Muhammad Ali Jr., the son of the late heavyweight boxing legend Muhammad Ali, was detained for nearly two hours on Friday by immigration officials in Florida, apparently because of his Muslim-sounding name. While he was being detained, the 44-year-old was questioned closely about his Muslim name and his religion.
The family’s lawyer, Chris Mancini, told the Louisville Courier-Journal that Ali Jr. was traveling on February 7 with his mother, Khalilah Camacho-Ali, 66, the second wife of the late world heavyweight champion, when he was detained at Fort Lauderdale International Airport in Florida.
Camacho-Ali told Radar Online that she was returning with her son from a Black History Month speaking engagement in Montego Bay, Jamaica, when she and her son were detained by immigration agents at Fort Lauderdale Airport because of their “suspiciously” Arabic-sounding name.
— INFO CRIB NG (@infocribng) February 25, 2017
According to Mancini, the immigration agents released Camacho-Ali only after she showed them a photo of herself with her famous ex-husband, the three-time world heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali Sr., who died at the age of 74 on June 3, 2016, after a prolonged illness due to Parkinson’s disease.
But allegedly because Ali Jr. had no photo to prove his kinship with the boxing legend, immigration agents detained him for nearly two hours while they asked questions about his name and religion.
“Where did you get your name from?” they asked Ali Jr., according to Mancini.
They also asked him, “Are you Muslim?”
“I’ve never gone through anything like this,” said Camacho-Ali, who has traveled around the world meeting famous people.
She noted that the incident happened on February 7, four days after a federal judge had blocked the enforcement of President Donald Trump’s Muslim travel ban on people entering the U.S. from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen.
— The Root (@TheRoot) February 25, 2017
She pointed out that even before the court blocked the enforcement of the Trump administration’s Muslim ban, it was intended to apply only to people from the seven listed Muslim-majority countries, and certainly not to U.S. citizens carrying valid passports.
Muhammad Ali Jr. was born in Philadelphia in 1972.
“I’m getting ready to tell Mr. Trump how these agents behaved,” she said.
“It is against our constitutional rights to question a citizen’s religious beliefs.”
“I was standing in line and letting Muhammad go through immigration ahead of me, because he has bad knees and was using a wheelchair,” Camacho-Ali told Radar Online.
“I was signing autographs for other passengers who’d recognized me when I realized something was wrong.”
“Muhammad was being held up by an agent who was asking him a lot of questions and then another officer came over and I heard the agent say, ‘Go with him!'”
— The Hill (@thehill) February 25, 2017
She was alarmed when the agents took her son away into a room for questioning.
“I said, ‘Hey, wait a minute! That’s my son!’ But they wheeled him off. They said, ‘You’ll meet him in a minute on the other side,'” Camacho-Ali said.
An agent then asked her if she was born in the U.S.
“Of course, it’s right here on my passport,” she answered.
“I asked the agent where he was from because I noticed he had an accent and he said he was an immigrant from Haiti.”
Muhammad Ali Jr was detained due to the "sound" of his name. How even a Legend's son can be profiled because of his customs pic.twitter.com/c5JNGhfDyA
— ✨✨✨✨✨✨✨✨ (@merelynora) February 25, 2017
She said that after they let her go through she waited for Muhammad for about an hour and 45 minutes before he was released.
“He let me go through but the one minute in which I was supposed to meet Muhammad turned into 30 minutes, and 30 minutes became 45 minutes,” Camacho-Ali said.
After waiting more than 45 minutes, she became agitated and began threatening to “call the police, the FBI and the CIA.”
They eventually released her son after detaining him for nearly two hours.
According to Ali Jr., the immigration agents asked him about his religion and he told them that he was a Muslim. They asked him how he got the name “Muhammad Ali,” and he told them that he got it from his father and mother, being the son of the boxing legend, Muhammad Ali.
Radar Online recalled that in a previous interview before the airport incident, Camacho-Ali had explained that she was only 10-years-old and Muhammad Ali Sr. was 18-years-old when they met and fell in love.
— Daily Mail US (@DailyMail) February 24, 2017
— Kazi UK™ ???????? (@Kazi_UK) February 24, 2017
— deathandtaxes (@DeathAndTaxes) February 24, 2017
“Muhammad was my first love. I was ten and he was 18 when we met in Chicago,” she said.
She told Radar Online that Ali Sr., formerly Cassius Clay, took the name “Ali” in 1964 from her parents who were Muslims with the surname Ali.
“My parents’ surname was Ali and I was raised Muslim,” Camacho-Ali said.
“Muhammad converted for me and we were so much in love, that he took my family name. Muhammad Jr. was raised Muslim.”
From 1967-1976 he was married to Khaliah Ali. Together they had 4 kids together; Maryum Ali, Rasheda Ali, Jamillah Ali and Muhammad Ali Jr. pic.twitter.com/t5RgzLKKHW
— Muhammad Ali (@_muhammadali__) February 21, 2017
I think I'm going to stop flying; apparently, all of the terrorists are in the airports, including Muhammad Ali Jr. https://t.co/nYbKIMUJdo
— Michael Marino (@MikeyyMarino) February 24, 2017
“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, a family friend and attorney, told the Courier-Journal.
He added that the family was trying to find other people who were stopped and detained for similar questioning and that the family was considering a federal lawsuit.
Louisville Courier-Journal reached out to the Airport and Customs officials but received no response at first. But later, a spokesman for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection replied via email.
“Due to the restrictions of the Privacy Act, U.S. Customs and Border Protection cannot discuss individual travelers; however, all international travelers arriving in the U.S. are subject to CBP inspection,” the email message said.
[Featured Image by John Shearer/Getty Images]