Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Flying While Muslim

I was recently quoted in InFocus Newpaper on feature article "Flying While Muslim". I am getting used to dealing with "media"- they are a species of their own classification- this interview was long. I am surprised that the journalist was able to take all that I said and so concisely use it to wrap up the article. Here is the segment I am quoted in:

What is unique about Baig’s case is the fact that he used a process called “port expedite.” The process allows people to alert TSA officials through a third party at least one week ahead of their scheduled return into the country. In Baig’s case, CAIR sent Baig’s name, passport number, date of arrival and airline, port of entry, and address and contact information to TSA officials one week before Baig’s arrival.
TSA agents were again notified by phone one-day prior to his arrival. Despite that, Baig was still screened. Shaikh admits that the process is not 100% efficient but said that CAIR southern California used the procedure with six people so far and five of them went through customs with no incidents. “Five out of six is an excellent result,” Shaikh remarked. “The system does work.”
and it continues:

Another method CAIR strongly recommends using is called “Traveler Redress Inquiry Program” or TRIP. DHS’s website defines TRIP as a procedure that, “provides a way for legitimate travelers to address situations where individuals believe they have been incorrectly delayed, denied boarding, identified for additional screening, or have otherwise experienced difficulties when seeking entry into the country.”

TRIP helps travelers seek redress and resolve possible watch list misidentification issues by filing personal information in order to obtain clearance prior to overseas travel. However, an FBI spokesperson said the Bureau could not confirm or deny if a person is off the watch-list for security reasons. Despite that, Shaikh said that the bureau is to be commended for instigating TRIP.

“They (FBI) pushed for a system to address our issues, to ensure that people’s civil rights are not violated,” Shaikh said. He advises everyone who intends to use DHS TRIP to notify CAIR as well in order to keep track of these cases.

Shaikh suggests that individuals like Dr. Monzer Kahf who travel frequently are advised to use both TRIP and “port expedite” to maximize their chances of not being singled out for screening. “There is a system of checks and balances,” he said. “American Arabs and Muslims should use it to the optimum to insure a hassle-free travel experience.”

If you happen to be having problems with flying freely. You have recourses that are available. You can call the CAIR-Greater Los Angeles Office at 714-776-1847 and ask for the Civil Rights Coordinator regarding "Flying While Muslim" and hopefully using a combination of things be able to find a way to clear your name if it is associated in any way to some one who is "being watched" and if you happen to be that some one...tsk tsk tsk, you should not be doing what you are doing! (actually the large majority of people are innocently caught up in a name recognition problems, to many Muhammad and Ahmed's)

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