How Muhammad Ali's Son Was Treated Highlights a Bigger Issue

February 25th 2017

Willie Burnley Jr.

Muhammad Ali Jr., son of the legendary boxer and human rights advocate Muhammad Ali, was detained earlier this month at a Florida airport and questioned about his religion by border patrol agents, his family’s lawyer Chris Mancini admitted this weekend to the Courier-Journal.

The 44-year-old U.S. citizen was reportedly detained for around two hours and asked by the agents at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport where he was born, how he got his name, and whether he was a Muslim. The answers, in order, would be: Philadelphia, inherited from his world-famous father, and yes.

Ali's mother, Khalilah Camacho-Ali, was also detained, according to reports, but was able to show a photo of her and Muhammad Ali, her ex-husband, and was released.

The incident happened on Feb. 7 several days after a federal judge ordered a stay to President Donald Trump’s controversial executive order — temporarily barring foreign nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries for 90 days, halting the resettlement of refugees in the United States for 120 days, and indefinitely suspending the resettlement of Syrian refugees — and two days prior to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling against the Trump administration and the travel ban. The order had prompted confusion with its hasty implementation and questions as to its legality.

Ali's lawyer believes that his client was detained due to Trump's policies, according to the Guardian:

"'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 said, adding 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 told the paper. 'This is classic customs profiling.'"

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection told the Los Angeles Times that it could not comment on the case due to the Privacy Act.

Ali is not alone in having issues at the airport or trying to enter the U.S., following the January 27 order from the Trump administration, the Guardian notes. Recently an Oscar-nominated cinematographer was barred from entering the United States.

Since the blockage of the order, Trump has said that his administration administration would draft another more narrowly-defined travel ban.

The family is now considering legal action for what they feel is a case of discrimination.