US border guards deport Canadian Muslims

Milgo Noor had an appointment at 3:30 p.m. this past Sunday to look at bridesmaid dresses in a Buffalo bridal shop. She never arrived. When the young bride-to-be tried crossing the border with her three bridesmaids – two sisters and a cousin – the women were detained for more than eight hours and two of them were escorted back into Canada in handcuffs.

Shortly after Noor, 26, showed her citizenship to a U.S. border guard at the Peace Bridge, more than a dozen customs officers “charged” at her vehicle, starting an ordeal that she said stripped her of her dignity. For three of the eight hours, Noor and her eldest sister Rukia, 32, were held in solitary holding cells. After asking repeatedly why they had been detained, they were laughed at by U.S. border officials. “You have no rights here,” they were told. “You came to us.”

Their rooms had a chair bolted to the floor, a wall-mounted surveillance camera and an alarm that sounded every 30 minutes. They were searched by border officials wearing gloves, the women said, as well as being fingerprinted and photographed. Noor said they were held without food or water. They sat while border officials ate pizza in front of them. “We asked for water and no one would even look at us. They told us to ‘Shut up and sit down’,” Noor said.

Mohamed Elmasry, national president of the Canadian Islamic Congress, said the incident does not surprise him. He says his organization receives about five complaints per week from Canadian Muslims who feel they have been treated unfairly at a U.S. entry point. “They’re brown and they have a Muslim name. There’s two strikes against them,” Elmasry said, adding that had the women been wearing the hijab it would have been three.

His organization advises Canadian Muslims to avoid travelling to the United States, and issues alerts before the annual Hajj pilgrimage urging Muslims to ensure their flights do not have U.S. stopovers.

Toronto Star, 28 June 2007