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Muslims question full-body search of woman in head scarf

January 7, 2010

Dearborn native says she was told she was singled out by security



The Detroit News


Detroit — A national Muslim civil rights group is asking the Transportation Security Administration for clarification on whether Muslim women wearing Islamic head scarves, or hijabs, will be singled out for additional security checks after a traveller said she was targeted for a “humiliating” full-body search at an airport Tuesday.


The Council on American-Islamic Relations office in Washington, D.C., sent the letter via e-mail Wednesday after a Muslim woman Tuesday from Washington’s Dulles International Airport to Los Angeles said she was asked to remove her hijab and then put through a full-body pat-down search when she refused to take off the scarf.


She said she did consent to a search. The woman told CAIR officials her clothes, luggage, laptop computer and cell phone were searched and tested for bomb-making materials.


Nadia Hassan, 40, of Maryland said she was patted down in front of her daughter, 5, and several male TSA staffers.


“It was very humiliating. It was very uncomfortable,” Hassan told The Detroit News via a telephone interview from California. “I didn’t say anything. I didn’t want to cause any trouble. … I’m an American. I’m not a foreigner. My country is treating me this way?”


Hassan, a Dearborn native, said she was told by one of the TSA guards that “I was singled out because I was wearing the hijab” and that the search was part of new rules that went into effect Tuesday. A spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the TSA, did not comment on the incident but said TSA screeners do not single out Muslim women wearing head scarves.


“The Transportation Security Administration’s current procedures for the screening of bulky clothing or headwear — which have been in effect since 2007 — remain unchanged. The wearing of a hijab itself does not automatically trigger security checks,” said Sarah Horowitz in a written statement to The News. “To ensure the highest level of security, passengers wearing loose fitting or bulky clothing — including headwear — may be subject to additional screening.”


CAIR National Director Nihad Awad wrote to TSA Acting Director Gale D. Rossides on Wednesday, saying, “If this troubling new policy is indeed in effect, it represents religious profiling in its most egregious form. We respectfully request that you clarify whether Islamic head scarves will now trigger automatic secondary screening for Muslim travellers.


“If so, does this new policy apply to all those who wear religious head coverings, such as Sikh men, Catholic nuns and Orthodox Jewish women, or will it apply exclusively to Muslim travelers?”


TSA officials did not return calls.



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