Tensions between the United States government and The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) are about to heat up, as the Michigan chapter of the organization has filed a lawsuit in federal court against government authorities. CAIR has launched the complaint in response to what it calls intrusive questioning and “psychological torture” that Muslim American citizens are faced with when they try to re-enter the U.S. at the northern border with Canada, CNS News reports.
The lawsuit was filed on April 13 in U.S. District Court in Michigan against the Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the Transportation Security administration (TSA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Two FBI agents — Robert B. Thompson and Jeff Sokolowski — are listed as defendants.
The case hinges on the fact that some Detroit-area Muslims claim that they have been held at gunpoint, handcuffed and repeatedly harassed about their religion when returning to the U.S. from Canada. The lawsuit (read the complaint in its entirety here) seeks to bar government agents from asking questions about religion.
Watch the CAIR Michigan press conference from earlier this month, below:
The Michigan branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations said border agents and the FBI are violating the First Amendment and a 1993 federal law that guarantees freedom to practice religion.
“Since the tragedy of 9/11, we have seen a steady erosion of civil liberties of Muslim-Americans,” CAIR director Dawud Walid said Friday, a day after a lawsuit was filed in federal court in Detroit.
CNS News has more about the individuals launching the complaints, which date back to 2008 and allegedly occurred as recently as Dec. 2011:
The four plaintiffs are identified as Muslim male U.S. citizens. They are Abdulrahman Cherri, Wissam Charafeddine, Ali Suleiman Ali, and Kheireddine Bouzid. The lawsuit claims that the plaintiffs’ First and Fifth Amendment rights have been violated. It also alleges that the federal government violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act by “targeting and detaining Plaintiffs with a purpose of questioning them about their religious beliefs and practices.” […]
According to…Walid…individuals trying to reenter the United States through the northern border are not directly asked whether or not they are Muslim. Instead, he indicated that they are profiled based on their name, background, or physical appearance.
“We believe [that] is based upon their name. They see names that appear to be Muslim, they have some type of Arabic background or people whose physical appearance, you know, they have the appearance of wearing some type perhaps scarf,” Walid told CNSNews.com.
Attorney Shereef Akeel said it’s hard to imagine a Jew crossing the border and being asked about the Sabbath or a Roman Catholic quizzed about praying the rosary.
“It’s really persecution. They’re targeting a group,” he said.
According to the lawsuit, Kheireddine Bouzid, 24, of Ypsilanti has been stopped at the border at least five times since 2008 by agents with their guns drawn.
None of the agencies named in the lawsuit have conclusively confirmed or denied the allegations waged against them. A spokeswoman for CBP, though, claims that the agency doesn’t allow profiling based on race or religion. Likewise, a spokesperson for the TSA told CNS News that the agency also doesn’t profile based on race, ethnicity or religion.
CAIR, though, maintains that the plaintiffs were asked questions that both humiliated and stigmatized them. According to the lawsuit, the following, Islam-specific questions were asked: Which mosque do you go to?, How many times a day do you pray?, Who is your religious leader? and Do you perform your morning prayer at the mosque?
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
(H/T: CNS News)