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7 Muslim men are detained by Nevada police for praying in parking lot, L.A. civil rights group claims

March 5, 2010 |  4:53 pm

A Los Angeles Muslim civil rights organization has filed a misconduct complaint and requested an internal investigation of police in Henderson, Nev., after seven Southern California Muslim men were detained and questioned for praying in a parking lot.

The men were driving through Henderson on Dec. 20 when they stopped for food and gas at a shopping center, according to the Greater Los Angeles Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

While stopped, the men prayed next to their vehicle. Two patrol officers soon arrived – followed by a police sergeant, according to a Henderson police spokesman.

“We got a call from a citizen saying that seven suspicious males [were] in a parking lot engaging in suspicious behavior," said Officer Todd Rasmussen, a department spokesman.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations alleges that one of the officers said he was responding to a call about a “bunch of guys doing weird moves."

Muslim prayer is conducted by a series of movements that include bending down and prostrating on the ground.

The officers did a cursory search of the men's vehicle and questioned them about their jobs, schooling and places of birth for more than half an hour, according to the complaint filed by the Muslim civil rights group.

“The scope and length of the stop was not reasonable under the circumstances, nor did it serve any legitimate investigative purpose,” Ameena Qazi, a staff attorney for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, wrote to Henderson Police Chief Jutta Chambers.

In addition to an investigation, the Muslim civil rights group has asked for disciplinary action against the officers, changes in officer training and compensation for the emotional distress suffered by the Muslim men.

The department’s internal affairs bureau has begun an investigation into the incident, Rasmussen said.

--Raja Abdulrahim

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