Muhammad Ali's Son Detained at Airport, Claims Officials Asked Him About Being Muslim

Human Rights

Muhammad Ali Jr., son of the late boxing legend, was detained at the Miami International Airport Friday while returning with his mother from Jamaica. On Monday, the two spoke on "CBS the Morning" about the harrowing religious profiling they experienced. 

"Immigration came up to me and pulled me aside and asked me my name first, and I said Muhammad Ali," he recalled. 

"What religion are you?" Ali Jr. was then asked.

"I said Muslim," Ali Jr. answered. "He said, 'Come with me'. So he took me to another room... like he didn't believe me... he asked me again, 'What is your name and what is your religion?'"

Ali Jr. was questioned for approximately one hour and forty-five minutes after having cleared through customs. He is a U.S. citizen, born in Philadelphia, and has no prior criminal convictions. Nothing like this has ever happened to him before, he says. 

"They spit us up immediately," Khalilah Camacho-Ali, Ali Jr.'s mother, told co-host Gayle King. "I was scared."

"We were traveling together when I saw that [the immigration official] was having a problem with [Ali Jr.], I said, 'That's my son over there... We were in wheelchairs...  and they rolled him to another room. I said, 'Where's he going?' He said, 'He'll meet you on the other side.'"

Ali Jr. is still baffled by the official's line of questioning.

"That situation made me feel like I was at my father's funeral," he admitted. "I didn't know what to think."

"I was kind of wondering why he asked me about my religion," he added. "What did that matter?"

Customs and Border Protection informed CBS News that providing commentary on the incident would violate its privacy policy, but insisted, "CBP does not discriminate based on religion, race ethnicity or sexual orientation." 

But the two aren't buying it, and neither is their lawyer.  

"Why would you ask me?" Ali Jr. asked. "Like there's a problem with it."

The Ali family lawyer has suggested the experience was a result of President Trump's travel ban. 

"But as you know, the ban was on appeal at the time, so it wasn't even in effect, and you were traveling from Jamaica, which is not one of the countries that was part of the travel ban," co-host Norah O'Donnell pointed out. 

Profiling "was always a problem in history, it's just gotten a lot worse," Ali Jr. concluded, noting the escalation of police brutality in America. 

That's when his mother presented an olive branch. 

"I know that I do have a gift for the president—a Quran," Camacho-Ali said, holding the book. "I want him to read it. It's compact, he can carry it with him."

"I'm not blaming the president," she added. "The president should know we are people of peace." 

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