DETROIT - A Muslim civil liberties group filed a lawsuit on Friday, April 13, against the federal government, accusing it of violating the First Amendment rights of US Muslims who were repeatedly profiled, handcuffed and subjected to invasive body searches at the US-Canada border because of their religious background.
"They put me against the wall, and he handcuffed me and he went throughout my body," one of the plaintiffs, Ali Suleiman Ali, told CNN affiliate WDIV.
Friday's lawsuit was filed on behalf of four local Muslim-American men by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and Shereef Akeel, a Huntington Woods attorney.
The suit was filed after the council had filed complaints over the allegations with the civil rights office of the Department of Homeland Security last year. But that office said it didn't have the legal authority to address the complaints.
The lawsuit says that since 2008, the four men, including the imam of a big mosque in Canton, were at various times detained, handcuffed, strip-searched and interrogated for hours.
One of the plaintiffs, Wissam Charafeddine, 35, of Dearborn, said he repeatedly is jailed when he crosses the border.
He said that every time he has crossed in the last three years, he has been fingerprinted and body searched, "where every part of the body is touched and squeezed," Charafeddine was quoted by Detroit Free Press.
It really makes you feel humiliated, Charafeddine told the Free Press last year.
It doesn't make you feel like you're in America.
According to CAIR, agents would surround plaintiffs' cars with guns asking questions such as "How many times a day to you pray?" "Do you pray your morning prayer in the mosque?" and "Who else prays in your mosque?"
"The questioning and treatment ... humiliates Muslim-American travelers ... and wrongly stigmatizes them as violent threats based solely on ... their religious beliefs," the lawsuit says.
The suit was filed against three federal agencies: Customs and Border Protection, the Transportation Security Administration and the FBI, alleging they have violated violating a 1993 federal law that upholds the free practice of religion.
Filing the lawsuit against the federal government, CAIR accused it of wasting limited resources to profile Americans based on their religious background.
"Invasive religious questioning of American citizens without evidence of criminal activity is not only an affront to the Constitution, but is also a waste of limited resources," CAIR-Michigan Executive Director Dawud Walid said.
US Customs and Border Protection denied these allegations Friday, saying that it "strictly prohibits profiling on the basis of race or religion."
"In determining whether individuals are admissible into the United States, CBP utilizes specific facts and follows the Department of Justice's 'Guidance Regarding the Use of Race by Federal Law Enforcement Agencies.' "
However, the lawsuit filed in Detroit is not the first involving allegations that US agents are abusing their power at US-Canada border crossings.
Three other lawsuits have been filed in federal court during the past year involving Canadian women of non-Muslim backgrounds who also say they have been subject to invasive strip searches.
A growing number of Muslims were victims of what some call "traveling while a Muslim".
US rights groups say that racial profiling has been on the upswing since 9/11.
More than 500 people are denied entry to the US daily because of their identity.