Muslim ‘must pay for visa checks’

Mohammed Umar Haleem KhanA Muslim student had to pay extra for security checks when applying for a visa to visit the United States, because his name was Mohammed. Mohammed Umar Haleem Khan, 22, was told by US Embassy officials that “a lot of bad people” shared his name. The Manchester Metropolitan University student had to pay an extra $80 (£45) to have his fingerprints checked against a US terror suspect database.

Mr Khan was planning to work for the Camp America project in Philadelphia. He said: “She asked me all the usual questions like what was my purpose for visiting and what was the nature of my job and then she said there was a problem with my name. She said there were a lot of bad people in the world with that name, meaning terrorists…. I’m sure that if some white candidate came along there would have been no problem.”

Mr Khan added that he had never visited Afghanistan or any other trouble hotspots and could think of no reason why his name would cause a problem.

A spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain Inayat Bunglawala said: “This is a worrying incident and seems to fit a recent pattern whereby the USA appears to be treating all Muslims as potential terrorists just because of their religion. Although Muslim parents name their children from a wide variety of names – just like other parents – many of them, especially those from the Indian subcontinent, will often give their male children the name of Muhammad as a kind of respectful prefix in honour of the Prophet, even though the actual name by which these children are known will be something else.

“US Embassy officials ought really to have had the training to cope with basic elements of Muslim culture which would help prevent these kinds of unfortunate situations.”

BBC News, 24 April 2006