A R C H I V E S
Madinat al-Muslimeen Islamic Message Board
|Doing it the AMERICAN way|
|08/07/02 at 16:04:43|
|Profiling of American Muslim Official Shows Pattern of Harassment: Attorney|
By Ayesha Ahmad, IOL Washington Correspondent
WASHINGTON, Aug 7 (IslamOnline) - The racial profiling of an American Muslim at a Nevada airport last month is part of a spreading pattern of harassment of Muslims across the country, attorney Stanley Cohen said during a press conference Tuesday, August 6.
"Profiling has become the law of the day," said Cohen, a well-known New York-based lawyer who recently filed a suit against Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, U.S. President George W. Bush, and other U.S. and Israeli officials, on behalf of some Palestinian-Americans.
"Patterns of harassment, surveillance and detention are a given now," he added. Cohen and his client were speaking at a news conference hosted by the American Muslim Council (AMC), a Washington-based American Muslim advocacy group.
The profiling victim, Muhammad Ali Khan, is a U.S. citizen and investment banker, who also serves as the treasurer for AMC's board of directors. At the time of the profiling incident, he was attempting to board a Northwest Airlines flight home to Chicago from McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas.
Less than a month ago, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director Robert Mueller spoke at AMC's annual convention in Washington, where Khan met and shook hands with him. Cohen called it "perverse, if not bizarre" that only a few weeks later Mueller's agents "were profiling… a man for having the name Ali Khan."
Cohen told reporters that Khan was on AMC business in Las Vegas, and noted that his round-trip ticket had been paid for by credit card - suspicions are usually aroused by one-way tickets paid for with cash after some of the September 11 hijackers purchased their tickets in that manner.
Khan arrived nearly two hours early for his 4:05 pm flight; at the ticket counter, the Northwest worker scrutinized his ID cards and told him to wait while they fixed the computer, Cohen said.
Within a few minutes, however, officers from the Las Vegas police department arrived and surrounded him, taking him into custody. Khan told reporters that he was informed, "You are being detained now."
He was then escorted through the airport, which he said was a humiliating experience with "the whole airport… watching… I felt like I was wearing a scarlet letter." He was taken to a "back room," where FBI agents soon joined Las Vegas police officers.
"I kept saying to myself - in America? This is happening?" he told reporters.
The officers were polite, he said, although one did nothing but stare at him, and he admitted that he had certainly felt fear as he was surrounded and detained, and again when the federal agents arrived.
He was asked if he had ever left the country and for what reason, if he had ever been arrested, why he was traveling and where he had stayed in Las Vegas.
"I felt like a criminal… but I answered all his questions," Khan said.
The FBI questioned him for a little over ten minutes, and he was escorted back to his gate with 20 minutes left before the flight was to take off. The FBI agents left him there, but a Las Vegas police officer remained with him as he discovered that the airline refused to allow him on the plane and had already made "other arrangements" for his travel.
Cohen said that Northwest Airlines had "a history" of profiling incidents since September 11, saying he had received calls from other attorneys about similar cases.
Khan denounced his profiling as an obstacle to what AMC and other Muslim organizations were trying to accomplish in integrating Muslims into American society, saying, "To reach and build partnerships, you cannot treat an American Muslim like this."
"The incident that occurred to me at the Las Vegas airport was quite humiliating," Khan said, reminding reporters that only recently he heard the president say, "If one American suffers, we all suffer."
"President [George W.] Bush, the American Muslims are suffering," he said. "Are we all suffering?"
In response to a question regarding Cohen's controversial stances - including his representation of a political leader in the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas - Khan defended his attorney, saying, "I see him as a civil rights advocate, and that's what this is about - civil rights and civil liberties."
When asked if he believed that profiling was at all necessary to prevent more terror attacks, Cohen said, "It probably drives more middle-class people closer to terrorism… It does nothing. Everyone who knows the industry knows it does nothing."
Khan said that this was actually his third encounter with racial profiling. Twice since September 11, he has been profiled in traffic stops. With this third incident, he said, "enough is enough."
Cohen said that they would be filing a multimillion-dollar lawsuit within the next four to six weeks against the FBI, Northwest Airlines, and the Las Vegas police department.
"[Khan has] let these folks do it their way," he said. "Now he's going to do it the American way.".
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