"We put out information telling everyone that hajj is coming; this is the time frame; individuals are going to be traveling with these types of items," TSA spokesman Darrin Kayser told the State Department's USINFO Web site Tuesday. Calling it "cultural sensitivity training," Kayser added that airport security officials need "just to be aware that they may also be praying."
Welcoming TSA's Islamic sensitivity training is the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, which describes itself as "America's largest Islamic civil liberties group." In a press release praising the program yesterday, CAIR noted that it distributes a pocket guide titled "Your Rights and Responsibilities as an American Muslim."
"As an airline passenger," the CAIR guide states, "you are entitled to courteous, respectful and non-stigmatizing treatment by airline and security personnel. You have the right to complain about treatment that you believe is discriminatory."
The press release also quoted the group's communications director, Ibrahim Hooper, as saying CAIR representatives nationwide have met with not only the TSA, but also from Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Protection officials on "issues related to cultural sensitivity and national security."
Last June a senior Department of Homeland Security official from Washington personally guided CAIR officials on a behind-the-scenes tour of Customs screening operations at O'Hare International Airport in response to CAIR complaints that Muslim travelers were being unfairly delayed as they entered the U.S. from abroad.
During the June airport tour, CAIR was taken on a walk through the point-of-entry, Customs stations, secondary screening and interview rooms. In addition, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents were asked to describe for CAIR representatives various features of the high-risk passenger lookout system. Brian Humphrey, Customs and Border Patrol's executive director of field operations, assured CAIR officials that agents do not single out Muslim passengers for special screening and that they must undergo a mandatory course in Muslim sensitivity training. The course teaches agents that Muslims believe jihad is an "internal struggle against sin" and not holy warfare.
Customs agents involved in the CAIR tour at O'Hare told WorldNetDaily they were outraged that headquarters would reveal sensitive counterterrorism procedures to an organization that has seen several of its own officials convicted of terror-related charges since 9-11.
CAIR says the June tour allayed its concerns about profiling and that it "looks forward to continuing the relationship with U.S. Customs and Border Protection offices in the region, and to furthering understanding between the organizations as well as facilitating future communication in order to eliminate problems for Muslim travelers before they even arise."