US-Muslim body issues fatwa against airport body scanners

Last Updated: Friday, February 12, 2010 - 13:05

Washington: Some Muslim-American groups are supporting a fatwa issued by a body of Islamic scholars forbidding Muslims from going through full body scanners at airports, a media report said.

The Fiqh Council of North America issued the religious ruling this week that says going through the airport scanners would violate Islamic rules on modesty, Free Press reported.

It is a violation of clear Islamic teachings that men or women be seen naked by other men and women," reads the fatwa issued Tuesday. "Islam highly emphasises haya (modesty) and considers it part of faith. The Quran has commanded the believers, both men and women, to cover their private parts."

After the Christmas Day bombing attempt in Detroit by a Muslim suspect from Nigeria, some US airports are now in the process of buying and using the body scanners to find explosives and other dangerous materials carried by terrorists.

But Muslim groups say the scanners, which show in graphic detail the outlines of a person`s body, go against their religion. One option offered to passengers who don`t want to use the scanners would be a pat down by a security guard. The Muslim groups are urging members to undergo those instead.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) says it endorses the fatwa. "We support the Fiqh Council`s statement on full-body scanners and believe that the religious and privacy rights of passengers can be respected while maintaining safety and security," Nihad Awad, national executive director of CAIR was quoted as saying.

Currently, there are 40 full-body scanners at 19 airports in the US, including two in Detroit, said spokesman Jim Fotenos of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). There are plans for 450 more body scanners in US airports, he said.

In a statement, the TSA said it is committed to keeping passengers safe and also protecting their privacy.

"TSA`s mission is to keep the travelling public safe. Advanced imaging technologies are an important tool in a multi-layered security system to detect evolving threats such as improvised explosive devices.

"TSA`s use of these technologies includes strong protections in place to safeguard passenger privacy. Screening images are automatically deleted, and the officer viewing the image will never see the passenger."

The TSA stressed that the body scanners are "optional to all passengers". Those who turn them down, "will receive equivalent screening that may include a physical pat-down, hand-wanding, and other technologies".
"Physical pat-downs are performed by Transportation Security Officers of the same sex as the passenger in a private screening area, if the passenger requests."
Body scanners "do not produce photos", the agency said. Rather, the images "look like chalk outlines".

IANS



First Published: Friday, February 12, 2010 - 13:05

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