Hindu dharma is implicitly at odds with monotheistic intolerance. What is happening in India is a new historical awakening... Indian intellectuals, who want to be secure in their liberal beliefs, may not understand what is going on. But every other Indian knows precisely what is happening: deep down he knows that a larger response is emerging even if at times this response appears in his eyes to be threatening.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Muslim-Americans Sue Govt for Racial Profiling

By Larry Fine

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Five Muslim-Americans sued the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday alleging racial profiling when they were detained and fingerprinted by border agents after returning from a religious conference.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court, named Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff among four defendants in what the New York Civil Liberties Union called a case of profiling.

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokeswoman declined comment since the case -- involving the reentry of the five U.S. citizens by car from Canada -- is in litigation.

Court papers said that on their way back from the Reviving the Islamic Spirit (RIS) conference in Toronto in December 2004, the plaintiffs were detained for up to six hours with other Muslim-Americans and searched, photographed and fingerprinted, the lawsuit said.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokeswoman Kristi Clemens defended the government's actions and said, "Our priority mission is to prevent terrorists and their weapons from entering this country."

In the past the agency has denied the use of profiling on the borders but said intelligence has shown that conferences similar to the one in Toronto have been used by terrorist organizations.


The suit charged the Muslim-Americans were taken aside after being asked if they attended the religious conference and were then subjected to unlawful treatment at a border crossing near Buffalo, New York, under a new Homeland Security policy.

"They are engaging in profiling," said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the NYCLU said. "The government detained people because they attended a conference that was perfectly legal, exercising their basic rights."

"We were told that we were being pulled aside because of a random selection," said plaintiff Sawsaan Tabbaa, an orthodontist from Amherst, New York, who was traveling with her four children. "Then we saw the whole Muslim community there that had attended the Islamic conference.

"It was unbelievable. I am proud of being American but I couldn't believe my eyes something like this could happen."

Tabbaa said she refused to be fingerprinted, but finally relented after breaking down in tears after more than four hours of detention.

The suit does not seek monetary damages, but asks for a declaration that the government action was unlawful, an injunction against further enforcement of such policies and practices and erasing from all federal databases of information obtained from the plaintiffs.

Lieberman, whose organization filed the suit along with the American Civil Liberties Union and Council on American-Islamic Relations, said there was nothing about the RIS conference to raise suspicions.

"If the government has suspicions about criminal activities they have every right and indeed the obligation to go after those suspicions," Lieberman said. "This is a case of rounding up the usual suspects in derogation of their rights and in derogation of all of our liberties."

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