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Shia Muslim Foundation Participates in DHS Meeting Addressing Travel Concerns


WASHINGTON, DC - February 13, 2024 - The Shia Muslim Foundation (SMF) was honored to participate in a crucial meeting convened by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on February 13, 2024. The meeting, held virtually, brought together representatives from various community organizations and DHS officials to discuss pressing concerns related to travel policies and procedures affecting diverse communities, including Shia Muslims.


The meeting commenced with opening remarks from DHS officials, highlighting the importance of engaging with community stakeholders to address travel-related challenges. DHS Assistant Secretary Brenda Abdelall and other high ranking officals spoke at the discussion, inviting participants to share their experiences and concerns.


During the meeting, participants engaged in a comprehensive discussion on various aspects of travel policies, including trusted traveler programs, redress procedures, and screening protocols. Representatives from community organizations shared firsthand accounts of individuals encountering challenges at ports of entry, such as prolonged screening processes and visa denials. These personal anecdotes underscored the need for greater transparency and consistency in the application of travel policies to ensure fairness for all travelers.


Assistant Secretary Abdelall and other officials provided insights into DHS's efforts to address community concerns and improve the travel experience for all individuals. They highlighted ongoing initiatives aimed at enhancing communication between DHS and community

stakeholders, as well as efforts to streamline redress processes and minimize unnecessary delays in visa processing. Additionally, DHS officials reiterated their commitment to upholding civil rights and non-discrimination principles in all aspects of their operations.


Throughout the meeting, participants also discussed the importance of collaboration between DHS and community organizations in addressing travel-related challenges. They emphasized the need for continued dialogue and partnership to identify systemic issues and develop effective solutions that promote inclusivity and respect for diverse cultural and religious practices.


During the meeting, representatives from SMF actively engaged in discussions concerning visa denials and prolonged processing times faced by Shia Muslim scholars traveling for religious purposes. SMF raised the critical issue of Shia scholars being unfairly targeted due to their travel to countries of religious significance, such as Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Lebanon. The Foundation emphasized the detrimental impact of such visa denials on religious and cultural exchange within the Shia Muslim community.


"Today's meeting provided a valuable platform for stakeholders to voice concerns and seek solutions to the challenges faced by Shia Muslims traveling for religious purposes," said a spokesperson for SMF. "We are grateful for the opportunity to engage with DHS and other community organizations to advocate for fair and transparent travel policies."


In addition to raising concerns about visa denials, other participants emphasized the need for enhanced communication and transparency in screening procedures and redress processes. The attendees underscored the importance of addressing exceptions to prohibitions on profiling, particularly those impacting Muslim travelers.


Throughout the meeting, participants engaged in constructive dialogue, sharing personal anecdotes and community experiences to illustrate the impact of current travel policies. DHS officials acknowledged the validity of concerns raised by community organizations and expressed a commitment to working collaboratively to address them.


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