Conyers: Muslim queries out of line
Congressman to initiate investigation of alleged harassment
Nathan Hurst / Detroit News Washington Bureau
Washington— U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Detroit, wants a federal inquiry into allegations that border control agents are unfairly targeting Muslim Americans.
Conyers, the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, said Friday in a statement he was “contacting the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security to initiate an investigation of these allegations.”
The Michigan chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations said Thursday it had received complaints from American Muslims who said they were detained for lengthy questioning.
“I had an American passport, and I was put in a cell for four hours,” Ann Arbor teacher Kheireddine Bouzid, who is of Algerian descent, said Thursday. “They asked me if I could give them the names of any terrorists.”
The CAIR-Michigan complaints were outlined in a letter sent to Homeland Security officials this week, and a spokesman said its Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties would investigate.
“We welcome Congressman Conyers’ concern regarding reported violations of American Muslims’ civil liberties and look forward to his leadership in addressing this issue in the Congress,” said a statement Friday from Dawud Walid, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations-Michigan.
CAIR alleged Muslims stopped at border posts in Michigan — including the Blue Water Bridge and Ambassador Bridge — were asked questions like “Do you pray five times a day?” and “What do you think of Anwar al-Awlacki?” — a Yemini-American cleric associated with al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
Conyers said such questioning was out of line. “The American-Islamic community should know that the federal government will protect the interest of the community, while maintaining the appropriate focus on national security,” he said.