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3 Muslim Americans Were Flying Through LAX. The ACLU Says Federal Agents Violated Their Rights

A plane is pictured in motion flying above a blue LAX sign.
A jet comes in for landing at Los Angeles International Airport.
(David McNew
Getty Images)
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The American Civilities Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit Thursday alleging that United States Customs and Border Patrol agents repeatedly subjected three Muslim American to “intrusive” questioning about their religious beliefs and practices while they traveled through LAX and other airports.

The plaintiffs say the questions included whether they’re Muslim, what sect of Islam they practice and which mosque they attend — violating their constitutional rights. The ACLU said the case was filed in Los Angeles because many of the instances happened at LAX.

“I am proud to be a Muslim,” said Imam Abdirahman Aden Kariye, a plaintiff in the case and religious leader in Minnesota, in a statement. “I normally wear a Muslim prayer cap, but I no longer wear it at the airport to avoid being questioned by border officials. It’s terrible to feel you have to hide an essential part of who you are from your own government.”

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Attorney Mohammad Tajsar, of the ACLU of Southern California, is representing the plaintiffs.

“Those questions communicate a stigma that the government has towards Islam and Muslim identity in a way that violates the First Amendment's prohibition on favoring or disfavoring a particular religion,” Taisar said.

He contends border agents are singling out Muslim Americans in violation of their constitutional rights.

A customs and border patrol spokesperson says the agency does not comment on pending litigation. The suit also names the Department of Homeland Security which oversees border policies. DHS has not responded to LAist’s request for comment.

“What I experienced at the hands of CBP when coming back to my own country still haunts me,” said plaintiff Hameem Shah in the statement. "I thought that being an American meant that I and others are free to practice any religion that we choose.”

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