know your rights guide

If you believe that you have been the victim of a hate crime, you should:

  • Report the crime to your local police station immediately. Ask that the incident be treated as a hate crime. Follow up with investigators.
  • Report the crime to CAIR-NJ. You can do this by visiting or by calling (908) 668-5900. Inform CAIR-NJ even if you believe it is a ‘small’ incident.
  • Document the incident. Write down exactly what was said and/or done by the offender (including dates, times and places). Save all of the evidence and try to take photographs.
  • Act quickly. Each incident must be dealt with right away, not when it is convenient.
  • Decide on the appropriate action to be taken. Consider issuing a statement from community leaders, holding a news conference, organizing a peaceful protest, meeting with local officials or starting a letter writing campaign.
  • Mobilize community support. Make sure that the local mosque or prominent American Muslim organizations are aware of your situation.
  • Stay on top of the situation. Make sure you follow up with police, local media and community leaders to make sure that your case is receiving the attention that it deserves.
  • Announce results. When the incident is resolved, make an announcement to the same people and organizations originally contacted.

“I do not consent to a search”

If you are stopped on foot:

  • You do not have to answer any questions, but providing your name, address, and age if asked (and ID if you are being given a citation) may help you avoid arrest.
  • Never give any false information – lying to the police can lead to serious consequences.
  • The police may “pat down” your clothing if they suspect a concealed weapon. Do not physically resist, but tell them politely, “I do not consent to a search.
  • Ask the officer, “am I free to leave?”  If the officer says yes, calmly walk away.
  • Do not argue with the officer, or run away, even if you believe that what is happening is unfair.  This could lead to your arrest.

If you are pulled over in a car:

  • Upon request, show your driver’s license, registration, and proof of insurance.
  • Sign your ticket if you are given one, and contact the court by the date on the ticket.  The police may not search your car without a warrant unless they have probable cause.  In the case of an unlawful search, calmly and clearly state, “I do not consent to a search.”

If you are at home and law enforcement officers knock and ask to enter, step outside and close the door behind you when talking to them.  Do not consent to police, sheriffs or federal agents entering or searching your home.  They can enter without consent only in the following circumstances:

Ask to see the warrant

  • The officers have a warrant signed by a judge – ask to see it.  Check the address and scope of area to be searched, and object to any search beyond what is listed in the warrant.
  • You are on probation with a search condition.
  • There is an emergency, such as a person screaming for help inside your home or the police are chasing someone.

Know Your Rights!

Be Safe: Stay Silent, Call a Lawyer

“I do not wish to speak without an attorney. Can I please have your business card?”

An FBI agent has called you or knocked on your door early in the morning. Unfortunately, thousands of American Muslims have been through this experience since September 11, 2001. This is what you should know:

  1. You always have the right to remain silent.

You are not obligated to answer questions from an FBI agent. Your refusal to talk to the agent may not be used against you. If you say, “I want to speak to a lawyer and to remain silent.”

  1. You always have the right to request an attorney’s assistance.

You should refuse to answer questions until you have had a chance to speak with an attorney. Even if you have already started talking, you can stop at anytime.  Tell the agent you do not want to answer any more questions without a lawyer present.

  1. Tell the truth, or remain silent. Lying can be a crime.

It is a felony to make a false statement to an FBI agent if it is related to an investigation, even if the false statement was unintentional.

Sometimes, forgetting your dates of travel or when you last met or spoke with a particular individual can be used against you as a basis for prosecution. An attorney will work with you to make sure this doesn’t happen.

  1. Asking for an attorney does not make you more suspicious.

Some people mistakenly believe they can prove they are innocent by speaking to the FBI.

This is extremely risky. The FBI has undermined community trust through over a decade of racial profiling, surveillance, informant recruitment, and other abuses in Muslim communities since 9/11.

You should speak to an attorney before speaking to the FBI. An attorney can assess the facts of your situation and advise you on the best way forward. If you speak to the FBI without legal assistance, you could expose yourself or your friends and family to harm.

  1. You are not necessarily in trouble.

Just because an FBI agent has contacted you does not necessarily mean that you have done anything wrong or that you are under investigation. The FBI has been known to target Arab, Muslim, Middle Eastern, and South Asian communities for questioning, even when there is no suspicion of a crime. But you should still take care to protect your rights.

  1. Don’t talk about your religious and political views.

You are not required to discuss your political and religious beliefs.

If you find yourself speaking to the FBI without a lawyer, it’s okay to stop the conversation and say, 
“Can I have your card. I will have my lawyer follow up with you.”

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:

  1. Reasonable religious accommodation. The failure of an employer to reasonably accommodate your religious practices may constitute employment discrimination. ‘Religious practices’ include wearing a beard, prayer breaks, hijab and going to Jummah (Friday) prayers.
  2. Fairness in hiring, firing, and promotions. Your employer is prohibited from considering religion when making decisions affecting your employment status.
  3. A non-hostile work environment.Your employer must ensure that you are not subjected to anti-Muslim insults, harassment or unwelcome and excessive proselytizing.
  4. 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.
  1. Remain calm and polite.
  2. Inform the offending party that you believe his/her actions are discriminatory.
  3. Report the discriminatory action in writing to company management.
  4. 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.
  5. Call the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) at 800-669-4000 or local county or state civil rights agencies to educate yourself about legal options.
  6. Contact a local attorney who is licensed to practice in your state to discuss your case.
  7. DO NOT sign any documents or resign without an attorney’s advice.
  8. Ask to be transferred to another department or job site.
  9. Ask for mediation.
  10. Contact CAIR to file a report.
  11. Consider looking for a new job.
  1. You have the right to inform others about your religion. You have the right to pass out literature or speak to others about Islam, as long as it is not done in a disruptive manner.
  2. 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.
  3. You have the right to organize student-led prayer on campus, as long as the service is not disruptive to the function of the school.
  4. 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.
  5. You have the right to be excused from school for religious holidays. You should be sure to inform the school that you will be absent in advance.
  6. You have the right to be excused from class discussions or activities that you find religiously objectionable. If you have any questions, please contact CAIR.
  7. You have the right to form an extracurricular Muslim student group.

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:

  1. Ask for the names and ID number of all persons involved in the incident. Be sure to write down this information.
  2. Ask to speak to a supervisor.
  3. Politely ask if you have been singled out because of your name, looks, dress, race, ethnicity, faith, or national origin.
  4. Politely ask witnesses to give you their names and contact information.
  5. 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.