Muhammad Ali Jr, son of the legendary boxing champion Muhammad Ali, opened up on Monday (27 February) about being detained and questioned about his religion by immigration officials at a Florida airport. Ali Jr said he felt "violated" during the 7 February incident at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.
"I was just appalled," Ali Jr told the Associated Press. "I'm a US citizen and they're asking me, what is my religion?"
Ali Jr was traveling back from a Black History Month speaking engagement in Jamaica along with his mother, Khalilah Camacho Ali, when they were pulled aside by immigration officials.
Camacho Ali was released shortly after showing officials a photograph of her with her former husband. However, her 44-year-old son was detained for nearly two hours despite telling officials he was Ali's son and a native-born US citizen.
Immigration officials asked Ali Jr at least twice about his religion, family friend and attorney Chris Mancini told reporters. He showed immigration officials his passport and driver's license to prove his citizenship.
Ali Jr confirmed to CBS News that he was asked about his religion. "Immigration came up to me and pulled me aside and asked me my name first and I said, 'Muhammad Ali,'" he recalled. "He said, 'What religion are you?' and I said, 'Muslim.' He said, 'Come with me.'" Ali Jr was then taken to a room and asked about his name and religion again.
"I felt like I was religiously profiled," he told the AP. "I felt violated."
After being held nearly two hours, Ali Jr asked why he was being held and was told that officers "were checking on something," he told MSNBC. "I was like, 'OK, but I been waiting an hour and 45 minutes for you to check something. I got other things to do, like, where's my mother at?' I was worried about her, I didn't know what was going on. I didn't know."
Camacho Ali said she felt uneasy about the incident. "I felt very uncomfortable and Muhammad Ali, everybody knows him as a person that stands up for what you believe in. I been a Muslim all my whole life and I never encountered such a thing," she said. "We must carry on that legend because if we let people get away with it now then it will be no end to the trauma."
Keith E Smith, spokesman for the Florida division of the US Customs and Border Protection, declined to comment on the incident. "Due to the restrictions of the Privacy Act, US Customs and Border Protection cannot discuss individual travelers," he said. "However, all international travelers arriving in the US are subject to CBP inspection."
"This is an outrage," Ali Jr's friend Mancini said to the Miami New Times. "I don't know what is going on with Mr Trump's claim that his ban is not religion-based. We do not discriminate in this country based on religion."