Would a big Tattoo help?


I have had some of my best & some of my strangest experiences while I was studying in the United States. Being a Pakistani Muslim in Worcester, a city outside of Boston, it was only natural to be questioned and followed by strangers every now and then. Although I was never personally questioned by the FBI, my brother and his roommate had the privelage of having two FBI agents knock on their apartment door at 7:00 am for an intense questioning session.

Besides having spent hours at JFK Airport being questioned about my background, the only other strange experience I had was when I was the Vice President of the Muslim Student Association at Clark University and had organized an Eid dinner on campus. Just as we were done with our speeches and about to serve food to all the students from around the world with differnet backgrounds, the Worcester Police walked in and surrounded the Hall. We obviously didn’t understand why there were 15 police officers present at the dinner and upon questioning them, they said that it was a Muslim event on campus and they were told to report back about the activities going on here. Riiight.

I’m sure most of you who have such backgrounds have had similar experiences in the US at one point or another as well so do share them with us.

Omair Sattar just posted an article on Facebook by Sarfraz Manzoor, which is an interesting read. It was published in the Guardian today – check it out below.


(The picture above is done by Milan Kopasz in the co-winning and shortlisted posters in the Human rights violation brief)



  1. Great post.Few of my classmates who were from Tunisia and Jordan had same experiences.

  2. Hi Gigi – Thanks for your message. What experiences did they have? Do you remember?

    I think one of the worst experiences for me actually which I didn’t mention earlier was of the time when I was travelling right after 9/11 from Boston to Washington DC for thanksgiving break to visit the Sparks. Being a Pakistani Muslim, I was expecting to be checked at least 10 times before boarding on the airplane and I was completely fine with that and had no problems. I was traveling light, was not wearing a belt, did not have any coins, and was ready to be strip searched as much as possible. I understood that they had to follow their procedures and I was more than willing to help out instead of whining and being annoyed by the situation.

    However, I was shocked to see that I was the only one in the waiting lounge who was “randomly selected”. Instead of searching me and asking me questions, two police officers came to me, asked me to stand up, and escorted me to the plane.

    Once I was on the plane.. they fastened my seatbelt and told me to remain seated in the airplane until further notice. I was really confused as the pilot had not even boarded the plane yet and I was sitting alone in an empty plane.

    Finally, 45 minutes later, the pilot, air hostess, stewards, and passengers started to board the plane and everyone made it a point to stare at me as they were confused why the flight was delayed and why I was still on the plane. To be honest, I was as confused as them as I didn’t understand why they had to seat me in the plane 45 minutes before anyone else was allowed to board! Till this day.. I just don’t get it.

    What did the police officers think I was going to do in the plane? And if they had any suspicion… why didn’t they just cancel my ticket? Were they trying to be funny or was this just a way to punish me for being a Muslim?

  3. Hi Omar,
    Sorry to hear about your bad experience.I have heard same harrowing experiences from my classmates especially who were from Muslim countries.I was surprised that even girls from middle east and Pakistan went through unfair treatment, rude behavior, unnecessary and humiliating interrogations.Recently, one of my classmates had an unnerving experience. She was going to Pittsburgh during spring vacation.She was unnecessarily questioned at the airport for close to two hours. She was not given a reason for her detention but was cleared and let go. Consequently she missed her flight and had to wait an extra day to catch the next flight.

  4. That’s awful that she missed her flight and had to wait another day. I think one experience I can actually laugh at was the time I was flying from Boston to London and had a 1 hour stop over in Washington DC at Dulles Airport. I was travelling with a female Pakistani friend of mine from University.

    We were sprinting to our gate at Dulles Airport to make sure that we catch our flight on time. One of the police officers checked my body with the scanner and then asked me to take off my belt, which is standard procedure. Then they asked me to unbutton my jeans so they can put the scanner inside my jeans as well, which really made me uncomfortable and awkward as everyone was standing by and watching as well. My female Pakistani friend was standing behind me in line and burst out laughing at me causing me to laugh as well as it was a very strange situation.

    It wasn’t so funny when the same police officer asked my female Pakistani friend also to unbutton her jeans so they can put the scanner inside as well. She threw a fuss, began to cry, and demanded a female police officer along with a private room for this procedure. Fortunately, the police department was very helpful, quickly checked her in a private room, and escorted us on the plane and made sure that they airline didn’t take off without us!

  5. I did not know this about your brother, interesting… I fly twice a week within the US, and do not carry my passport with me so the fact that it is Pakistani or American doesn’t really matter. I have not been searched lately, and really think the situation has gotten much better. The other day I was going through the fast lane while this old Caucasian lady was being thoroughly checked on the side. To be honest it made me chuckle a bit…

    O and my name rhymes with Hussain

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