PORTLAND - Feeling stigmatized in airports, Portland Muslim leaders met on Thursday night, March 8, with US Department of Homeland Security representatives to complain about the treatment US Muslim citizens get when returning from overseas travel, OPB News website reported.
I don't think the FBI and the agencies who monitor this list understand the impact the list has on the families, said Lina Tarhuni, whose father, returning to Portland from a trip to Libya for Medical teams International, was questioned by US authorities in Tunisia last month.
It affects the work of the people who are put on this list, the children, the way they are viewed in the communities in which they live."
The meeting, held on Thursday night, gathered 25 Portland-area Muslim leaders who confronted federal officials over the use of no-fly list as a "cudgel" against Muslims traveling abroad.
Thursday's meeting was arranged after the FBI barred two businessmen from flying home to Oregon in January after visiting their native Libya.
Jamal Tarhuni, 55, of Tigard and Mustafa Elogbi, 60, of Southwest Portland, have not been charged with any crime. Both are naturalized US citizens and residents for more than 30 years.
The FBI hasn't told them why they were detained, the two said. The FBI instead suggested they submit a request for answers under the Freedom of Information Act.
The meeting was also attended by people who had been targeted by federal agencies.
Among the attendants was Sheik Mohamed Abdirahman Kariye, who was jailed for over a month when he tried to leave on a family trip to the United Arab Emirates.
Since 9/11, Muslims, estimated between six to seven million, have become sensitized to an erosion of their civil rights, with a prevailing belief that America was stigmatizing their faith.
In 2009, nine members of a Muslim family were removed from a domestic AirTran Airways flight to Orlando, Florida, after they chatted about their seats in the plane.
Another incident occurred in 2006 when six imams were removed from a domestic flight for what passengers considered suspicious behavior.
They were removed from the flight, handcuffed and detained in the airport for questioning for over five hours.
At the tense meeting, a sense of frustration over the US homeland security policies was felt in the air, amid demands of repairing relations between the US government and Muslim citizens.
"What will the United States do ... to repair the trust it has broken with its Muslim American citizens in Portland?" said attorney Tom Nelson, underscoring the frustration felt by many at the Islamic Center of Greater Portland in Beaverton, OregonLive reported on Thursday.
"What can you do to fix this situation, and how can we prevent similar situations from happening in the future?"
Kareem Shora, a senior policy adviser for Homeland Security, welcomed hearing the complaints and urged people to keep talking with those agencies about problems.
Yet, he defended the government's process for getting off the no-fly list, which does fall under Homeland Security.
"There are people who can travel because they went through TRIP," Shora said, referring to the Traveler Redress Inquiry Program.
"TRIP actually has worked in many many situations."
Thanking US officials for meeting with them, people questioned whether it would have an effect.
"There's a perception that your civil liberties division in Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is really just kind of a PR stunt," said Brandon Mayfield, an Aloha attorney.
Mayfield, who held after he was mistakenly linked to fingerprints taken from the scene of a terrorist bombing in Madrid. The FBI eventually apologized to him.
"This Muslim community ... is not trusting of the government at large and it's hard to break down the various different agencies. We don't see the distinction," Mayfield said.
"We're wondering when we go to the airport and cannot fly, who's not letting us fly?"