The Transportation Security Administration – created after 9/11 to safeguard America’s airports – is providing Islamic sensitivity training to 45,000 airport security officers so they’ll know what to expect when Muslims fly from the U.S. to Saudi Arabia to participate in the annual “hajj,” or pilgrimage to Mecca.
“We put out information telling everyone that hajj is coming; this is the time frame; individuals are going to be traveling with these types of items,” TSA spokesman Darrin Kayser told the State Department’s USINFO Web site Tuesday. Calling it “cultural sensitivity training,” Kayser added that airport security officials need “just to be aware that they may also be praying.”
Ironically, just last month six Muslim imams were ejected by federal authorities from a US Airways flight in Minneapolis because they were deemed a potential security threat. Among the various behaviors that unnerved fellow passengers was the group’s prayers in the airport prior to their flight.
Welcoming TSA’s Islamic sensitivity training is the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, which describes itself as “America’s largest Islamic civil liberties group.” In a press release praising the program yesterday, CAIR noted that it distributes a pocket guide titled “Your Rights and Responsibilities as an American Muslim.”
“As an airline passenger,” the CAIR guide states, “you are entitled to courteous, respectful and non-stigmatizing treatment by airline and security personnel. You have the right to complain about treatment that you believe is discriminatory.”
The press release also quoted the group’s communications director, Ibrahim Hooper, as saying CAIR representatives nationwide have met with not only the TSA, but also from Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Protection officials on “issues related to cultural sensitivity and national security.”
Indeed, CAIR has developed a wide-ranging advisory and teaching relationship with government on the subject of protecting Muslim interests.
As WND reported previously, last June a senior Department of Homeland Security official from Washington personally guided CAIR officials on a behind-the-scenes tour of Customs screening operations at O’Hare International Airport in response to CAIR complaints that Muslim travelers were being unfairly delayed as they entered the U.S. from abroad.
However, CAIR itself is a controversial organization. It is a spin-off of the Islamic Association for Palestine, identified by two former FBI counterterrorism chiefs as a “front group” for the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas. Moreover, several CAIR leaders have been convicted on terror-related charges.
During the June airport tour, CAIR was taken on a walk through the point-of-entry, Customs stations, secondary screening and interview rooms. In addition, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents were asked to describe for CAIR representatives various features of the high-risk passenger lookout system. Brian Humphrey, Customs and Border Patrol’s executive director of field operations, assured CAIR officials that agents do not single out Muslim passengers for special screening and that they must undergo a mandatory course in Muslim sensitivity training. The course teaches agents that Muslims believe jihad is an “internal struggle against sin” and not holy warfare.
Customs agents involved in the CAIR tour at O’Hare told WorldNetDaily they were outraged that headquarters would reveal sensitive counterterrorism procedures to an organization that has seen several of its own officials convicted of terror-related charges since 9-11.
CAIR says the June tour allayed its concerns about profiling and that it “looks forward to continuing the relationship with U.S. Customs and Border Protection offices in the region, and to furthering understanding between the organizations as well as facilitating future communication in order to eliminate problems for Muslim travelers before they even arise.”
As WND reported, the Department of Homeland Security invites CAIR itself to conduct sensitivity training for Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers and supervisors (CBP’s counterparts) in Chicago. The course is taught by local CAIR officials Christina Abraham and Mariyam Hussain. More than 30 ICE staffers have gone through the CAIR awareness program so far.
CAIR – which is bankrolled by the Saudis and the United Arab Emirates, two countries that formally recognized the Taliban – also offers religious and cultural sensitivity training about Islam and Muslims to the military. In June, for example, CAIR trained more than 300 military personnel at the Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma, Ariz.
Also in June, CAIR was invited by the Pentagon to a ceremony dedicating the first Islamic center in Marine Corps history at Quantico headquarters outside of Washington.
Washington-based CAIR also has regular meetings with the FBI and Justice Department. In fact, FBI case agents complain the bureau rarely can make a move in the Muslim community without first consulting with CAIR, which sits on its advisory board. CAIR in the past has cried racism and bigotry when the bureau has moved unilaterally with investigations and raids in the community.
CAIR has also been dogged by the statements of Omar Ahmad, as reported by a California newspaper, that “Islam isn’t in America to be equal to any other faith, but to become dominant,” and, “The Koran, the Muslim book of scripture, should be the highest authority in America, and Islam the only accepted religion on Earth.” Although the newspaper’s publisher and the reporter stand by the quotes, Ahmad and CAIR dispute their accuracy.
The pilgrimage to Mecca is a religious duty for Muslims, which attracts about 2.5 million Muslim pilgrims very year, according to Saudi officials.
The Saudi Embassy in Washington, D.C., reports that about 15,000 American Muslims made the pilgrimage in 2005.
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