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Prospect Park Mayor Mohamed Khairullah, Syrian-born Muslim American who has held public office since 2001, says he was detained by U.S. Customs and Border Control officials at John F. Kennedy International Airport for three hours last month after visiting relatives in Turkey.
Khairullah was also forced to turn over his phone, which took twelve days to get back.
The story, first reported by The (Bergen) Record, has now caught the attention of Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-Paterson).
“Mayor Khairullah’s account describes profiling against Muslims,” Pascrell said. “If he was targeted by authorities as a criminal or even a national security threat for no reason, the Mayor deserves answers on his detention.”
The longtime congressman said he considered the reports of Khairallah’s questioning to be hostile.
“Whether someone is a longtime mayor, a Harvard freshman, or a regular Joe, this is America, and profiling is un-American. We have heard too many reports of Americans being harassed for their names, their skin colors, and their national ancestries,” Pascrell said. “Americans must stand up against this devolution as one community, one people, one nation.”
U.S. Senator Bob Menendez, a longtime Khairullah ally, has not yet commented on the mayor’s treatment by federal officials. The New Jersey Globe reached out to his office at 1:33 PM.
According to Khairullah’s website, he emigrated to the United States in 1980 after fleeing war-torn Syria.
He became a volunteer firefighter in Prospect Park and won public office in 2001, four years after becoming a U.S. citizen. He was elected mayor in 2005.