WASHINGTON (FinalCall.com) – Islamic leaders, civil rights activists and diplomats around the globe reacted angrily to intense airport security in this country which resulted in the arrest, detention and expulsion of a variety of distinguished Muslim visitors–including some who were guests of the U.S. State Department.
Emam Ahmed Kutty, one of Canada’s most respected religious leaders, who has preached tolerance and peace throughout North America for more than two decades, was ordered off his Orlando-bound flight from Toronto and interrogated in an airport holding cell and a local jail for 16 hours on Sept. 11.
“We have gone through a traumatic experience. Really it dehumanized us,” said Emam Kutty, after he and Sheikh Abdool Hamid, another official of the Islamic Center of Canada in Mississauga, Ontario, were released from the Ft. Lauderdale City Jail and returned to Canada, according to The Toronto Star.
“It seemed very clear that they hated Islam, and the fact that we were scholars seemed to make it even worse,” he continued. Florida Muslim leaders were outraged because the men reported comments from a customs agent who said they had picked the wrong day to fly–the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on New York’s World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
“Because of security reasons, they were found inadmissible,” said Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Nina Pruneda, according to Florida’s Sun Sentinel newspaper.
“Since when are Muslims throughout the world being told they cannot travel on Sept. 11?” asked Altaf Ali, Florida executive director of the Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR), in a statement released by that organization.
The Canadian Islamic Congress renewed the travel advisory it first issued in January to Muslims traveling to the U.S. and the group chastised its own government following the incident.
“We call on all Canadian Muslims not to travel to the U.S. unless it is absolutely necessary,” said Dr. Mohamed Elmasry, the group’s national president in a statement obtained by The Final Call. “The inaction of the Canadian government in protecting its citizens is shameful.”
In an earlier incident, an 18-member delegation of Yemeni citizens, invited by the U.S. State Department to meet senior trade and agriculture officials, was detained for five hours at Washington’s Dulles International Airport on Sept. 3.
“I was in shock. If things are going to continue like this, why should I come to this country?” said Yahya al Habari, according to The Washington Post. Mr. al Habari is a member of Yemen’s legislature, who travels with a diplomatic passport. “I’d rather import Australian or Canadian wheat and save myself problems.”
In yet another incident, in August, distinguished scholar, political scientist and broadcaster Dr. Ali Mazrui, was detained for more than seven hours at Miami International Airport. He is the Albert Schweitzer Professor in Humanities, director of the Institute of Global Cultural Studies at New York’s State University at Binghamton, teaches at Cornell University, and has been a permanent U.S. resident since 1974.
After he landed in Miami on his return from Trinidad on Aug. 3, Dr. Mazrui told The Washington Post that he was questioned first by immigration officials, then by customs representatives, and finally by agents from the Department of Homeland Security. Their questions included “‘What is jihad?’ and whether I believed in it. I gave them ‘Jihad 101,’” he said.
In addition to his scholastic achievements, Dr. Mazrui was the host of the PBS TV documentary series “The Africans,” which explored the “wonders of the African continent,” including the influence of Islam there.
One of Canada’s most moderate religious leaders, in the initial wake of 9-11, Emam Kutty was heralded as “a beacon of reason and calm” within Toronto’s Muslim community for his sermons preached at the city’s west-end Jami Mosque.
“Let us make no mistake about it,” Emam Kutty told Toronto Star columnist Jim Coyle in October 2001, “today, Muslims have no enemy greater than fanatics in their midst. Let us know that fanaticism is ignorance. It is nothing but sickness and bigotry. Let us know that fanaticism is opposed to both scripture and reason.”
Canadian Muslims insist that the case of Emam Kutty is similar to that of Berna Cruz, an Indian-Canadian who was sent back to India after Chicago agents accused her of carrying a fake passport, and that of Maher Arar, a Syrian-Canadian who remains locked up in Syria on suspicion of terrorism after he passed through New York.
The Canadian Islamic Congress is a national membership organization committed to serving Muslims in that country. CAIR is the largest Islamic civil liberties group in the U.S. with 16 offices nationwide and in Canada.
On Sept. 25, CAIR is participating in an awareness and protocol seminar for 800 law enforcement officers, local officials and community leaders from the Baltimore-Washington region at Prince George’s Community College, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Justice Community Relations Service (CRS).