Muslim group asks U.S. judge to ban border searches ahead of Toronto conference
CAROLYN THOMPSONThu Dec 15, 6:06 PM ET
(AP) - A group of Muslim-Americans asked a federal judge Thursday to allow them to travel to a religious conference in Toronto later this month without being fingerprinted, photographed and held for hours at the border, like they were on the way home from last year's gathering.
In a case that weighs the government's anti-terrorism efforts against the rights of its citizens, the New York Civil Liberties Union argued on the group's behalf for a court order prohibiting border agents from stopping and searching Muslim-Americans based solely on their attendance at the annual Reviving the Islamic Spirit conference in Toronto on Dec. 23-29.
Homeland Security officials acknowledged subjecting those who attended last year's conference to lengthy security checks upon their return to the United States, but said they had reason to believe that people associated with terrorism planned to attend the conference or others like it.
NYCLU lawyer Christopher Dunn accused the government of trampling the plaintiffs' right to practise religion in the name of homeland security.
"We fully respect the government's concerns about terrorism. That does not mean, however, that the constitution disappears at the border," Dunn said.
A lawyer for the government said that while the stops may have taken too long, border agents did what was necessary to protect the country in light of credible intelligence.
"The concern was not that they went to a religious conference. The concern was that individuals, money, documents or weapons were going to get smuggled across the border," said Anthony Coppolino, who argued against the group's request.
The five plaintiffs, all New York residents, are among at least three dozen Muslim-American men and women who were corralled for as long as 6 1/2 hours at two western New York border crossings while trying to re-enter the United States by car. They said they were made to surrender credit cards, cellphones and other belongings and were frisked, questioned, fingerprinted and photographed without explanation.
The five - an orthodontist and her college-student son, a teaching assistant, a graduate student and a hotel manager - are suing the Department of Homeland Security to have any personal information collected during the searches destroyed and for assurances that they can return from future conferences without being subjected to similar interrogations.
"Aren't you really asking me to give your clients a free pass?" Judge William Skretny asked the civil liberties lawyer.
"It's not saying they can't be treated like everyone else," Dunn said. "It's saying they can't be singled out."
Dr. Sawsan Tabbaa called the experience at the border the most humiliating of her life.
"This was something I would never expect, that I would be in a back room with my photograph being taken, treated like a suspect," she said, "But of what? What was my sin, I didn't know."
While Tabbaa, an orthodontics instructor at the University at Buffalo, said the experience had made her think twice about going to this year's conference, her 19-year-old son had no reservations.
"I just hope I won't be treated as a criminal again," Hassan Shibly said.
Coppolino said policy changes would subject fewer people to fingerprinting in the future and help to prevent the lengthy backups encountered last year. He said a staffing shortage at the border, the overnight crossing of a large number of people at once and added checks due to the conference-related intelligence had combined to create the delays.
He would not say whether authorities had terrorist concerns about this year's gathering.
Skretny indicated he would rule on the group's request before the conference start.
Shaykh Abdallah Bin Bayyah (Mauritania)
Shaykh Abdallah Bin Bayyah was born in the Eastern area of the land of the Shinqitt, now known as Mauritania. He is the son of one of the greatest scholars of his time. Shaykh Mahfudh, may Allah have mercy on his soul and sanctify his secret. Shaykh Mahfudh was both a scholar and a spiritual leader of his area with many students and novices. [more...]
Dr. Tareq Suwaidan (Kuwait)
Dr. Tareq Al-Suwaidan is a well known scholar throughout the Muslim world. He spent many years of his life living in various locations throughout the United States, and received a PhD in petroleum engineering. He is well known for his management and strategic planning training, helping create effective leaders across the globe. [more...]
Shaykh Hamza Yusuf (USA)
Hamza Yusuf was born in Washington State and raised in Northern California. In 1977, he became Muslim and subsequently traveled to the Muslim world and studied for ten years in the U. A. E., Saudi Arabia, as well as North and West Africa. He received teaching licenses in various Islamic subjects from several well-known scholars in various countries. [more...]
Ms. Atalla Shabazz (USA)
Ms. Shabazz, a producer, writer and lecturer, is one of the most sought after and captivating speakers in the United States, Europe, Africa and Central America. After more than 25 years of traveling the world, [more...]
Dr. Omar Abdel Kafi (Egypt)
Speaker profile to be posted soon.
Dr. Zakir Naik (India)
A medical doctor by professional training, Dr. Zakir Naik is renowned as a dynamic international orator on Islam and Comparative Religion. Dr. Zakir Naik clarifies Islamic viewpoints and clears misconceptions about Islam, using the Qur'an, authentic Hadith and other religious Scriptures as a basis, in conjunction with reason, logic and scientific facts. He is 37 years old. [more...]
Dr. Tariq Ramadan (Switzerland)
Professor Tariq RAMADAN holds MA in Philosophy and French literature and PhD in Arabic and Islamic Studies from the University of Geneva. In Cairo, Egypt he received one-on-one intensive training in classic Islamic scholarship from Al-Azhar University scholars. [more...]
Imam Zaid Shakir (USA)
Imam Zaid Shakir is amongst the most respected and influential Muslim scholars in the West. Born in Berkeley, California, the second of seven children he accepted Islam in 1977 while serving in the United States Air Force. [more...]
Mr. Eric Margolis
Founder of the school newspaper, Alexandre, Eric Margolis continued in the field of journalism as a syndicated columnist, writing for the Toronto Sun Media Group. He is Contributing Foreign Editor of the Toronto Sun newspapers and a syndicated columnist whose articles have been published in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the Los Angeles Times. He has appeared on Good Morning America, CBS News, CNN, ABC and WNET.
MIM: This posting about (or by ) Eric Margoulis was found on a Canadian website:
"...I steal my articles from disgruntled, Middle-eastern/Canadian Exchange students for my gratuitous pleasure and get paid for reposting it in mainstream press articles... *Hahaha My name is Eric Margoulis!!*
Oh and you forgot to add.... 'I LIKE TO CHOP WESTERN CHRISTIAN-JEWISH INFIDELS HEADS OFF!!!' ..."
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Shaykh Sulaiman Mulla (South Africa)
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Imam Suhaib Webb (USA)
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Dr. Jamal Badawi (Canada)
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Dr. Ingrid Mattson (USA)
Dr. Ingrid Mattson is Professor of Islamic Studies and Director of Islamic Chaplaincy at the Macdonald Center for Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations at Hartford Seminary in Hartford, CT.. [more...]
Shaykh Muhammed AlShareef (Canada)
Muhammad Alshareef was born in 1975 and raised in Canada. In his youth, he memorized the Quran and later graduated with an Islamic Law degree from the Islamic University of Madinah, class of 1999. He is the founder of AlMaghrib Institute. [more...]
MIM:For more about last year's conference see:
lal Philips :Speaker at Reviving the Islamic Spirit confab in ... Bilal Philips :Speaker at Reviving the Islamic Spirit confab in Toronto :'Beheadings, stonings, & lashings should be carried out on Fridays' ... www.militantislammonitor.org/article/id/558 - 36k - Cached - Similar pages
Satire - Militant Islam Monitor Bilal Philips :Speaker at Reviving the Islamic Spirit confab in Toronto :'Beheadings, stonings, & lashings should be carried out on Fridays', April 22, 2005 ... www.militantislammonitor.org/docs?type=3 - 85k - Dec 14, 2005 - Cached - Similar pages