updated 10/21/2006 11:51:04 PM ET 2006-10-22T03:51:04

An Islamic scholar from South Africa has been denied entry into the United States, prompting questions from Bay Area Muslims who had invited him to participate in activities marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

Fazlur Rahman Azmi was detained by officials from U.S. Customs and Border Protection when he arrived at San Francisco International Airport from London on Friday afternoon, according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a civil liberties group.

Azmi, who made previous visits to the country as recently as April without problems, was questioned for hours before being denied entry and sent on a plane out of the country Saturday, the group said.

Michael Fleming, a Customs and Border Protection spokesman, confirmed Saturday that Azmi was forced to leave the country after a brief detainment. He refused to give any details of the case.

“His application for entry into the U.S. was determined to be inadmissible,” he said.

The Islamic Society of East Bay had invited Azmi to lead prayers at mosques around the Bay Area and speak at a celebration in Fremont on Saturday night marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

“There’s nothing suspicious about him,” said Nawaz Khan, a member of the East Bay group. “He is not involved in any political groups. All he does is teach at the mosque and pray.”

About 1,000 people are denied entry into the United States daily for reasons that include inadequate travel documents or because their names appear on a U.S. government watch list.

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