Racial Profiling Irks Minnesota Muslims - Americas - News - OnIslam.net
Following recent decision to prevent US banks from handling transfers to Somalia, Muslims from the horn of Africa country have been complaining of increasing racial profiling and harassment at airports, accusing agents of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) of targeting them.
“You are treated as a second-class citizen, when you’re trying to change the narrative about being Somali," Mohamed Farah, a Minneapolis Somali youth leader, told Star Tribune On Sunday, March 1.
Being a Somali-American, Farah has been facing an ongoing pattern of racial profiling and harassment at US airports, despite having security clearances from the FBI and the US Secret Service.
The 30-year-old Muslim, who testified before Congress, conferred with the State Department and met with the secretary of Homeland Security, says "he cannot board a plane at the Twin Cities airport without being stopped and double-screened by agents of the TSA".
Farah is one of many Somali-Americans in Minnesota who have repeatedly complained of being discriminated against by TSA agents and US Customs and Border Protection officers.
“You are made to feel as if you are an outcast,” Farah said of his recent screening experiences.
“When they finally gave me back my ticket, one of the TSA agents asked me, ‘Hey, were you going to make a run for it if I hadn’t given your ticket back?’ ”
Three months ago, a new guideline by US President Barack Obama to curb racial profiling has been criticized by American Muslims for retaining "Muslim" carve-outs on profiling by security screening in airports and border checkpoints.
The guidelines restrict the ability of federal law enforcement agencies to profile on the basis of religion, national origin and other characteristics.
Although there are no official figures, the United States is believed to be home to between 6-8 million Muslims.
With the recent murder of three young Muslim students in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, the burning of an Islamic Center in Houston, Texas, which authorities ruled as arson, and the numerous reports of personal harassment, Muslims feel they are targeted in the States.
A recent Gallup poll, however, found 43 percent of Americans Nationwide admitted to feeling at least “a little” prejudice against Muslims.
Another Economist/YouGov poll found that a large majority of Americans believe that US Muslims are victims of discrimination amid recent attacks against the community.
Muslim complains of being targeted at airports have been denied by TSA and customs officials.
“We don’t stop people based on where they were born or how they dress,” said Bill Ferrara, Chicago field director for Customs and Border Protection.
“We question people based on where they’re coming from.”
Meanwhile, the TSA security director for Minnesota dismissed reports of mistreatment at the airport, saying that he has not received any complaints.
"We don’t profile, we don’t discriminate, but we have a serious security job to do,” the security director Cliff Van Leuven said.
Imams and elders, he noted, tell him: “ ‘We’re American citizens, too, and we want to be safe.’ ”
As for Farah’s alleged recent airport mistreatment, Ferrara said, “That is certainly not acceptable behavior” and vowed to look into the incident.
Despite TSA and customs officials' denial of discrimination at airports, US Muslim officials cited dozens of complaints lodged over the abuse of Somalis at the airport.
“We don’t understand their program because no one seems to be getting any relief from it,” US Representative Keith Ellison, DFL-Minneapolis, a practicing Muslim, said.
“They assure us in letters that they take these complaints seriously, but I wish I had answers.”
Moreover, racial profiling claims at airport have prompted Twin Cities Muslims' skepticism towards the Justice Department's new community outreach program to combat terrorist recruitment.
Minnesota is home to the largest number of Somali immigrants in the United States.
Last month, America’s first Muslim congressman Ellison has publicly rebuked the Obama administration’s terrorism strategy, arguing that a failure to prosecute hate crimes fuelled the narrative that America was at war with Islam.
Ellison’s comments were expressed during a White House summit held on February 18 on countering violent extremism.
The congressman said he joined the summit with the “sole purpose of ringing the alarm bell” over a recent decision to prevent US banks handling money transfers to Somalia.
According to US government, the move was claimed to prevent funding of terrorist groups operating in east Africa.
Yet, it was met by condemnations from development experts for cutting off an estimated $215m in annual remittances to Somali families from their relatives in the US.