The son of legendary boxer and activist Muhammad Ali, who passed away last summer, was detained at a Fort Lauderdale airport earlier this month in a move that family friend and lawyer Chris Mancini claims was related to the origins of his “Arabic-sounding” name.
The 44-year-old Muhammad Ali Jr. (far left) was pulled aside, along with his mother, Khalilah Camacho-Ali (who was released alone after showing a photo of herself with the late boxer). Ali Jr., who was returning from a Black History Month speaking event, was reportedly questioned for two hours with inquiries about his Muslim religion and place of birth.
In a statement, Mancini said, “To the Ali family, it is crystal clear that this is directly linked to [President] Trump’s efforts to ban Muslims from the United States.”
Though airport officials did not immediately respond, a spokesperson for the US Customs and Border Protection, Daniel Hetlage, has since spoken to USA Today to say that Ali Jr. was not singled out for his Muslim roots. “We treat all travelers with respect and sensitivity,” he told the outlet. “Integrity is our cornerstone. We are guided by the highest ethical and moral principles.”
Though he wouldn’t definitively say why the boxing champ’s son WAS detained, he did note that it is not an uncommon practice for a traveler to be pulled aside for secondary screenings, even after passport inspection. He went on to say that while questions of race and origin do occasionally come up, “We have no interest in questioning anyone for two hours about their religion.”
While it’s currently a classic case of he said/he said, Mancini stated that Ali Jr. and his mother are considering actually considering federal lawsuit over the issue. The event also echoes recent statements made by Lindsay Lohan, who claims she was “racially profiled” for wearing a headscarf in a separate airport.
Troubling times, indeed.
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(h/t USA Today, photos via Lucas Oleniuk/Getty)