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Three Muslim Americans filed a lawsuit claiming the United States Border officers were invasive in questioning them about their religious beliefs, which would violate their constitutional rights. Unfortunately, border officers singling out Muslims is nothing new.
Source: NowThis News/Youtube
The three men involved in the lawsuit alleged that the United States Border officers at land borders and international airports rigorously questioned them about their religion, if they attended a mosque, which mosque they attended, whether they are Sunni or Shi’a, and how often they prayed.
One man, Abdirahman Aden Kariye, an imam from Minnesota, said that between 2017 and 2022, he was questioned about his religion at least five different times when returning to the country.
This questioning caused Kariye to stop wearing his kufi, a Muslim cap, and to stop bringing religious texts when he traveled internationally.
“I am proud to be a Muslim,” said plaintiff Kariye. “But now whenever I travel back home to the United States, I’m anxious. I’m constantly worried about how I will be perceived, so much so that I try to avoid calling any attention to my faith. I normally wear a Muslim prayer cap, but I no longer wear it at the airport to avoid being questioned by border officials. It’s terrible to feel you have to hide an essential part of who you are from your own government. I shouldn’t be questioned because of my religion.”
The questioning by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) violates the plaintiffs’ First Amendment freedoms of religion and association. They are also in violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).
Border officers and TSA checkers are known to single out Muslim Americans to question. Because the CBP and HSI singled them out for questioning, they are also violating the First and Fifth Amendments protections against unequal treatment based on religion.
Another plaintiff, Hameem Shah, was questioned about his religious beliefs and practices, and officers searched his phone for two hours before finally releasing him. Shah said the experience of coming back to his own country still haunts him.
“I thought that being an American meant that I and others are free to practice any religion that we choose,” said Shah, “It concerns me that other Americans and visitors to this country may also be unfairly targeted and humiliated based solely on their religious beliefs. This practice is fundamentally incompatible with the values this country was founded on.”
The lawsuit was filed in California because some of the inappropriate questioning happened at the Los Angeles airport. The American Civil Liberties Union represents the three men and asks the judge to declare the religious questioning was unconstitutional and for the US government agencies to eliminate records containing information about what the men were questioned, which can stay in the system for 75 years.
“It is and always has been wrong to force Muslims, or any person of faith, to divulge their religious beliefs and practice to border officials,” said Mohammad Tajsar, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Foundation. “The government’s longstanding, discriminatory scrutiny of Muslim travelers must end now.”
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