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

Multimedia Obama, Modi Resolve Nuclear Deal Issues

Leaders find resolution on issues of liability of suppliers to India in event of nuclear accident, US demands to track whereabouts of material supplied to country More

WHO's Late Efforts in Tackling Ebola Highlight Need for Reform

Health experts debate measures to reform agency’s response to global public health emergencies in special one-day session on deadly outbreak More

One Tumultuous Year in Power for CAR's President

As sectarian violence raged across Central African Republic, interim President Catherine Samba-Panza has Herculean task: to end civil war and put country back on right track 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.
Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youthi
X
Julie Taboh
January 23, 2015 11:08 PM
Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.
Video

Video US Marching Bands Grow Into a Show of Their Own

The 2014 Super Bowl halftime show was the most-watched in history - attracting an estimated 115 million viewers. That event featured pop star Bruno Mars. But the halftime show tradition started with marching bands, which still dominate the entertainment at U.S. high school and college American football games. But as Enming Liu reports in this story narrated by Adrianna Zhang, marching bands have grown into a show of their own.
Video

Video Secular, Religious Kurds Face Off in Southeast Turkey

Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast has been rocked by violence between religious and secular Kurds. Dorian Jones reports on the reasons behind the stand-off from the region's main city of Diyarbakir, which suffered the bloodiest fighting.
Video

Video Kenya: Misuse of Antibiotics Leading to Resistance by Immune System

In Kenya, the rise of drug resistant bacteria could reverse the gains made by medical science over diseases that were once treatable. Kenyans could be at risk of fatalities as a result if the power in antibiotics is not preserved. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story from Nairobi.
Video

Video Solar-Powered Plane Getting Ready to Circumnavigate Globe

Pilots of the solar plane that already set records flying without a drop of fuel are close to making their first attempt to fly the craft around the globe. They plan to do it in 25 flying days over a five month period. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video How Experts Decide Ethiopia Has the Best Coffee

Ethiopia’s coffee has been ranked as the best in the world by an international group of coffee connoisseurs. Not surprisingly, coffee is a top export for the country. But at home it is a source of pride. Marthe van der Wolf in Addis Ababa decided to find out what makes the bean and brew so special and how experts make their determinations.
Video

Video Yazidi Refugees at Center of Political Fight Between Turkey, Kurds

The treatment of thousands of Yazidis refugees who fled to Turkey to escape attacks by Islamic State militants has become the center of a dispute between the Turkish government and the country's pro-Kurdish movement. VOA's Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video World’s Richest 1% Forecast to Own More Than Half of Global Wealth

The combined wealth of the world's richest 1 percent will overtake that of the remaining 99 percent at some point in 2016, according to the anti-poverty charity Oxfam. Campaigners are demanding that policymakers take action to address the widening gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

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