Muhammad Ali Jr., son of boxing legend Muhammad Ali, said he was detained at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Florida after being questioned about his religion.
Ali was born in Philadelphia, has a United States passport and has no prior criminal history, yet he was stopped and held by immigration officials earlier this month after returning from Montego Bay, Jamaica, with his mother, Khalilah Camacho-Ali.
The two had traveled to the island so Camacho-Ali could give a speech on Black history, according to the Miami New Times. They had already cleared customs when the incident took place.
Camacho-Ali, the second ex-wife of the heavyweight boxing champion who died on June 3, said Monday on “CBS This Morning” that she and her son were in wheelchairs while in the airport because of severe knee problems. As they were headed to the baggage claim, the two were stopped.
“Immigration came up to me and pulled me aside, and asked me my name first,” Ali explained.
He said after he told the immigration official his name, the official replied: “What religion are you”
Ali said that he is Muslim.
“Then [the immigration official] said, ‘Come with me to another room,'” Ali said. “It was like he didn’t believe me, and he asked me again, ‘What is your name, and what is your religion'”
After being asked about his faith, Ali said he was detained for about an hour and 45 minutes.
“When I saw they were having a problem with him, I said, ‘That’s my son over there,'” Camacho-Ali said. “‘We’re traveling together.'”
But, “they rolled him into another room,” she said.
Camacho-Ali was also questioned, but not detained, after she reportedly showed them a photo of herself with her ex-husband.
As a stellar athlete and social activist, Ali was a leader both inside and outside of the ring.
“I don’t understand why they would ask me: ‘Where did I get my name'” she said.
She asked an official where they were taking her son, and Camacho-Ali said the official responded that Ali would “meet her on the other side.”
Ali said that prior to this experience, he had never been questioned or stopped by immigration officials at the airport.
“I was kind of wondering why he asked me about my religion,” Ali said. “What does that matter”
President Donald Trump’s travel ban restricts travel for refugees and citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries. Jamaica is not one of the countries on the list. At the time of Ali’s detainment at the airport, the travel ban was on appeal and was not legally in effect.
Protesters along with lawmakers lashed out against the detainment of immigrants at airports, including a married couple with disabilities in their 80s and a five-year-old boy.
Chris Mancini, an Ali family friend and Fort Lauderdale attorney, expressed he believes the line of questioning and detainment is a ripple effect of the travel ban and profiling.
“I think that this is a systemic program involving profiling of Muslims,” Mancini told the Sun Sentinel. “This is the first time in their lives this has happened.”
Ali said he told agents that he is the son of theboxing champ, but he thinks they did not believe him.Ali also said when he was released, there was no explanation given as to why he was stopped.
“I believe it’s because I’m Muslim; my name,” he said.
Customs and border protection did not comment on the incident, citing privacy laws.
“Due to the restrictions of the Privacy Act, U.S. Customs and Border Protection cannot discuss individual travelers; however, all international travelers arriving in the U.S. are subject to CBP inspection,” the agency told the New Times via email.
“That situation made me feel like I was at my father’s funeral,” Ali said. “I didn’t know what to think.”
In December 2015, months before his death, Ali, known for his activism, issued a public statementtitled “Presidential Candidates Proposing to Ban Muslim Immigration to the United States” shortly after then-candidate Trump’s Dec. 7, 2015, statement calling for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”
Ali, who didn’t mention Trump by name, wrote:
“Our political leaders should use their position to bring understanding about the religion of Islam and clarify that these misguided murderers have perverted people’s views on what Islam really is.”
When he said “murderers,” Ali was referring to theviolent Islamic extremists responsible for terrorist attacks in Paris, San Bernardino and other places.
Traveling to U.S.
As in the case of Ali and Camacho-Ali, since the travel ban was announced in January, there have been many travelers detained for questioning at U.S. airports when arriving from countries unrelated to the ban.
Henry Rousso, an Egyptian-born leading French historian, said he was detained for 10 hours by U.S. immigration officials and threatened with deportation after he arrived in Texas for a conference. Rousso, a pre-eminent scholar on the Holocaust, said border agents in Houston held him when authorities began to question his visa.
He said officials told him he had been selected for a “random check,” which the 62-year-old claims was not some “mere coincidence.”
Russo was then subjected to “extensive questioning,” fingerprinting and a body search before being told he would be deported on the next plane to Paris. To assist Rousso’s eventual release, Texas A&M University officials enlisted the help of law professor and director of the Immigrant Rights Clinic Fatma Marouf, according to the Independent.