Just in time for American Thanksgiving, a travel advisory put out by the Council on American-Islamic Relations-Chicago just showed up in my in-box.

If you haven’t been following the recent news, discussions and outrage on the Transportation Security Administration’s new extreme “pat-down procedure” policy, then I highly suggest starting here and here. Stories are flooding FB groups, Twitter, and on teh Internets relating shocking stories of sexual abuse and the violation of children, pilots, breast cancer survivors, and rape survivors as TSA agents are required to physically grope our private areas. Even Roger Ebert is weighing in on the subject. The pat-down procedures are so invasive that a TSA Abuse Blog has been created and people experiencing abuse are encouraged to contact their lawyer and file civil rights complaints against the TSA.

The Advanced Imaging Technology machines are also now being used for primary screening purposes alongside the metal detector. If you refuse the AIT, you get the enhanced pat-down. If during the primary screening process there’s a beep, an anomaly, you’re wearing bulky clothing or just for random fun, you may be subjected for the secondary screening process. Which includes a MORE intrusive pat-down than the “new-thorough-enhanced-standard” pat-down.

According to the Chicago Crescent, Muslim travelers are especially weary that they may be “randomly selected” based on their names, appearance or clothing. Women in hijab or loose garments may be asked to undergo a pat down.  CAIR is already reporting that people:

are being referred to secondary screenings even though they do not set off the metal detector, a phenomenon reported frequently to CAIR by female Muslim travelers

Every time I travel I make it a point not to beep when I walk through the metal detector. Even after I’m given the all-clear my head is regularly massaged by security staff trying to feel up my scalp. It’s all in my head, but the second I step into line, I feel like every officer is looking at me and my family.  And when I’m patted down (each and every time, even though I don’t beep) my face grows so hot in embarrassment — because surely everyone is thinking, “ooh, what is she hiding?”

It’s gotten to a point where I don’t even wear the hijab in the Spanish style when travelling. I’ll just tie it once behind my head and let the tails hang loose around my neck so I don’t (again) freak out security who have to feel the bun for incendiary devices.  Like many other people, I HATE the thought that I may have to be subjected to a thorough grope-down, even if it’s in a private room with female officers.

Since he travels frequently to the US for work, I’ve been speaking with the Hubby about this issue for two days now. We’re both incredibly outraged at the “new-thorough-enhanced-standard” pat-down and if selected, he is considering opting out of both the AIT machines and the pat-down. Unfortunately, according to CAIR, TSA officers have threatened to arrest or fine passengers who opt out of the entire screening process after it begins.

Here is some more information from CAIR that you need to know about the secondary screening process:

If you wear the Islamic head scarf and you are selected for secondary screening, ask the TSA officer if the reason you are being selected for secondary is because of your head scarf. If the officer confirms you were referred to secondary because of your head scarf, before you are patted down, you should remind the TSA officer, who should be of the same gender, that they are only supposed to pat down the area in question, in this scenario, your head and neck. They should not subject you to a full-body or partial-body pat-down. You can always request to pat down your own scarf, including head and neck area, and have the officer perform a residue swab of your hands.

This applies to everyone. If you are recommended because of a bulky clothing item, the ONLY areas the officer can touch are those covered by the item in question.

The more you know.

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