The son of American Muslim boxing legend Muhammad Ali has been arrested and interrogated again at an airport in the US capital of Washington, DC before being allowed to board a flight to his home state of Florida following a meeting with lawmakers regarding his first airport detention last month.
Muhammad Ali Jr. was detained on Friday while trying to board a JetBlue Airways flight to Fort Lauderdale and questioned for 20 minutes by security agents, said his attorney Chris Mancini, who further noted that Ali had to speak with Department of Homeland Security officials by phone and show his driver’s license and passport before being allowed to board the plane.
The incident took place nearly a month after Ali and his mother, Khalilah Camacho Ali – both US-born citizens -- were stopped and held for two hours at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport after returning from a trip to Jamaica on February 7 and asked “Where did you get your name from? Are you a Muslim?”
The two traveled to Washington on Wednesday without incident in a bid to speak to members of a congressional subcommittee on border security about their February experience that appeared to be another case of religious profiling.
"None of this was happening Wednesday," Mancini said in a telephone interview Friday afternoon as he was traveling with the Alis. "Going to Washington obviously opened up a can of worms at DHS."
“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 stated last month after the Alis first encounter with airport agents. He added that they were trying to find out how many others faced similar questioning, and were contemplating filing a federal lawsuit.
“Imagine walking into an airport and being asked about your religion,” Mancini further noted. “This is classic customs profiling.”
The mother and son have emphasized in interviews that they believe they have been stopped because they are Muslims with Arabic-sounding names.
Earlier this week, they announced a campaign for religious freedom in the spirit of the boxing icon, supported by former boxing greats Evander Holyfield, Larry Holmes, Roberto Duran and others. They say they are opposed to President Donald Trump's travel ban, which they feel unfairly targets Muslims.
This is while Transportation Security Administration (TSA) spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein acknowledged that TSA officers confirmed Ali's identity before he boarded his flight, further noting that Ali was also searched because his jewelry set off a checkpoint scanner alarm.
Meanwhile, Florida’s Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who was on the same flight, tweeted a photo with Ali after he was allowed to board and wrote, "On way home on DOMESTIC FLIGHT Muhammad Ali Jr. detained AGAIN ... Religiously profiling son of 'The Greatest' will not make us safe."