By Nicole Belair, Staff Writer
“Are you Muslim? Where did you get your name from?”
Immigration officers posed these questions and more to the son and wife of legendary boxer, Muhammad Ali, at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood Airport earlier this month.
According to the family’s friend and lawyer, Chris Mancini, Ali Jr., and his mother, Khalilah Camacho-Ali, were stopped while going through customs because of their Arabic-sounding names.
The two were pulled aside for questioning after returning from a Black History Month event in Montego Bay, Jamaica.
Officials refused to believe that he was actually the son of Muhammad Ali, who was well known for his conversion to the Muslim faith.
Ali Jr. asked several times if he could leave, but was told that the officers were “checking on something.”
However, his mother was free to go after showing officials a picture of her and her late husband, and was separated from her son.
Although Ali Jr., is an American citizen with a United States passport, was born in Philadelphia, and has no criminal record, it wasn’t enough for the authorities to overlook his Muslim beliefs.
“Where are they going to deport me?” Ali Jr., asked afterward, “back to Philadelphia, where I was born?”
Officials detained Ali Jr., for nearly two hours, which has been considered a direct result of President Trump’s effort to ban Muslims from the United States.
In a full statement released after the incident, Ali Jr., said that he was appalled with the authorities at the airport.
He added, “I wasn’t terrorizing anybody. I wasn’t bothering a soul. I felt violated.”
After a long day of traveling, he was tired and wanted to go home and relax. Ali Jr., also commented, “I thought the Constitution guarantees your right to practice your religion.”
Similarly, Mancini asked, “Why are we now saying our fundamental constitutionally protected rights are no longer necessary?”
Their points are excellent ones, and I think this amendment of the Constitution has been wrapped up in controversy for months now.
Critics of Trump’s travel ban have accused the executive order as being a “thinly veiled attempt to discriminate against Muslims.”
This situation perfectly demonstrates this accusation; the discrimination is undeniable.
The president’s ban has only reinforced racism and religious discrimination in our country.
People have been profiled, judged, and mistreated simply based on their religion, skin color, and ethnic background more than ever before.
Under the Constitution, we should all be free to practice any religion of our choosing, so long as the practicing of that religion does not do harm to others. Muhammad Ali Jr., and his mother walking to baggage claim, minding their own business, does not and should not give authorities a reason to detain them.
This situation never should have taken place.
Daniel Hetlage, the spokesman for customs at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, wrote in a statement that the agency “does not discriminate on the basis of religion, race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.”
He also stated that the airport treats all travelers with respect and sensitivity, and that they are guided by the highest moral principles.
Hetlage, are you sure about that? To me, the officers’ actions indicate intense racial profiling, not respect.
I understand that it is common for border protection officers to pull travelers aside for a second screening or additional questions, but two hours is extensive, especially without cause.
Everyone should feel comfortable in their own country.
Ali Jr., was just one of many American citizens who have recently felt threatened and uncomfortable in the United States.
And, especially with the name “Muhammad Ali,” it seems unnecessary to have questioned his citizenship and background in the first place.