Muslim Group Advises Women Wearing Hijabs to Allow TSA ‘Enhanced Pat Downs’ Only on Head and Neck Area

November 12, 2010 - 5:01 AM

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Muslim women wearing hijabs. (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) - The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has issued a travel warning to Muslim airline passengers on U.S. aircraft in response to the Transportation Safety Administration’s  "enhanced pat down" policy that went into effect in late October.

CAIR said Muslims who object to full-body scans for religious reasons should know their rights if they are required to undergo a pat-down, including asking for the procedure to be done in a private place. In addition, CAIR offered a “special recommendation” for Muslim women who wear a hijab, telling them they should tell the TSA officer that they may be searched only around the head and neck.

In the “special recommendations for Muslim women who wear hijab,” it states: “Before you are patted down, you should remind the TSA officer that they are only supposed to pat down the area in question, in this scenario, your head and neck. They SHOULD NOT subject you to a full-body or partial-body pat-down.”

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It also states: “Instead of the pat-down, you can always request to pat down your own scarf, including head and neck area, and have the officers perform a chemical swipe of your hands.”

The new TSA pat-downs involving “head-to-toe” screening techniques follow recent airliner bombing attempts.  Passengers who reject a full-body scan or who are selected for secondary screening may be searched using the enhanced pat-down.

“Pat downs are one important tool to help TSA detect hidden and dangerous items such as explosives,” a TSA statement issued on Oct. 28 stated. “Passengers should continue to expect an unpredictable mix of security layers that include explosives trace detection, advanced imaging technology, canine teams, among others.”

Posted on its Web site under “TSA’s Head-to-Toe Screening Policies,” the agency said how people are dressed may lead to closer inspection, including baggy or loose clothing. Those policies also include individuals being searched by a “professional” of the same sex.

“It is TSA's policy that passengers should be screened by an officer of the same gender in a professional, respectful manner,” the policy reads.

In February, the Figh Council of North America, a group of Islamic scholars, issued a fatwa, or religious ruling, that full-body scanners violate Islamic law.

“It is a violation of clear Islamic teaching that men or women be seen naked by other men and women,” the ruling states. “Islam highly emphasizes haya (modesty) and considers it part of the faith. The Qu’ran has commanded the believers, both men and women, to cover their private parts.”

CAIR endorsed the fatwa, according to a Feb. 21 article in the Detroit Free Press.

CAIR's press release on the TSA screening issue was first reported on by the Web site Black&Right.