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by Seyed Javad
18 January 2002 21:41 UTC
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From: "haque"
Reply-To: "haque"
Date: Thu, 17 Jan 2002 17:32:51 +0500
With Allah's Name, the Rehman, the Raheem
Assalamo Alaikum.
CHICAGO, Jan. 16 /U.S. Newswire/ -- The following was released today by the
ACLU of Illinois:
An Illinois National Guardsman and three private security personnel at
O'Hare International Airport engaged in an unnecessary, unjustified,
illegal and degrading search of a 22-year-old United States citizen of
Pakistani descent last November, according to a lawsuit filed today in
federal district court in Chicago.
In the complaint, lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union of
Illinois assert that Samar Kaukab was pulled out of a group of airline
passengers and subjected to repeated and increasingly invasive searches
based on her ethnicity and her religion. Ms. Kaukab's religion was evident
because she was wearing a traditional head covering for Muslim women, known
as a "hijab." The lawsuit names Major General David Harris, Adjutant
General for the Illinois National Guard, and Argenbright Security, Inc., as
defendants for their personnel's role in the outrage directed toward Ms.
The lawsuit asserts that the intrusive search of Ms. Kaukab violated the
United States Constitution's guarantees of freedom of religion, freedom
from unlawful ethnic and religious discrimination and protections against
unreasonable search and seizure. The complaint filed today asks the federal
district court to issue an injunction preventing any future unreasonable
searches or searches based upon ethnic and religious discrimination, in
addition to monetary damages.
"Ms. Kaukab was identified and subjected to a humiliating search not
because she posed any security threat, but only because her wearing of a
hijab identified her as a Muslim," said Lorie Chaiten, a lawyer for the
ACLU of Illinois, in announcing the lawsuit. "Security personnel surrounded
her, detained her and subjected her to an embarrassing and degrading search
simply based on her ethnicity and religion."
Lawyers for the ACLU of Illinois today cited the harassment of Ms. Kaukab
as one of the numerous documented instances across the nation in which
Muslims and persons of Middle Eastern descent have been the target of
insidious discrimination. The ACLU noted that these acts of discrimination
have taken place predominantly in the travel industry, especially for
passengers on commercial airlines.
"Many of our nation's highest public officer holders have publicly decried
any acts of discrimination or violence being directed at Muslims and
persons of Middle Eastern descent," said Harvey Grossman, legal director of
the ACLU of Illinois. "This case is symptomatic, however, of the fact that
these same public officials have not provided appropriate training and
oversight to ensure that no person is singled out for abuse and
discrimination based upon their ethnicity and religion."
Ms. Kaukab, a citizen of the United States and resident of Columbus, Ohio,
was traveling home on November 7, 2001, after attending a conference in
Chicago hosted by Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA). Ms. Kaukab and
a number of attendees from the VISTA conference traveled to O'Hare, checked
their luggage and proceeded to the security checkpoint in Terminal 1 of the
Ms. Kaukab passed through the metal detector without setting off the
machine. A member of the Illinois National Guard present at the security
station then approached an employee of Argenbright Security and insisted
that Ms. Kaukab be searched further despite the fact that there was no
indication that she was carrying any banned materials on her person or in
her carry-on bags. Following the instruction from the National Guardsman, a
security employee repeatedly passed a handheld metal detector over Ms.
Kaukab's body, including placing the metal detector into Ms. Kaukab's
boots. In addition, the security employee patted Ms. Kaukab's upper body,
pulled at the straps and hook on her bra.
As a crowd of persons gathered, some delayed by the search of Ms. Kaukab
and others simply watching the event, a security guard passed the handheld
metal detector slowly over and around Ms. Kaukab's head. Although the
security device was not "set off" on any occasion when passed over and
around Ms. Kaukab's head, a security employee, again based upon instruction
from the National Guardsman, demanded that Ms. Kaukab remove her hijab. Ms.
Kaukab responded by telling the security personnel that she could not
remove the hijab in public, but would be willing to do so in a private
location and only in the company of women. She made it clear that this was
not an attempt to be uncooperative, but was necessary as part of her
religious beliefs. After a further conversation with the National
Guardsman, the security employee repeated the demand that the hijab be
removed in public, ignoring Ms. Kaukab's pleas.
"The security personnel and the National Guardsman were completely
insensitive to Ms. Kaukab's religious beliefs. Moreover, there was no valid
security concern to justify her removing her hijab," added the ACLU's
Chaiten. "The search continued to escalate even though Ms. Kaukab passed
through the metal detector without incident, and further searches produced
no indication of anything being hidden beneath her hijab. The escalating
nature of the search was completely unjustified."
After further discussions between the security personnel and the National
Guardsman, Ms. Kaukab was escorted to a small office area adjacent to the
security checkpoint. Despite repeated objections from Ms. Kaukab, the male
employee insisted on entering the small room with her and conducting the
search. After Ms. Kaukab again asserted her religious beliefs and
requested that a woman conduct any search involving the removal of her
hijab, the male security employee finally acceded to her request and she
entered the private area with two female employees.
Once the hijab had been removed, one of the security personnel ran her
fingers through Ms. Kaukab's hair and over her scalp. The security employee
then felt around her neck and collarbone, opened her sweater and felt
around her chest and breasts and felt up and down her legs on the outside
of her pants. The security employee then unbuttoned and unzipped Ms.
Kaukab's pants, opened her pants and patted down her lower abdomen and
between her legs over her underwear.
At no time did security personnel discover any contraband, nor did the
initial searches with the metal detectors give any indication that
contraband might be present, suggesting no reason for the escalation of the
Abruptly, the security personnel ended the search and released Ms. Kaukab,
who felt frightened and humiliated by the entire event.
"During the entire experience, I was scared not only by what was happening,
but also by what might happen next," said Ms. Kaukab at a news conference
today announcing the lawsuit. "I kept wondering what else might happen to
me - would I be detained or subjected to a body cavity search."
"The entire experience was degrading. I felt as though the security
personnel had singled me out because I didn't belong, wasn't trusted and
wouldn't be welcomed in my own country. Nothing like this ever happened to
me before," added Ms. Kaukab. "When it was over, I went to the restroom to
gather my emotions and telephoned my mother. I was just so humiliated."
Lawyers for the ACLU of Illinois noted that the search of Ms. Kaukab fits
an emerging pattern in which security personnel at airports target Muslims
and persons of Middle Eastern descent. Recent media reports indicate that
many Muslims have been subjected to unnecessary harassment and searches
because of their ethnicity or religious affiliation. One such incident
involves security personnel surrounding a 17-year-old Muslim high school
student from Virginia, and intimidating her into removing her hijab in public.
Charles Peters, Laura Weinberg and Carolyn Morehouse of the Chicago law
firm Schiff, Hardin & Waite and Kamran Memon, a Chicago attorney in private
practice, are assisting lawyers from the ACLU of Illinois in this case.
Contact: Edwin C. Yohnka of ACLU of Illinois, 312-201-9740 ext. 305 or
pager: 312-851-2832
Disclaimer: Views expressed on ji-net do not
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