Followed by Police Because of a Beard and Kufi?

Earlier this month, a Muslim man from State College, Pennsylvania was followed home by a Ferguson Township police officer. The Muslim man, who has a beard and wears a kufi, a traditional Muslim appearance, stated that only when the police officer saw his appearance did the officer begin to follow him home. Once the man arrived home, the police officer stepped out of his car and questioned the Muslim, asking if he knew anything about Hamas and what his thoughts were on Israel-Palestine. The Muslim man smartly said he didn’t have many political opinions, and the officer left.

Though this incident appears harmless at first glance, it is troubling because CAIR chapters across the country are seeing an increase in police officers viewing traditional looking or even practicing Muslims as potential threats. Furthermore, it is inappropriate for an officer to ask irrelevant questions, including political and religious beliefs. The greatest risk is posed to Muslim youth or individuals who are not socially sound or do not understand their rights when dealing with a police officer. Often, such individuals, though innocent, get themselves in trouble by getting nervous and making statements that invite further questioning.

CAIR-PA civil rights interns have created a “Know Your Rights with Police” guide in response to this incident. Click here to download the guide. Print the guide, post it at your mosque or community center and know your rights!

Moein Khawaja
Executive Director