Traveling While Muslim: The Case of the Exploding Chocolate

This is an excerpt from and a commentary on a Politico article dated August 11, 2018, by this same name.

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End Racism NOW.

He’s a Muslim.

He’s an American citizen.

He has a passport. And a Global Entry Card

He travels. A lot. He estimates that he goes abroad six to eight times a year.

And he regularly is pulled aside by Customs and Border Patrol. He estimated that he gets pulled over for additional screening at least half of the time.

This time it was at Dulles International Airport. Not once. Not twice. But four times.

The second agent ripped up his kids’ chocolate present to check and make sure it didn’t explode.

The third agent confiscated his Global Entry Card because he was “noncompliant” and he “mocked us for checking your chocolate for explosives.”  

The fourth agent then came forward.  This conversation was their interchange:

“I’m the supervisor on duty. So you think because you have Global Entry you’re exempt from screening?”

“What? No. I said I’ve been screened and cleared three times so far. But despite that, your officer took my Global Entry card and said I’m being non-compliant. And he said that I’ve broken the law. But he refuses to give me any example of non-compliance or cite what law I’ve broken. Please explain this to me.”

The supervisor turned to the confiscating officer and asked, “Why’d you stop him?”

“Well, he was laughing at us.” (It’s true, I did chuckle in disbelief. Guilty as charged.)

“But did he refuse orders?”

“No, I mean, he harassed us.”

I didn’t yell at this point, but I raised my voice. “This is ridiculous. You have the power. You’re detaining me. You have my property. But somehow I’m harassing you? What? Do you hear yourself?”

I turned back to the supervisor. “I’m asking for about the 10th time now. How was I non-compliant and what law did I break?”

“Well those are his words—not mine,” the supervisor said. Now we were getting somewhere.

“Great, so you won’t even stand by your own officer’s words. Meanwhile, you have my Global Entry card. I’m still detained. Why am I still here, then?”

At that point, the fourth agent asked a question. “What do you do for a living?

So he told them. “I’m a civil rights lawyer with expertise on racial and religious discrimination and profiling.”

And then he asked again.

“I’m asking for the last time. What law have I broken? How was I non-compliant?”

Rather than answer, he [the fourth agent] responded, “Well, I think everything checks out. You can go.”

Who is this man? His name is Qasim Rashid (@MuslimIQ), He’s “an attorney, author and national spokesperson for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA. He’s [also] a Truman national security fellow.”

As the article states, and I agree, why should someone have to be a lawyer to be treated equally under the law? Why should an immigrant seeking asylum who has little knowledge of the English language be subject to intimidation and removal of their children from their care?  Why should any person of color, because of their name or what they wear (e.g., a hijab), or what they look like be profiled, pulled aside, and intimidated when they travel?

And how do we let people know their rights when interacting with law enforcement?  According to Mr. Rashid, you should check out the ACLU’s booklet entitled KNOW YOUR
RIGHTS WHEN ENCOUNTERING LAW ENFORCEMENT.

And Speak Out.  Just like with the #MeToo movement that has more and more women speaking out on their experiences with sexual harassment and sexual assault, individuals who have been profiled because of their race, religion, or national origin should also speak up about their experiences.  Then people will, like the #MeToo women, begin to see and push back against the maltreatment, harassment, and discrimination of people of color by those in power.

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