Muslim woman treated like 'terrorist' at U.S. customs
CTV.ca News Staff
Published Wednesday, January 6, 2010 9:34AM EST
A Muslim woman who was held for questioning for more than four hours Monday at Halifax Stanfield International Airport is looking for answers.
Ayat Manna says she was made to feel like a terrorist while she was detained by U.S. border officials while trying to board a plane to Ohio to visit her husband.
She was eventually let go but was not allowed to board the flight entering the U.S.
Manna, who is originally from Jordan but has lived in Nova Scotia for the last 15 years, says she travels to the States often and has a valid Canadian passport. But on Monday, for reasons she still doesn't understand, a female U.S. border official picked her out of line and began questioning her.
"She asked me a couple of questions and I answered all of them: how long I'm staying in the States and why am I going there," the soft-spoken Manna recounted to Canada AM Wednesday from Halifax.
"After that, she took all my papers and passport and slammed it on the desk. She called security and she told them, 'Take her!' And I said, 'Why are you treating me that way? Why are you yelling? What did I do?' and she didn't say nothing."
Manna says she asked the border official whether she had singled her out because she was the only woman wearing a head scarf, but she received no answer. Instead, she was taken to a back room and questioned for four hours, including what she says were rude, personal inquiries.
When the border officials asked her questions she didn't understand and began to yell at her, Manna became confused and started to cry.
"It felt like I was a terrorist. That's exactly what it felt like," she says.
During the four hours of questioning, the officials asked for her bank account number and then called her bank to get all her financial information.
The officials took her photo and her fingerprints and eventually let her go, but Manna says she still doesn't understand why this happened to her.
"I asked them why, they just didn't answer... I'm still looking for answers why they did this," she says.
Manna says as she was being let go, she asked the officials what she would need to be able to enter the States.
"So they [said], 'You need to bring a bank statement, a doctor's note that you're not pregnant -- I don't know what that has to do with anything else -- and a note from your employer that you're coming back to work'," Manna says.
She says she was then escorted out of the airport.
"I stayed there until 9:30 p.m., and in the end, they called the RCMP on me for no reason and kicked me out," she says.
Manna says she went home and got all the information the U.S. officials had asked for and returned to the airport the next day, but they still refused to let her board a flight.
Canadian officials told Manna that the decision to refuse her entry was made by U.S. border officials, who have discretion about whom they allow into their country.
CTV News attempted to contact U.S. border officials for reaction to Manna's story but calls were not returned.