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    Islamic advocacy group says action at airport amounts to "public strip search"

    (WASHINGTON, DC - 1/8/2002) - A 17-year-old Muslim high school student from Virginia says that she was intimidated into removing her religiously
    mandated headscarf by a security guard at Baltimore/Washington
    International Airport (BWI). The Council on American-Islamic Relations
    (CAIR), a prominent Washington-based Islamic advocacy group, said today
    that the incident amounted to a "public strip search" and called for an
    apology from airport, airline and security officials.

    (A Muslim Secret Service agent was recently removed from a flight at BWI
    because of what he says was racial and religious profiling.)

    The teenage traveler told CAIR that after she went through a security
    checkpoint on her way to a Northwest Airlines flight, a guard shouted, "Hey
    you need to take that off," referring to her headscarf. She responded by
    asking, "Why do I have to take off my head cover?" The girl was then
    surrounded by military personnel in camouflage uniform with combat rifles.
    She became terrified and removed her headscarf immediately.

    The student also said that a Muslim airport employee saw what was happening
    and came to her assistance. The employee informed the guard that it was
    wrong to force the student to remove her headscarf in public.

    "For a Muslim woman, being forced to remove her headscarf in this manner is
    equivalent to a public strip search," said CAIR Civil Rights Coordinator
    Hodan Hassan.

    "This incident reaffirms the need for additional training on policies and
    procedures that will improve airport security without violating civil
    liberties and religious rights," said Hassan. She added that CAIR provides
    such training for corporations nationwide.

    CAIR's civil rights department has received more than 170 reports of
    airport profiling of Muslims or those who are perceived to be "Middle
    Eastern" since the terrorist attacks of September 11. The group is asking
    for an investigation of the incident and an apology to the Muslim teen.
    That request is being sent to BWI, Delta Airlines, Northwest Airlines and
    Globe Aviation Services, the firm hired to screen passengers at that gate.

    "I put my trust in Allah, my Lord and your Lord! There is not a moving creature, but He has a grasp of its forelock. Verily, my Lord is on the straight path. (The truth)"

    Hair Seen, Apology Sought

    By Katherine Shaver
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Wednesday, January 9, 2002; Page B01

    Enaas Sansour began wearing a black head scarf a year ago as part of her Muslim faith, so that no man outside her family would see her hair until she married.

    Her hair remained hidden, the Falls Church teenager said yesterday, until a male airline security screener at Baltimore-Washington International Airport forced her to remove her scarf last month. In front of strangers. In front of men. Even though the metal detector, she said, never sounded.

    "No guys are supposed to see my hair until my husband sees it when I get married," said Sansour, 17, a junior at the Islamic Saudi Academy in Alexandria. "It was very humiliating with all those people staring at me like I did something wrong. . . . It was against my religion."

    On Monday, the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations filed a complaint on the teenager's behalf, seeking apologies from the screener's employer, Globe Aviation Services, and Northwest and Delta airlines. Sansour said the incident occurred when she, her father and two brothers passed through BWI's Pier C security checkpoint Dec. 18 before boarding a Northwest flight to San Francisco. Delta Airlines contracts with Globe to provide security for all airlines that use Pier C, including Northwest.

    Hodan Hassan, the Islamic group's civil rights coordinator, said requiring Muslim women to remove their head scarves, or hijab, is tantamount to a public strip search because it violates Muslim teachings about modesty.

    Hassan said Sansour's complaint is one of a dozen the group has received from Muslim women forced to remove head scarves in public at airports under heightened security since Sept. 11. The group has received about 160 other complaints of racial or religious profiling at airports, officials said.

    Hassan said the group does not object to Muslim women being asked to remove their head scarves in a private area and in front of a female security screener, as long as they are not singled out for extra scrutiny.

    The alleged incident involving Sansour occurred one week before an American Airlines pilot kicked one of President Bush's Secret Service agents off a flight before it left BWI. The agent has demanded an apology from American, saying he was targeted because he is of Arab descent. American officials have said the agent, who was armed, had improperly filled out a form to carry a weapon on board and was hostile to the pilot.

    The question of how far heightened security searches should go also has hit home in Congress. Rep. John D. Dingell (D-Mich.) said he had to drop his pants in a private area of Reagan National Airport on Saturday while a security screener hand-wanded his boxer shorts after his artificial steel hip joint triggered a metal detector.

    Delta spokeswoman Kristi Tucker said she could not comment on the alleged incident involving Sansour.

    "All I can say is we take these types of allegations seriously, and we're investigating," Tucker said.

    Two messages left for a Globe spokesman were not returned yesterday.

    Rebecca Trexler, a spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration, said security screeners must resolve any alarms from a metal detector or hand wand. Any searches in which a passenger must remove clothing, she said, should be done with sensitivity and respect by a screener of the same gender. Private screenings are always available, she added.

    The U.S. Department of Transportation has issued three memos since Oct. 12 to airlines and their screening companies about racial or religious discrimination.

    A Nov. 16 memo noted that it is discriminatory to single out a woman for inspection because she is wearing a veil or head scarf. It also noted that a Sikh should not be ordered to unwrap his turban unless he triggers a metal detector and the cause of the alarm cannot be determined with a hand-held detector or a hand search.

    Sansour said she did not protest the screener's demands to remove her head scarf because she was afraid after Army National Guard troops with automatic weapons surrounded her.

    "I want an apology, because there was a nun covered from head to toe, and they didn't make her take it off," Sansour said. "I only cover my head, and they didn't do anything to her."

    "I put my trust in Allah, my Lord and your Lord! There is not a moving creature, but He has a grasp of its forelock. Verily, my Lord is on the straight path. (The truth)"