Linthicum, Md., Jan. 8-(AP) A civil rights organization is demanding Northwest Airlines apologize for allegedly forcing a Muslim high school student to remove her head scarf at an airport security checkpoint. In a letter to the Minnesota-based carrier, the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations said Monday the Dec. 18 incident was an example of religious harassment and an equivalent of a public strip search.

The council is asking the airline to investigate the incident at Baltimore-Washington International Airport and discipline the security guard. "For a Muslim woman to be forced to take off her headscarf in public is a violation of rights," wrote Hodan Hassan, a spokesman for the civil rights group. "These women believe covering their hair in public--essential to being modest--is a mandate from God." Northwest Airlines did not immediately return a telephone call by The Associated Press on Tuesday morning seeking comment on the incident.

According to the council, the 17-year-old was en route from her home in Alexandria, Va., to visit relatives in California. She wrote to the council about the incident. Hassan said the council has received a dozen similar complaints about allegations of racial profiling during searches at airports since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. And it is not the first incident of alleged profiling at BWI since the attacks.

On Christmas Day, an Arab-American member of President Bush's Secret Service security detail was removed from an American Airlines flight after a pilot questioned his identity. The agent was flown to Texas the next day after the airline manager spoke to a Secret Service supervisor. The airline backed the pilot for the decision, saying the agent was uncooperative and had made loud and abusive comments.

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