to grow up in the America that I grew up in, where people respect [each other] despite religious and political and ideological differences, and we're all - at the end of the day - Americans, and we love each other and we can all work together toward the common good," said Shibly.


Jerome Socolovsky

Jerome Socolovsky is the award-winning religion correspondent for the Voice of America, based in Washington. He reports on the rapidly changing faith landscape of the United States, including interfaith issues, secularization and non-affiliation trends and the growth of immigrant congregations.

You May Like

Will Cuba Follow the Southeast Asia Model?

Decision to restore ties between US and Cuba has some debating whether it will lead to an enhancement or regression of democracy on the Communist island nation More

Kenyan Designer Finds Her Niche in Fashion Industry

‘Made in China’ fabrics underlie her success More

Report: CIA, Israel's Mossad Killed Senior Hezbollah Commander

The Washington Post story says Imad Mughniyah was killed instantly by a bomb "triggered remotely" from Tel Aviv by Mossad agents More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Jefferson's Library Continues to Impress, 200 Years Lateri
X
Deborah Block
January 31, 2015 12:12 AM
Two hundred years after the U.S. Congress purchased a huge collection of books belonging to former President Thomas Jefferson, it remains one of America’s greatest literal treasures and has become the centerpiece of Washington’s Library of Congress. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.
Video

Video Jefferson's Library Continues to Impress, 200 Years Later

Two hundred years after the U.S. Congress purchased a huge collection of books belonging to former President Thomas Jefferson, it remains one of America’s greatest literal treasures and has become the centerpiece of Washington’s Library of Congress. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid