News Ticker

You really do have the right to an attorney

Dr. Aneesah Nadir –

On January 2, 2017, Hassan Shibly, a civil rights attorney and chief executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations-Florida (CAIR-FL), posted a live Facebook video warning the Muslim community about exercising their rights when traveling and crossing back into the United States and when questioned by the FBI. He indicated that while Muslims are 1% of the population, they are often 50% of those stopped for secondary inspection when traveling.

Shibly emphasized the importance of protecting our constitutional rights as American citizens. The First Amendment states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” The First Amendment grants us freedom of religion and freedom of speech which Shibly is concerned is being impeded when American Muslims who have been traveling come back into the United States and face Customs agents.

According to Shibly, his brother and other Muslim American citizens have been victims of wrongful requests by Customs asking for social media accounts and passwords. Shibly says these requests are contrary to principles of the First Amendment and warned American Muslim citizens that they are under no legal obligation to share information about their social media accounts and passwords with Customs. He added that Muslims have been asked questions about their personal religious beliefs, political views, charitable donations, and beliefs about Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and Jesus (as) which they are not obliged to share.

CAIR and other civil rights and legal advocacy organizations repeatedly remind American Muslims not to speak with the FBI without an attorney. Too often Muslims voluntarily speak with the FBI to prove that they have nothing to hide and are law-abiding citizens. Because FBI agents are often on a fishing expedition when they call upon everyday Muslims, Shibly vociferously urges Muslims not to speak to the FBI without an attorney. From various CAIR seminars we have learned that FBI and Customs work to get information and intelligence on American Muslims in order to recruit them to spy and serve as agent provocateurs. Speaking to the FBI puts you at risk of self-incrimination and the possibility of something very innocently conveyed being used against you.

Most Muslims cannot afford an attorney and do not have one on retainer that they can easily access.  CAIR and other advocacy agencies are working diligently to provide free legal access to as many as possible. LegalShield offers legal plans for a small monthly premium that works out to be less than a dollar a day. Plans provide 24/7 emergency access to an attorney in the event that you or another covered family member are arrested or detained, or before you are questioned by the FBI. It is essential to use our community resources and exercise our rights while we have them before we lose them.


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