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Airport Body Scanners Violate Islamic Law, Muslims Say

By: for freep.com on Feb. 17, 2010
World News
Photo Credits: tsa.gov
A sample scan using millimeter wave technology.

Saying that body scanners violate Islamic law, Muslim-American groups are supporting a “fatwa” – a religious ruling – that forbids Muslims from going through the scanners at airports.



The Fiqh Council of North America – a body of Islamic scholars that includes some from Michigan – issued a fatwa this week that says going through the airport scanners would violate Islamic rules on modesty.



“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 emphasizes haya (modesty) and considers it part of faith. The Quran has commanded the believers, both men and women, to cover their private parts.”



The decision could complicate efforts to intensify screening of potential terrorists who are Muslim. After the Christmas Day bombing attempt in Detroit by a Muslim suspect from Nigeria, some have called for the use of body scanners at airports to find explosives and other dangerous materials carried by terrorists. Some airports are now in the process of buying and using the body scanners, which show in graphic detail the outlines of a person’s body.



But Muslim groups say the scanners 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.



Currently, there are 40 full-body scanners at 19 airports in the U.S., said spokesman Jim Fotenos of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). There are plans for 450 more body scanners in U.S. 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 traveling 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.”



Body scanner images are available at www.tsa.gov.

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