WASHINGTON - Helping thousands of Muslims who prepare to perform hajj this year, a US advocacy group has shared tips with US Muslims to be aware of their legal rights and responsibilities as citizens and travelers when leaving from or returning to the United States.
Because of past concerns about "flying while Muslim" airport profiling incidents, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) today urged American Muslims taking part in this year's pilgrimage to Makkah (Hajj) to be aware of their legal rights and responsibilities as citizens and travelers when leaving from or returning to the United States, a CAIR statement obtained by OnIslam.net read.
CAIR's "Hajj Travel Advisory" recommends that all those planning a pilgrimage first check Department of Homeland Security (DHS) - Transport Security Administration (TSA) regulations and rules at the TSA website.
The Washington-based Muslim civil rights organization's advisory also includes recommendations from its "Your Rights and Responsibilities as an American Muslim" pocket guide.
"As an airline passenger, you are entitled to courteous, respectful and non-stigmatizing treatment by airline and security personnel, the guide reads.
It is illegal for law enforcement officials to perform any stops, searches, detentions, or removals based solely on your race, religion, national origin, sex, or ethnicity."
Muslims from around the world pour into Makkah every year to perform hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam.
Hajj consists of several ceremonies, which are meant to symbolize the essential concepts of the Islamic faith, and to commemorate the trials of Prophet Abraham and his family.
Every able-bodied adult Muslim who can financially afford the trip must perform hajj at least once in a lifetime.
The guide includes several tips to safeguard Muslims travelers and pilgrims as follows:
- Check any baggage containing Zamzam water bottles that you bring back to the US Airlines will NOT allow you to carry liquids in large quantities on the plane, so be sure to check Zamzam and other liquids. (Zamzam water is drawn from a well within the Masjid al-Haram in Mecca and has religious significance for Muslims.)
- If you are bringing back dates, make sure they are processed and sufficiently dry. You may consider vacuum sealing your dates to ensure freshness and to minimize the likelihood of contamination.
- When packing, ensure that your shoes are cleansed of any soil. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has strict rules regarding entry of soil and chemicals into the country.
- If you are bringing back items (gold, carrying cash, etc.) worth more than $800 per person, declare them using the CBP Declaration Form made available by airline staff when landing. If you do not declare items worth more than $800, CBP may confiscate them.
Entry into the US:
- In order to enter or re-enter the United States, travelers must go through two processes at US ports of entry; immigration and customs. - CBP officers are required to verify the identities of travelers on their entry into the United States. They must also ensure that travelers have not been engaged in illegal activity that poses a threat to national security. It is critical to present valid documentation in the form of a valid passport and/or proper immigration paperwork if you are seeking admission into the United States.
- Keep in mind that US citizens have the unqualified right to re-enter the United States, which means that although customs may delay and search passengers, they must eventually allow US citizens to enter the country. - CBP also has the authority to search all persons, baggage and merchandise arriving into the United States. This includes the search of files on laptops, cell phones and other electronic devices. Follow all CBP regulations on reporting luggage and currency. Also stay up to date on rules about prohibited items.
- Along with travel advice, CAIR also urged pilgrims to consult relevant health advisories for those going on Hajj.