Know Your Rights

Your Rights with Law Enforcement

American Muslims strongly support law enforcement and the protection of our national security. As Americans, we also value civil rights. All Americans have the constitutional right to due process and to be politically active.

If you know of any criminal activity taking place in your community, it is both your religious and civic duty to immediately report such activity to local and federal law enforcement agencies.

If you are visited by federal law enforcement agents, remember:

  • You have the legal right to have a lawyer present when speaking with federal law enforcement agencies. This is true even if you are not a citizen or have been arrested or detained. This is your legal right. Refusing to answer questions cannot be held against you and does not imply that you have something to hide. Answering a question incorrectly can hurt you more than not answering at all. An attorney is best able to protect your rights.
  • You do not have to permit any law enforcement officer to enter your home or office if they do not have warrant. Law enforcement agents must have a search warrant, except in emergency situations, in order to enter your house. If they say they have a warrant, politely ask to see it before allowing them to enter. If they have a warrant, be courteous and polite, but remember that you are under no obligation to answer questions without a lawyer present. You should tell the agents that you do not consent to the search so that they cannot go beyond what the warrant authorizes.
  • You should never lie or provide false information to any law enforcement agency. Lying to law enforcement agents under any circumstance is a federal crime.
  • Remember to ask any investigator who visits you for a business card so you can give it to your lawyer. At least get the name, contact information and agency of the officer.


You are NOT REQUIRED to answer any questions and you have the right to consult with an attorney. You always have the right to remain silent and not talk to police or FBI if you don’t want to. You should write down the name, agency and telephone number of the person who calls or visits you. Even if you have already answered some questions, you can stop and talk to a lawyer before answering more.
▪ If an FBI agent or police officer asks to speak to you, you can tell him or her that you want to consult with an attorney first. Asking to talk to your attorney does not mean you are refusing to cooperate. Your attorney can respond on your behalf to set up an interview if you choose to meet with agents or decline to meet. 
▪ ANY information you give to an officer without an attorney, even if it seems harmless, can be used against you or someone else. Lying to a federal officer is a crime. Remaining silent is NOT a crime.
▪ You are NOT required to allow the officer into your home without a warrant. If an officer wants to enter your home, ask to see the warrant. If the officer does not have one, you do not have to let him in. But don’t try to stop him if he forces his way in. Simply state that he does not have your permission to enter.
▪ If the officer says that he has a warrant for your arrest, you have a right to see the warrant. You must go with the officer, but you do not have to answer questions until you consult an attorney.
▪ If you are detained, you should ask for an attorney and remain silent. For more information:

  1. watch the video at;

  2. for legal advice, contact the Muslim Justice League, 857-256-1310, or  ACLU of Massachusetts, 617- 482-3170;

  3. look at;

  4. listen to programs about FBI actions and border crossing problems:  (FBI shooting of Todashev); (informant sent into mosque); and (long delays at the border for Muslim U.S.citizens).


If stopped by police:

  • On the street: The police must have a specific reason to approach and question you. If you are approached and questioned, the police can pat you down over the outside of your clothing if they have reason to suspect that you are armed and dangerous. You do not have to answer any questions besides identifying who you are and showing a government-issued ID. After the interaction, you will be either free to leave or under arrest. Ask the officer clearly if you are free to leave or if you are under arrest. If you are free to leave, consider just walking away.
  • In your car: Keep your hands where they can be seen. If you are driving a vehicle, you must show your license, registration and proof of insurance. You do not have to consent to a search, but police may have legal grounds to search your car anyway. Clearly say that you do not consent to the search. Officers may separate passengers and drivers from each other to question them, but no one has to answer any questions.
  • If mistreated: Do not resist arrest or fight with any police officers. Write down the officer’s name, badge number and any other identifying information. Try to find witnesses and write down their contact information. File a complaint with CAIR as soon after the event as possible.


Your rights if contacted by DHS:

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) includes the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

If you are not a U.S. citizen and are contacted by a DHS official, remember:

  • You have the right to an attorney. It is a good idea to carry the contact information of an immigration attorney who can help you.
  • Never sign anything without reading, understanding and knowing the consequences of signing it. You have the right to have an attorney visit you if you are in detention and represent you at any immigration hearings.
  • Federal law requires you to carry your registration documents with you at all times. Once your immigration status has been shown to an officer, you do not have to answer any other questions without having a lawyer present.
  • You should not be asked improper questions. No DHS officer may ask you anything about your religious or political beliefs, groups that you belong to or contribute to, things that you have done or said in the past, or where you have traveled.


Your Rights as an Employee

Federal law makes it illegal for an employer to discriminate against an employee on the basis of religion, race or national origin. Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act guarantees your right to:

  • Reasonable religious accommodation. The failure of an employer to reasonably accommodate your religious practices may constitute employment discrimination. “Religious practices” include prayer breaks, wearing a beard or hijab, going to Jummah (Friday) prayers, going to Hajj, etc.
  • Fairness in hiring, firing, and promotions. Your employer is prohibited from considering race, national origin or religion when making decisions affecting your work.
  • A non-hostile work environment. Your employer must ensure that you are not subjected to anti-Muslim insults, harassment or unwelcome and excessive proselytizing.
  • Complain about discrimination without fear of retaliation. Federal law guarantees your right to report an act of alleged employment discrimination. It is illegal for your employer to retaliate against you for your complaint.


Your Rights as an Airline Passenger

As an airline passenger, you are entitled to courteous, respectful and non-stigmatizing treatment by airline and security personnel. It is illegal for law enforcement officials to perform any stops, searches, detentions, or removals based solely on your race, religion, national origin, sex, or ethnicity.

If you believe you have been treated in a discriminatory manner, you should:

  • Ask for the names and ID number of all persons involved in the incident. Be sure to write down this information.
  • Ask to speak to a supervisor.
  • Politely ask if you have been singled out because of your name, looks, dress, race, ethnicity, faith, or national origin.
  • Politely ask witnesses to give you their names and contact information.
  • Write a statement of facts immediately after the incident. Be sure to include the flight number, the flight date and the name of the airline.
  • Contact CAIR to file a report. If you are leaving the country, leave a detailed message with the information above at 202-488-8787 or at


It is important to note the following:

  • A customs agent has the right to stop, detain and search every person and item.
  • Screeners have the authority to conduct a further search of you or your bags.
  • A pilot has the right to refuse to fly a passenger if he or she believes the passenger is a threat to the safety of the flight. The pilot”™s decision must be reasonable and based on observations, not stereotypes. (Special thanks to the American Civil Liberties Union.)

No-Fly List and Selectee List

Individuals experiencing difficulties during travel at airports, train stations or U.S. borders may be on either the no-fly or selectee list.

It is very difficult to determine if you are on one of these lists.

You may be on the selectee list if you are unable to use the internet or the airport kiosks for automated check-in and instead have to check in at the ticketing counter. You should eventually be permitted to fly.

The no-fly list, on the other hand, prohibits individuals from flying at all. If you are able to board an airplane, regardless of the amount of questioning or screening, then you are not on the no-fly list.

If you are constantly subjected to advanced screening or are prevented from boarding your flight, you should file a complaint with DHS TRIP at Most people who file with DHS TRIP are not actually on a watch list and that service can resolve most problems.

Contact CAIR to file a report at 202-488-8787 or if you are experiencing difficulties traveling.

Your Rights as a Student

  • You have the right to wear religious clothing. You also have the right to wear clothing with a religious message, as long as other clothes with similar messages are allowed.
  • You have the right to inform others about your religion. You have the right to pass out literature or to speak to others about Islam, as long as it is not done in a disruptive manner.
  • You have the right to organize student-led prayers on campus, as long as the service is not disruptive to the function of the school.
  • You may have the right to attend Friday prayer. The Supreme Court has upheld the right of states to allow students “release time” to attend religious classes or services.
  • You have the right to be excused from school for religious holidays. You should be sure to inform the school in advance that you will be absent.
  • You have the right to be excused from class discussions or activities that you find religiously objectionable.
  • You have the right to form an extracurricular Muslim student group.
  • You have the right to express political views as long as you do not cause disruption.


If Faced with Discrimination on the Job

If you believe you are facing discrimination at work:

  • Remain calm and polite.
  • Inform the offending party that you believe his/her actions are discriminatory.
  • Report the discriminatory action in writing to company management.
  • Begin documenting the discrimination by saving memos, keeping a detailed journal, noting the presence of witnesses and making written complaints. Make sure to keep copies of all materials. It is important to keep a “paper trail” of evidence.
  • Ask to be transferred to another department or job site.
  • Ask for mediation.
  • DO NOT sign any documents or resign from your position without first consulting an attorney.
  • Contact CAIR at 202-488-8787, or through our civil rights complaint form here.
  • Contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).


Other useful resources:


Safety and Legal Assistance

Note: for basic information on many legal topics:
Also, the ACLU of MA, Muslim Justice League, CAIR-MA and New England Muslim Bar Association are resources in many of these areas:
ACLU: 617-482-3170
Muslim Justice League: 857-256-1310
CAIR-MA: 617-862-9159
New England Muslim Bar 
Association (NEMBA):

Discrimination at airport/border (by Customs and Border Protection or Transportation Security Administration):
• DHS Travelers Redress Inquiry Program:
Also report to:
• Muslim Advocates:, 415-315-9087
• ACLU of Massachusetts, Muslim Justice League, and CAIR-MA (contact information above)

Bullying/Discrimination at School
If after you report bullying, a school is not addressing the problem:
• ACLU of Massachusetts, Muslim Justice League, CAIR-MA or NEMBA (contact information above)
• MA Dept of Elementary & Secondary Ed, Program Quality Assurance: 781-338-3700,

Discrimination in Education, Employment, Housing, or Public Places (such as stores), Insurance, Credit and Other Areas
• FAQs on unlawful discrimination: Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (has Boston, Worcester & Springfield offices)

Report workplace discrimination:
• Equal Opportunity Employment Commission:
• ACLU of Massachusetts, Muslim Justice League or NEMBA (contact information above)
• Employment attorneys: MA Employment Lawyers Association (MELA):,

Report non-payment of wages or other worker abuse:
Massachusetts Attorney General
US Department of Labor

Report an unexplained bank account closing:
• Massachusetts Attorney General’s Civil Rights Division: (617) 727-8400
• ACLU of Massachusetts, Muslim Justice League, CAIR-MA or NEMBA (contact information above)

Hate Crimes
• Massachusetts Attorney General Civil Rights Division (617) 727-8400
• ACLU of Massachusetts, Muslim Justice League, CAIR-MA or NEMBA (contact information above)
• American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee: 202-244-2990,
Council on American-Islamic Relations , : 202-488-8787
• National Lawyers Guild: 617-227-7335,
• Greater Boston Legal Services: 617-371-1234
• The Disability Law Center (DLC): (617) 723-8455 / (800) 872-9992,
• Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders: (617) 426-1350,
EOPSS (Executive Office of Public Safety & Security)

Safety planning and institutional security:
Muslim Advocates

Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault:
• Domestic Violence Safelink (24 hour multilingual hotline): 1-877-785-2020 TTY: 1-877-521-2601
• Casa Myrna Vasquez: (617) 521-0100,
• Jane Doe, Inc.:
• International Institute of Boston (Serving Somali, Afghani, and North African refugee survivors): 617-695-9990
• Greater Boston Legal Services, Inc. (Immigration counsel): (617) 371-1270, x 1667
RISE Programs (for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault)

Free or low-cost immigration legal services for those who qualify:
• Find Legal Aid (many topics):
Referral to an American Immigrant Lawyers Association attorney (most charge for services):

Note: Only licensed attorneys & those working with Board of Immigration Appeals accredited organizations are authorized to provide legal advice/representation before an immigration agency. But unscrupulous, unauthorized people do sometimes promise legal help, often charging high sums. Watch out for scams. Visit: ,