LOS ANGELES (AP) — Three Muslim Americans filed a lawsuit Thursday, alleging that U.S. border officials questioned them about their religious beliefs in violation of their constitutional rights upon returning from international travel.
The three men from Minnesota, Texas and Arizona sued Department of Homeland Security officials in federal court in Los Angeles. The lawsuit was filed in California because some of the interrogations allegedly took place at Los Angeles International Airport.
In the lawsuit, the men claimed that US border agents at land crossings and international airports peppered them with questions about whether they were Muslims and attended a mosque and how often they prayed.
The American Civil Liberties Union, which represents the men, said the interrogation violated the men’s constitutional rights to freedom of religion and protection from unequal treatment.
“Just as border officials cannot single out American Christians asking what denomination they are, what church they attend, and how often they pray, singling out American Muslims for similar matters is unconstitutional,” the lawsuit said.
He is asking a judge to declare religious interrogation unconstitutional and order US government agencies to expunge records containing information obtained through the interrogation of the men.
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An email message left with the Department of Homeland Security seeking comment on the lawsuit was not immediately returned.
Among the plaintiffs was Abdirahman Aden Kariye, imam of a mosque in Bloomington, Minnesota. The lawsuit said he was questioned about his faith at least five times during his return to the country between 2017 and 2022.
The repeated interrogations caused Kariye stress and led him to stop wearing a Muslim cap known as a kufi and to stop wearing religious texts when traveling abroad to avoid further scrutiny, according to the trial.
Another complainant, Hameem Shah, a resident of Plano, Texas, said he was returning in 2019 from a vacation in Serbia and Bosnia when he was turned away at Los Angeles airport for further screening.
Officers separated him from other travelers and started reading his personal diary despite his protests and asked him if he had traveled to the Middle East, saying they wanted to make sure he was a ‘safe person “, according to the lawsuit.
They also questioned him about his religious beliefs and practices and searched his phone despite his objection and released him two hours later, according to the lawsuit.
“I thought being American meant that I and others were free to practice whatever religion we choose,” Shah said in a statement, adding that the airport experience he had had still haunts him.