The son of iconic boxer Muhammad Ali was held for hours by immigration officials at a Florida airport earlier in February, it was revealed on Friday (24 February).
Muhammad Ali Jr was reportedly asked several times about his religion before being allowed to leave.
The 44-year-old and his mother Khalilah Camacho-Ali, Muhammad Ali's second wife, arrived at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on 7 February from a speaking engagement in Montego Bay, Jamaica when they were pulled aside at customs. Family friend and attorney Chris Mancini told the Courier-Journal that the two were pulled out because of their Arabic-sounding names.
Camacho-Ali was released after showing immigration officials a photo of herself with her ex-husband, but her son did not have a similar photo and was held for nearly two hours. Mancini claimed officials questioned Ali Jr and twice asked him, "Where did you get your name from?" and "Are you Muslim?"
After confirming that he was a Muslim, Ali Jr continued to be questioned about his religion and where he was born, the Courier-Journal reported. Ali Jr, who was born in Pennsylvania in 1972 and holds a US passport, is Muslim like his father.
"What right does the United States have to inquire about somebody's religion when they enter the country?" Manchini told the Miami New Times. "There was no other basis for a secondary inspection. This is an instance where the ban has been enforced even though it has been thrown out. The government is trying to find grounds to keep Muslims out."
According to the Courier-Journal, as her son was being questioned, Camacho-Ali ran around the airport asking for help. Local police, who have no jurisdiction in issues involving customs officials, could not help her. Ali Jr was released after two hours and the family called their attorney the next day.
A spokesman for US Customs and Border Protections would not comment when asked by the Courier-Journal. "Due to the restrictions of the Privacy Act, US Customs and Border Protection cannot discuss individual travelers; however, all international travelers arriving in the US are subject to CBP inspection."
Mancini said that neither Ali Jr nor his mother had ever been detained before and have extensive global travel experience. "To the Ali family, it's crystal clear that this is directly linked to Mr Trump's efforts to ban Muslims from the United States," Manchini said, referring to President Donald Trump's failed executive order that temporarily banned refugees and travelers from seven predominately Muslim countries.
Though a US appeals court has blocked enforcement of the travel order, the White House has vowed to instate a new executive order.
The Ali family is considering filing a federal lawsuit and is attempting to determine how many other people have been subjected to the same detention and questioning as Ali Jr, Mancini said. "Imagine walking into an airport and being asked about your religion," he said. "This is classic customs profiling."