When Sulemaan Ahmed tried to take his 6-year-old son to the Habs Winter Classic game on New Year’s Day in Boston, he and the young Habs fan wound up dealing with an absurd delay. His son, Syed Adam Ahmed, had been flagged on Air Canada’s “Deemed High Profile” list, a database of people viewed as threats to public safety, yet nobody could tell him why his child was considered a potential threat to national security.
To make matters worse, it wasn’t the first time this sort of thing had happened to his son, who goes by the name of Adam.
“It happens every time we cross the border by air or land,” Ahmed told the Montreal Gazette.
Though airline security has been giving his young son a tough time for a while now, the family’s situation garnered international attention when Ahmed snapped a photo of an airport computer screen proving that his son was flagged on Air Canada’s “Deemed High Profile” list.
“We didn’t really want to do press or anything, but a lot of family friends said, ‘This is an important issue. He’s 6. He’s a child. There’s other children who are impacted by this as Canadians, so there’s a bigger issue here,'” Ahmed told Global News.
“I mean, the only thing maybe criminal — he doesn’t eat his vegetables for dinner,” joked Ahmed, who also happens to be a writer for Huffington Post.
— Sulemaan Ahmed (@sulemaan) December 31, 2015
Adam’s mother, Khadija Cajee, told Global News that she felt her son was a target of racial profiling: “He’s basically being carded for being Muslim,” she said.
Cajee told CBC News that they’ve tried to insulate their son from any suggestions that he might be a security threat: “We try to keep him protected from all this stuff, because we don’t want him to feel singled out and stigmatized,” Cajee said.
Adam, who recently gave an interview with CBC News in a bedroom full of adorable stuffed toys — which did not remotely resemble any lair one might expect to find a threat to national security in — chatted happily about his love of the Montreal Canadiens: “They’re a great team, and they’ve won 24 Stanley Cups.”
— Sulemaan Ahmed (@sulemaan) January 1, 2016
Cajee says her family are not the only ones confused as to why their son is flagged by airport security. “Every agent has been really sympathetic to our situation,” Cajee told CBC News. “There are always eye rolls, they’re always in disbelief. A lot of times they think it’s my husband, so they look at him, but he always says to them, ‘No, it’s the little guy down there.'”
On Saturday, Canada’s Public Safety minister Ralph Goodale said he’d check into the family’s unusual situation: “The reports of Mr. Ahmed and his son, Adam’s, experience during their recent travel to Boston is certainly cause for concern and I will be reviewing the specifics of their case with officials in the coming days,” his office said in a statement.
Canadians have taken to social media to express their support for Adam’s family. Ahmed recently responded to the wave of support the family had received by echoing the words of Justin Trudeau on Twitter: “We were asked today if we were shocked by the support of our fellow Canadians. No because it’s 2016.:)”
We were asked today if we were shocked by the support of our fellow Canadians. No because it's 2016. 🙂 pic.twitter.com/9ctLV4SUhf
— Sulemaan Ahmed (@sulemaan) January 4, 2016