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Legendary boxer Muhammad Ali’s son detained at US airport, questioned about religion

FEATURED COLUMNIST
News
26 Feb 2017, 13:38 IST
Muhammad Ali Jr. with his mother, Khalilah
Muhammad Ali Jr. with his mother, Khalilah

What’s the story?

Legendary boxer Muhammad Ali’s son, Muhammad Ali Jr became the latest victim of religious profiling under the Donald Trump administration in the United States of America after the 44-year-old was detained and interrogated when he flew back to the USA from Jamaica this month. The incident came to light when the Ali family lawyer Chris Mancini revealed it to the Courier-Journal newspaper recently.

On learning that he is a Muslim, the immigration staff at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Florida subjected him to a rigorous two hours of questioning, irrespective of the fact that he was born in Philadelphia and holds a US passport.

“Where did you get your name from? Are you a Muslim?,” were the barrage of distasteful questions faced by Muhammad Ali Jr, who returned on February 7 after attending a black history month event in Jamaica.

In case you didn’t know...

American President Donald Trump had passed an Executive Order last month imposing a travel ban on people from seven Muslim-dominated countries – Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Libya, Syria, Yemen and Somalia for 90 days, apart from suspending Syrian refugee acceptance until further notice.

The move expectedly triggered a backlash and severe criticism from all quarters. 

The heart of the matter

Interestingly, Muhammad Ali Jr’s mother Khalilah Camacho-Ali, who was accompanying him, had a far more hassle-free experience. Khalilah, the second wife of the late Ali, could produce a photo with her former husband that eased the process but her son was unable to provide them with anything that could help trace his link to the deceased pugilist.

The family lawyer Mancini pointed out that this is the first time ever that the Alis faced such harassment and they were even contemplating filing a federal lawsuit, according to The Guardian.

Parallels from history

And this is not the first incident where detention at a US airport has been brought about in connection to religion or ethnicity since Trump came into power. Even a prized Olympic medal does not do anything to alleviate the ordeal that travellers are regularly facing, America’s very own Olympic medal-winning fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad learned it the hard way.

In August last year, she created history by becoming the first female Muslim-American athlete to win a medal at the mega quadrennial Games when USA scooped up the bronze in Team Sabre.

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The 31-year-old, a native of Maplewood, New Jersey, has recently spoken out about her airport predicament and said that even though no proper explanation was given by US Customs for detaining her, she believed it definitely involved the fact that she is a Muslim.

“I can’t tell you why it happened to me, but I know that I’m Muslim. I have an Arabic name. And even though I represent Team USA and I have that Olympic hardware, it doesn’t change how you look and how people perceive you.”

Sportskeeda’s take

Singling out travellers simply because of their religion is utterly humiliating and being totally disrespectful to a particular religion and to humanity in general. By resorting to this policy, the USA is sending out the wrong message that can only tarnish its image of a tolerant nation.

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