All American Rower Stopped By His Muslim Name

February 21, 2003

Source: The New York Times

On February 21, 2003 The New York Times reported that "they weren't going to let Aquil Abdullah on the plane at Newark [NJ] International Airport, at least not right away... The incident at the airport happened a few weeks ago, on the morning of Jan. 31, and Abdullah had a good idea what the problem was. A similar incident happened to him a few months earlier... Abdullah was on a no-fly list. 'What this means,' Andrew Kurpat, a police officer with the Port Authority in Newark, explained yesterday, 'is that anyone with a common Muslim name has to be checked out, to see if it's an alias, to see if he's on a terrorist list...'" So the Port Authority officers checked through their files, contacted the F.B.I. and the immigration authorities, and then came back to Abdullah. He was no terrorist. By this time, his flight had departed... 'I can understand the concern,' Abdullah said recently with a graceful, disarming demeanor and an easy smile. 'It's legitimate, of course, and some of my friends are angrier about the name profiling than I am, but I do wish the authorities could be quicker about the check.'"