Three Muslim Americans filed a trial this week, alleging that US border officials questioned them about their religious beliefs in violation of their constitutional rights upon their return from international travel.
The men involved in the lawsuit say US border agents at land crossings and international airports peppered them with questions about whether they were Muslims and attended a mosque and how often they prayed.
Abdirahman Aden Kariye, a Minnesota imam and plaintiff in the lawsuit, said he was questioned about his faith at least five times upon returning to the country between 2017 and 2022.
The repeated interrogations caused Kariye stress and led him to stop wearing a Muslim cap known as a kufi and to stop wearing religious texts when traveling abroad to avoid further scrutiny, said indicated the trial.
“I’m proud to be a Muslim,” Kariye said. “But now every time I go home to the United States, I get anxious. I am constantly worried about how I will be perceived, so much so that I try to avoid drawing attention to my faith.
The three men from Minnesota, Texas and Arizona sued Department of Homeland Security officials in federal court in Los Angeles. The lawsuit was filed in California because some of the interrogations allegedly took place at the Los Angeles airport.
The American Civil Liberties Union, which represents the men, said the interrogation violated the men’s constitutional rights to freedom of religion and protection from unequal treatment.
“Just as border officials cannot single out American Christians asking what denomination they are, what church they attend, and how often they pray, singling out American Muslims for similar matters is unconstitutional,” the lawsuit said.
He added, “By targeting complainants for religious questioning simply because they are Muslim, the defendants’ border agents stigmatize them for their adherence to a particular religion and condemn their religion as subject to suspicion and mistrust.”
He is asking a judge to declare religious interrogation unconstitutional and order US government agencies to expunge records containing information obtained through the interrogation of the men.
The Department of Homeland Security did not immediately return a Guardian request for comment on the lawsuit.
Another plaintiff, Hameem Shah, a Plano, Texas resident who works in financial services, said he was returning in 2019 from a vacation in Serbia and Bosnia when he was turned away at the Los Angeles airport. for additional control.
Officers separated him from other travelers and began reading his personal diary, despite his opposition, and asked him if he had traveled to the Middle East, saying they wanted to make sure he was a ” safe person,” according to the lawsuit.
They also questioned him about his religious beliefs and practices, searched his phone and released him two hours later, according to the lawsuit.
“I thought being American meant that I and others were free to practice whatever religion we choose,” Shah said in a statement, adding that the airport experience he had had still haunts him.
“Religious interrogation by border officials is unconstitutional, and it is high time the government was held accountable,” he added. noted Ashley Gorski, senior attorney for the ACLU’s National Security Project.
“This invasive interrogation serves no legitimate law enforcement purpose and sends the harmful and stigmatizing message that the U.S. government views Muslims as inherently suspect,” she added.
US Border Security has consistently targeted and profiled Muslims for religious interrogation at airports. In 2010, the ACLU, along with other organizations, filed complaints to DHS regarding border questioning of Muslims about their religious beliefs and practices.