The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) today called on the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to investigate an incident in which a disabled Muslim traveler from Pennsylvania was forced to undergo a humiliating search by airport security personnel in Ohio.
According to a report submitted to CAIR’s Cincinnati chapter, the African-American Muslim traveler was stopped as she was going through security at Dayton Airport and pulled out of line for a “pat down” search. The demand for a secondary search was made despite the fact that the metal detector was not triggered and the Muslim traveler was not “wanded” by security personnel.
When the woman, who wore a full-length dress and an Islamic head scarf, objected to a pat down search in a public area, she was allegedly threatened with ejection from the airport. Because the woman was in transit through Dayton, she felt compelled to submit to a pat down, but in a private area.
Three female TSA employees took the woman to a private room for the pat down, while a male officer stood outside the door. During the search, the Muslim traveler was allegedly forced to lift her dress to expose her entire body. One of the TSA employees allegedly searched under the woman’s undergarment with her hand. In addition, the woman was ordered to lift her legs for wanding even though she told the TSA personnel that she was physically unable to comply due to her disability resulting from a car accident.
After a 70-minute ordeal, the Muslim traveler was cleared and released to try to catch her flight. She reports being traumatized and humiliated by her experience and was in tears during the rest of her trip to New York.
In a letter to the TSA’s program analyst for federal security director Jon Lisle, CAIR-Cincinnati executive director Karen Dabdoub requested an investigation of the incident “for any discriminatory conduct or violations of TSA professional policy by any TSA employees.” A copy of the letter was sent to the Department of Homeland Security Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.
She asked for a “review of TSA’s secondary screening policy, including the wanding and pat-down procedures at Dayton Ohio Airport and its discriminatory impact on Muslims or those who appear Muslim or of South Asian or Middle Eastern descent.”
Along with the investigation and review of policy, Dabdoub requested that a formal apology be offered to the Muslim traveler. Dabdoub also asked for compensation for the “emotional pain and trauma” the Muslim traveler suffered as a result of the invasive search.
CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.