Muhammad Ali Jr., the son of the legendary boxer Muhammad Ali, has opened up about being detained when U.S. Customs officials stopped him for nearly two hours while traveling with his mother at a Florida airport Feb. 7. U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport twice asked him to state his religion, Ali Jr. said Monday on CBS This Morning.
“[The officer] said, ‘What religion are you?’ And I said, ‘Muslim.’ He said, ‘Come with me.’ So he took me to another room," Ali Jr. recalled the alleged incident. “It’s like he didn’t believe me, or whatever. But he asked me again, ‘What is your name? And what is your religion?’ And again I answered.”
Ali Jr. was traveling from Jamaica with his mother Khalilah Camacho-Ali, who also appeared on the morning news show. She said officials at the airport separated them.
“They rolled him away. I said, ‘Where’s he going?’ They said, ‘He’ll meet you on the other side,'" Camacho-Ali said.
Camacho-Ali, Ali’s second wife, said she was scared the entire time but was released by officials once she showed a picture of herself with her late ex-husband. Ali Jr., on the other hand, had no picture of his father on him, which was reportedly what extended his detainment.
“I’m a U.S. citizen,” Ali Jr. said. “You see my state ID. You see my passport. I offered my social security card. So why are you stopping me?”
Ali Jr., who was born in Philadelphia, said he was detained for about an hour and 45 minutes. He also said he had never been questioned or stopped before, adding that he does not have any criminal record.
Family friend and lawyer Chris Mancini said the incident mainly happened due to President Donald Trump's proposed immigration ban, which would restrict travel from seven Muslim-majority countries, according to an interview with the Louisville Courier-Journal. However, Jamaica was not one of those countries.
“To the Ali family, it’s crystal clear that this is directly linked to Mr. Trump’s efforts to ban Muslims from the United States,” Mancini said.
In a statement emailed Sunday morning to The Washington Post, U.S. Customs and Border Protection stated that its “officers adhere to the highest standards of professionalism. Every day CBP officers process more than 1.2 million international travelers. We accomplish our mission with vigilance and in accordance with the law. CBP does not discriminate based on religion, race, ethnicity or sexual orientation.
“We treat all travelers with respect and sensitivity. Integrity is our cornerstone. We are guided by the highest ethical and moral principles."
However, Ali Jr.'s mother was not convinced. She bought a Koran to the show and said she was offering it as a gift to Trump.
“The President should know that we’re a people of peace,” Camacho-Ali said.
Overall, Ali Jr. said the experience made him feel like he was at his father's funeral. "I didn’t know what to think," he said.
Muhammad Ali, a three-time heavyweight champion, died from Parkinson’s disease at the age of 74 last June. More than 10 million people worldwide have been diagnosed with the progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects movement.
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