Somali Muslim professors outraged over repeated searches

If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck….Two Somali-Muslim scholars at the University of Minnesota say they’re outraged by what they consider invasive questioning and searches while traveling back to the US from abroad this summer.

Abdi Samatar chairs the U’s geography department. He’s married to Cawo Abdi, a sociology professor. Since June, the husband and wife say they’ve been pulled aside a total of six times at airports for lengthy interviews that have lasted up to two and a half hours. They believe customs officials targeted them for being Muslim and ethnic Somalis. (Good reasons)

But now, Abdi said, she feels indignation. “It’s a very unpleasant experience to be interrogated for two or three hours when you have never committed a crime, when you are doing your job. But countless Somali-Americans say they’ve been subjected to similar searches, called secondary inspections, upon re-entering the U.S. “He went through every little thing that was in my wallet, one by one,” Abdi Samatar said, recalling the inspection of one customs officer.

Samatar, who sports a graying beard and bookish, gold-rimmed glasses, said he believes he’s of interest to the government for other reasons. Since June, Samatar has gone through four secondary searches, which he described as demeaning and humiliating.

One officer took a keen interest in the papers, Samatar said. The officer wanted to know why he was reading them. The professor said he was planning to write about the issue of Somali piracy. When the officer asked why Samatar wanted to write such things, the professor said he responded: “We are scholars, and we write papers and books.”

Samatar believes the searches must be related to a federal investigation into about 20 Minnesotan men of Somali descent. Authorities say the men left for East Africa to fight with an extremist group. One of the travelers blew himself up last fall in Somalia, becoming the first U.S. citizen to carry out a terrorist suicide bombing. Authorities fear those fighters could come back to the U.S and inflict harm here. LINK

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