American Morning

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January 8th, 2010
10:00 AM ET

Muslim-American says she's victim of religious profiling

Editor's Note: Anyone who took to the skies over the holidays will tell you that security has been tighter since a Nigerian man was arrested for allegedly trying to blow up a commercial airliner. But Muslims in the United States and Canada say they are being targeted. Is it racial profiling? American Morning's Alina Cho has the story of two women who say it happened to them.

By Alina Cho, CNN

Nadia Hassan is a frequent flier. Imagine her surprise when she arrived at the security checkpoint at Washington's Dulles International Airport Tuesday and encountered what she calls, "racial, religious profiling."

The 40-year-old Michigan-born Muslim-American, headed to Los Angeles, says she was singled out for what she calls a "humiliating" full-body search.

When she asked why this was happening "the gentleman who was working there specifically told me that the reason I'm being put through this type of search is because I'm wearing a head scarf. … He actually came out and told me that that's the reason why you are being targeted."

She's not alone.

On Monday, a Muslim-Canadian woman says she was made to feel like a terrorist because she was wearing a headscarf. She says she was berated and banned from boarding a flight to the United States – all because of her faith.

The Council on American Islamic Relations calls these textbook cases of profiling.

"It's violating the law. It's unconstitutional and un-American to single people out because of their religion. It's a knee-jerk measure that's going to cause panic and fear," says the council's national executive director, Nihad Awad.

iReport: Does religious garb increase screening?

U.S. Customs, who handled the Canadian woman's case, would not comment specifically on it. But in a statement to CNN said that the current TSA screening procedures for bulky clothing and headwear have been in place since 2007, that wearing a headscarf doesn't automatically trigger a search, and "in instances where passengers choose not to remove bulky clothing, including headwear, our officers are trained to offer a private screening area and may conduct a pat down search to clear the individual."

Hassan says her pat-down search happened in public, in front of her 5-year-old daughter and several male TSA agents. She stresses that she favors strict security, but not when the screening is selective.

“I think they need to define what they are looking for. Do they even know what they're looking for? You're targeting the innocent people yet the bad guys are getting away. It just makes me wonder.”

The Council on American Islamic Relations says if the TSA is going to flag women who wear headscarves then what about nuns who wear habits or Sikhs who wear turbans?

The TSA says it is continuing to work closely to provide security protocols that are thorough and effective while fostering respect.

Filed under: Controversy
soundoff (12 Responses)
  1. Nanci

    if you don't want to be profiled and don't want to be padded down or searched publicly then dont' wrap your head in a towel.

    You should blend in with American Society, as Americans we have a specific look and if you expect to live in this country and live the American Dream then you have to tell all your family to stop trying to KILL Americans and destroy our Honor and to Stop being Jealous of US because Americans rule the world...

    otherwise we are going to Profile you and search you all over to make sure you are not tyring to kill yourself and all of us because your God told you to do it...

    that aint God that's the devil lying to you and telling you lies!

    I don't care if you are born here in the States... if you don't want to be American then go back home to your own county. We don't want you here anyway!

    and that's all I have to say about that...

    January 23, 2010 at 12:57 am |
  2. Jack

    I dont feel as if this woman was profiled. I had to remove my baseball cap, my kangol, and a skull cap anytime I have gotten on a airplane. Prepare yourself before going thru security by removing these item and you avoid having these problems.

    The real ignorance her is that she did something that she knew was going to draw attention to herself. Then try to say that standard procedure is profiling. If i use my credit card at a store and I had not signed the back of the card and the cashier ask me for ID I cant accuse the cashier of profiling.

    January 11, 2010 at 10:57 am |
  3. Zen Alexander

    As long as muslims are killing innocent people they will be profiled at security check points. Get used to it.

    January 11, 2010 at 10:05 am |
  4. TURLEY Hayes

    Profiling is morally wrong, no matter the safety of the American people. for years I have been profiled as a crazy gay activist. We are all equal in this country, therefore profiling should be illegal period.

    January 11, 2010 at 7:22 am |
  5. Ayad Iraqi

    It is sad to read such ignorant comments!

    Your ignorance is your enemy.

    If a terrorist wants to accomplish a terror event, the person will not be so stupid to look suspicious to the security authorities, or even he lay public.

    Stupid vigilance is a catalyst for clever terrorism!

    Use random screening rather than racial profiling, lest a terrorist would escape!

    None, None of the terrorists who committed and who tried to commit a terrorist attack in airports or airlines was looking alike a "traditional muslim" or a "traditional middle eastern"....

    Remember, you say we are in war against terrorism.... an enemy in a warfare is as smart as the opponent!

    Be smart and think like a potential terrorist!

    Again, do not let stupid vigilance supercede smart sentinel!

    Ayad Ali
    Proud Muslim

    January 9, 2010 at 5:36 pm |
  6. AL

    Sadly I have to say YES! The "bad muslims" have created a situation where those "Good Muslims" are suffering the consequences! For me, until the vast majority of those "good Muslims" take action to police from within, denounce their religious leaders who support these animals, and take back control of their religion they will continue to be disrespected!

    January 9, 2010 at 12:54 pm |
  7. John Davidson

    Get over it. Profiling is a skilled learned art. It is not something for the uneducated to engage in. When done correctly, it narrows the search criteria, and produces cost effective results. The price of NOT profiling you ask? Everyone gets strip searched, and nobody gets anywhere fast.

    January 9, 2010 at 11:32 am |

    My son and his family(all americans and catholic) just flew in from Germany Tuesday where they were visiting his brother-in-law, (and family,all americans and catholic) who is stationed there as a member of the united states military. His whole family was patted down and searched including my 7 yr old grand daughter . The woman at airport security even felt inside my daughter-in-law's bra. SHE HAD NO SCARF ON HER HEAD AND IS NOT MUSLIM, (remember American and catholic). No one in the family is complaining and felt safer knowing security was checking everyone. WHAT IS THIS WOMAN'S PROBLEM? Profiling, she complained? Or did she want to be on CNN news? ..............

    January 8, 2010 at 8:07 pm |
  9. Cormac O'Hanlon

    As a frequent air traveler I'm never allowed to pass through airport security wearing a baseball cap. If i refused to remove it I'd expect to under go extensive secondary screening. That's just a baseball cap never mind a garment who's very purpose is to conceal.

    January 8, 2010 at 4:48 pm |
  10. sharon

    The Canadian woman's complaints are in sharp contrast to a Muslim gentleman on CNN recently who said he gets searched all the time but, doesn't mind it. He said he understands. I was strip searched when leaving the Dominican Republic many years ago- singled out from about 100 people. I never knew why. But, for some reason, I looked suspicious. I never forgot it but...I understand.

    January 8, 2010 at 4:46 pm |
  11. Mrs. Eileen G. Curras widow do Hernandez (WWII)

    I hope that the skies security will be tight since a Nigerian man was arrested for allegedly trying to blow up a commercial airliner. My opinion is that Muslims in the United States and Canada have to exercise no tolerance to any violence based on religion or any believe. After so many hate situations from Muslims have to understand that the same way these individuals feel to attack we (American) have to take whatever measures to protect ourselves. Politically Correct People will addressed this situation as Racial Profiling but we do not have a choice after the situation in December 2009. Nadia Hassan has to understand if she is a frequent flier and I think that the Muslims Community has to exercise communication to their bother Counties and they need to enforce no tolerance. The measures taken are just for security reasons due to the extreme ideas. Everybody else is subject to full-body search. I am a Person with Disabilities and on July 2007 I had to take a fly from Puerto Rico to Florida because of an Intra Familiar Domestic Violence Incident. I underwent thru a full-body search and the person did the search professionally. I understood her job and I knew that this was going to happen and my child was afraid after the incident in Puerto Rico. I told her that they had to do a job and to show her that everything was ok I was the first to go in to be search. The island did not provide the services my child needed. I needed to get out from Puerto Rico to get the proper services. Muslims need to understand and value the freedoms given to them in the United States. The price that fanatics ask is too high to be paid. We all need to take responsibilities until things get under control.

    My husband was Veteran from World War II. The brain wash he received from that incident showed until his last days. He was not patient with Asian people and it is understandable after what he witness at the early age of 17. I had to remind my husband that Asians are human beings too. There is a lesson in all of this situation. Excusing hate because of a religion or a belief cannot be tolerated. Profiling seems to be the only tool at the time. We need to take proper measures to take care of our safety and care.

    January 8, 2010 at 3:53 pm |
  12. jim vicalvi

    So ride a bus or boat. Who cares!!

    January 8, 2010 at 3:25 pm |