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Muhammad Ali Jr. detained because of ‘Muslim ban,’ his lawyer says

Muhammad Ali Jr. and Laila Ali arrive at the funeral home after the death of their father, June 10, 2016. (Photo: CJ File Photo)

UPDATE: The U.S. Customs and Border Protection confirmed Saturday (Feb. 25) that it held Muhammad Ali Jr., the son of the late legendary boxer, for questioning in a Florida airport earlier this month, but said Ali wasn’t singled out because he’s a Muslim.

Customs spokesman Daniel Hetlage declined to provide details of the incident, citing policies that protect travelers’ privacy, but he wrote in an email that the agency does not discriminate on the basis of religion, race, ethnicity or sexual orientation.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (USA Today) Muhammad Ali Jr., 44, and his mother, Khalilah Camacho-Ali, the first wife of Muhammad Ali, were arriving at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on Feb. 7 after returning from speaking at a Black History Month event in Montego Bay, Jamaica.

They were pulled aside while going through customs because of their Arabic-sounding names, according to family friend and lawyer Chris Mancini.

Immigration officials let Camacho-Ali go after she showed them a photo of herself with her ex-husband, but her son did not have such a photo and wasn’t as lucky. Mancini said officials held and questioned Ali Jr. for nearly two hours, repeatedly asking him, “Where did you get your name from?” and “Are you Muslim?”

When Ali Jr. responded that yes, he is a Muslim, the officers kept questioning him about his religion and where he was born. Ali Jr. was born in Philadelphia in 1972 and holds a U.S. passport.

“To the Ali family, it’s crystal clear that this is directly linked to Mr. Trump’s efforts to ban Muslims from the United States,” said Mancini.

The line of questioning is indicative of profiling and designed to produce answers that corroborate what officials want to hear, Mancini said. Neither Camacho-Ali nor Ali Jr. has ever been subjected to detainment before, despite extensive global travel experience, he said.

“To the Ali family, it’s crystal clear that this is directly linked to Mr. Trump’s efforts to ban Muslims from the United States,” Mancini said, referring to President Trump’s executive order signed Jan. 27 that instituted a ban for citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries.

Officials at the Fort Lauderdale airport did not immediately respond to requests for comment Friday.

While Ali Jr. was detained, Camacho-Ali ran around the airport asking, “Where’s my son?” and begging for help, according to Mancini. Because incidents involving customs officials are considered to be on federal soil, local police had no jurisdiction to help her. Ali Jr. was eventually released two hours later, and the family contacted Mancini the following day.

Mancini said he and the Ali family are contemplating filing a federal lawsuit and are trying to find out how many other people have been subjected to the same treatment as Ali Jr.

“Imagine walking into an airport and being asked about your religion,” he said. “This is classic customs profiling.”

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  • Before things get silly, demographic profiling….does….not….work.

    It is what lazy people use to avoid doing the actual work of evaluating credible security threats. Terrorists can easily bypass such obvious profiles based on race, religion, last name, nation of origin. It has never shown tangible results and always leads to justifiable lawsuits.

    Not every Muslim is a suspect for terrorism any more than every black male is a suspect for violent crime. It is applying stereotype and bigotry instead of common sense and skills.

    Also let me be clear, religious tests of any type are illegal for immigration purposes by statute and violate constitutional principles conceptually. One does not protect the American way of life by defecating on it’s principles.

    Mr. Ali Jr should sue the living crap out of the airport officials.

  • This incident is especially ironic given the fact that Muslims (who made up about 10% of the incoming African slaves) were already in America before the U.S. was even founded.

  • “…religious tests of any type are illegal for immigration purposes by statute”

    Do you have citations for that? I don’t think restricting any class of people from immigration has been deemed unconstitutional. How does the constitution apply to foreign citizens residing outside of the US?

  • US customs agents are the cream of the crop. It only took them two hours to figure out where a man named Muhammad Ali Jr. got his name from.

  • The Immigration and Naturalization Act specifically forbids religious tests for consideration of treatment. It’s not so much that certain restrictions are not allowed as it is that officials are forbidden from asking the questions in the first place. The exception is if one is claiming asylum status due to religious persecution in ones home country. Not an issue at the border.

  • Even moreso, the US has the highest percentage of native born converts to Islam out of any developed country. It’s not even an immigration issue for many.

  • I would think Americans would celebrate this. Celebrities and their families being treated just like everyone else – no favouritism….is that not “equal rights”?

  • If this accrued as he stated, they had no business asking what his religion is. He is a US citizen with a valid passport returning from Jamaica.

  • I hope he slaps them with a huge lawsuit. Detained for two hours for questioning? This man is a American native citizen with a passport. How dare they.

  • They can question anyone for any reason any time; since when do children of celebrities deserve special consideration? What sort of tiered system does the United States have that makes these people so special? The fact that his mother cleared customs independently on the same flight and was unaware that her son was left behind is rather concerning — why would they have not gone through customs arm in arm, mother and son? There are a lot of things which would raise curiosity apart from their names . . . .

  • Get back to me the next time you go through customs with your American passport and are held and questioned for two hours about your name and your religion.

  • She probably went to call a lawyer. Fortunately, her photo of her and her ex-husband allowed her to continue on.

  • (Groans) oh that is a terrible joke. 🙂

    No American deserves to be held by immigration officials and grilled about their religion. The fact that it happened to the son of a famous person is the only reason such regularly performed outrage even made the news. These jokers at the airport were probably been pulling this crap on people for a while.