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Muslims held during Giants game allege bias

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Five Muslim football fans were detained and questioned during a game at Giants Stadium because they were congregating near an air duct on a night former President George H.W. Bush was in the stadium, the FBI said yesterday.

Some of the Muslims said they did not know they were in a sensitive area, and said they were subjected to racial profiling while they were praying, as their faith requires five times a day.

''I'm as American as apple pie and I'm sitting there and now I'm made to feel like I'm an outsider, for no reason other than I have a long beard or that I prayed," said Sami Shaban, a 27-year-old Seton Hall Law School student who lives in Piscataway.

At a news conference yesterday, Shaban said he and four friends had just gotten to the game Sept. 19 between the New York Giants and the New Orleans Saints when they left their seats to pray. Around halftime, 10 security officers and three state troopers approached the men and told them to come with them, Shaban said.

The men were questioned and then were not allowed to return to their seats, but were assigned to seats in another section, Shaban said. Three guards stood near them, and escorted them to their cars when they left the stadium, he said.

FBI agent Steven Siegel, a spokesman for the bureau's FBI office, said the men had aroused suspicion because they were congregating near the main air intake duct. Bush was in the stadium that night as part of a fund-raising campaign he and former President Bill Clinton were leading for victims of Hurricane Katrina.

The site is now fenced off and is no longer accessible to fans.

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