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Last Updated: Monday, 24 April 2006, 12:51 GMT 13:51 UK
Muslim 'must pay for visa checks'
Mohammed Umar Haleem Khan - pic courtesy of MEN syndication
Mr Khan was told "a lot of bad people" share his name
A Muslim student had to pay extra for security checks when applying for a visa to visit the United States, because his name was Mohammed.

Mohammed Umar Haleem Khan, 22, was told by US Embassy officials that "a lot of bad people" shared his name.

The Manchester Metropolitan University student had to pay an extra $80 (45) to have his fingerprints checked against a US terror suspect database.

An embassy spokesman said it could not say how visa applications are assessed.

"We do have expedited procedures for exchange visitors and students that should allow us to process the visa before the travel date," he said.

I was totally speechless. I didn't know what to say
Mohammed Khan
"In general, there are any number of reasons why one visa application may be different than another or take longer to process.

"The important point I must make is that if someone needs a visa, they should apply well in advance of the travel date."

Mr Khan was planning to work for the Camp America project in Philadelphia.

He said: "She asked me all the usual questions like what was my purpose for visiting and what was the nature of my job and then she said there was a problem with my name.

"She said there were a lot of bad people in the world with that name, meaning terrorists.

Visitors being checked with the new system at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport
The student was forced to pay about 45 for fingerprint checks
"Then she told me I would have to have some additional security checks, which meant all my fingers were fingerprinted and she told me these would be compared to a database in Washington. I had to pay an extra 80 dollars.

"I was totally speechless. I didn't know what to say to her.

"Now I am worried I may not get a visa and travel to the States because of my name.

"I'm sure that if some white candidate came along there would have been no problem."

Mr Khan added that he had never visited Afghanistan or any other trouble hotspots and could think of no reason why his name would cause a problem.

A spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain Inayat Bunglawala said: "This is a worrying incident and seems to fit a recent pattern whereby the USA appears to be treating all Muslims as potential terrorists just because of their religion.

"Although Muslim parents name their children from a wide variety of names - just like other parents - many of them, especially those from the Indian subcontinent, will often give their male children the name of Muhammad as a kind of respectful prefix in honour of the Prophet, even though the actual name by which these children are known will be something else.

"US Embassy officials ought really to have had the training to cope with basic elements of Muslim culture which would help prevent these kinds of unfortunate situations."




SEE ALSO:
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US imposes new visitor regulations
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Singapore steps up air security
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