Outrage at JFK as Customs men smash a musician’s instruments

Outrage at JFK as Customs men smash a musician’s instruments


norman lebrecht

December 31, 2013

Boujemaa Razgui, a flute virtuoso who lives in New York and works with many US ensembles, was returning to base over the holiday when Customs officials at Kennedy Airport asked to see his instruments.

Bourjemaa carries a variety of flutes of varying ethnicity, each made by himself over years for specific types of ancient and modern performance. He is a regular guest with the diverse and enterprising Boston Camerata.

At JFK, the officials removed and smashed each and every one of his instruments. No reason was given.

We have been unable to reach the distressed Boujemaa but a swell of outrage is rising among his musician friends. One ensemble director tells us: ‘I can’t think of an uglier, stupider thing for the U.S. government to do than to deprive this man of the tools of his art and a big piece of his livelihood.’

Boujemaa needs all the support he can get. Messages of sympathy on Slipped Disc will reach him one way or other.


UPDATE: We have just managed to reach Boudemaa by phone. His ordeal may have been worse than described above. Report here. And in a further email, Boujemaa describes the joy his instruments brought to different communities across North America. Read here.

FURTHER UPDATE: US Customs start organising a defence.




  • Not only does he need that support (of which I’m certain he will be assured) – he also needs to instigate litigation against US Customs which, in the light of the apparent absence of any attempt at a defence, a reason, an excuse on its part, ought to have every chance of outright success, although the calculation of damages in respect of instruments of his own manufacture might prove to be something of a sticking point.

    Customs officials in every country have responsible jobs to do; however, since the wholesale destruction of collections of wind instruments do not, as far as I am aware, fall within their job descriptions, breach of contract seems to be the very least of what these particular ones could stand accused.

    • edward kerensky says:

      You appear to be a little hazy on legal matters, Alistair. “Breach of contract” does not enter into it.

      • Can you be so certain of that? One important question here is whether these guys acted in accordance with the terms of their contracts and until that has been tested in a Court you have no right to express certainty about that.

        • Ronaldo Ursine says:

          There is no contract between Razgui and Customs. He did not enter in a contract with Customs so that they could inspect his equipment with hammers. Please stop.

          • I have answered this above. Any breach of contract would be between the agents who allegedly did what we’re told they did and their employers, US Customs. That fact does not undermine Mr Razgui’s rights in respect of the apparent destruction of his property.

        • Matt says:

          Since Boujemaa is not party to any contract in this situation, it is definitely NOT breach of contract. This is a case of property damage.

          • Anthony says:

            There is no argument here gentlemen. There is certainly a breach of what is in a security officers contract and job description and basic sense, it sounds like criminal behaviour in the least, and there is certainly property damage. He would have many allies. I ‘ve gone through customs with many wind instruments, and oft asked to play a tune, which i do with joy. So this is horrible, horrible. Bless him and let’s help him

        • RCW says:

          Oh please… U.S. Customs has no contract with Mr. Boudermaa, how could it be breached? If the agents do in fact have a contract with U.S. Customs, which I doubt, they may well be in breach of that contract but this musician has no standing in court to sue anyone for breaching a contract in which he is not a party. He may possibly sue on other grounds or the US Customs may decide he’s been wronged and compensate him but breach of contract is nonsense.

          • I know. Two separate issues. All employees have contracts of employment with their employers and, if and when they breach them, that is a matter for their employers to take action as they deem appropriate. Mr Razgui’s legal action, if he takes it, is another matter altogether.

        • Adrian says:

          Actually, he has every right. This is an open forum. I’m sorry you simply don’t like to be corrected. A customs agent in the US is not bound by contract the way in which you seem to be thinking. Now, willful and wanton misconduct on the other hand.. This man should receive damages for the destruction of his property, and theoretically he could also make the case for lost income seeing that they destroyed his livelihood. The only chance in hell these customs agents have is claiming gross negligence for a defence, on the part of the agent and any supervising personnel. Regardless of the defence, someone needs to be fired.




          • It is clear from your post and from a couple of others that I have been insufficiently clear in my reference to breach of contract; I am not suggesting that there was a contract between US Customs and Mr Razgui but between US Customs and its employees who are allegedly responsible for what we are told has happened in this case.

          • I’m not sure what all the talk about contracts is. The Customs agents are sworn to carry out the laws of the United States. If they felt the guy was bringing in a banned agricultural product, they carried out what they believed to be their duty. He may be able to sue, but they may also very well prove that the flutes were indeed made out of an agricultural product. I’m an agricultural reporter, and banned materials are seized all the time.

        • Dan says:

          The poor guy who had his flutes smashed entered into no contract with Customs. If someone is able to bring a breach of contract suit again them, it’s going to be their employer…

          • That’s exactly what I’m talking about – and it would, of course, be a separate action to any that Mr Razgui might bring.

          • annebeck58 says:

            Okay, the virtuoso, whom I have been lucky enough to hear (by the way), bought a ticket and, in so doing, entered into a contract with the airline. He may have (additionally) entered into a contract with the airports (I imagine so, as we all pay airport fees when paying for tickets.) In fact, I would guarrantee he had a contract with the airport(s).

            It seems to me he would have a contract with anyone he comes into direct contact with (if required to contact any agent(s) of the airport). As we are all required to go through customs, and as customs officers are paid by the airport, the airline (those fees) and possibly, the government, the musician may have a case against multiple agencies, for…?

            Breach of contract.

            Thank you.

          • I’d be willing to bet that customs agents are paid by the US government.

          • Customs officers paid by airports? I would be surprised were that the case. I’d have assumed that US Customs officers were paid by their employer, US Customs, which is an arm of government. Whether it could nevertheless be asserted in law that, just because Mr Razgui travelled on an airline to JFK and therefore had a contract with the airline concerned and the fact of going through Customs there constitutes any part of that contract is, I think, highly doubtful, since airlines have no jurisdiction over US Customs so could not possibly insure themselves against the consequences of actions carried out by US Customs officials towards their paying passengers; I think that’s a prety clear non-starter. Breach of contract, if any, would have had to be by US Customs agents in respect of their contracts of employment with US Customs which, as I’ve stated earlier, is an entirely separate issue to any litigation that Mr Razgui might decide to instigate.

            Now that the question of the materials from which the destroyed instruments had been manufactured and those that Mr Razgui was evidently also carrying with a view to making some more has been raised as a possible reason for the alleged actions of US Customs agents; it still seems bizarre at the very least that, following confiscation, impounding and subsequent testing did not take the place of outright destruction.

            It seems clear that Mr Razgui’s most appropriate next step would be to collate his evidence and submit it as part of a formal written complaint to US Customs – if necessary, with the help of a lawyer – as soon as possible.

          • Anna-Marie says:

            You all are missing a huge fact. “Boujemaa Razgui, a flute virtuoso who lives in New York and works with many US ensembles, was returning to base over the holiday when Customs officials at Kennedy Airport asked to see his instruments” he lives here and was “returning” with what he left with US customs allowed him to take them out of the US and fly with them. He could sue and (I believe) argue he was acting in good faith that his property wouldn’t be destroyed because of the right to take them in and out of the country before. Not to mention the forced time off do to the destruction of his entire collection of “work tools”. I am no lawyer but, I am sure he could argue that in court.

        • Will Wyatt says:

          I’ll have to agree with Mr. Kerensky here.

        • bunny says:

          Public opinion still means something in this country. That won’t be true for very much longer. While it is true, let the story be told and let the pieces fall appropriately into the lap of the man who sits at the desk. This was hostility that was surely not essential. This mean streak we see in authorities will only get worse, and we can look back in history to see how far they will go when the authorities no longer care was the opinion of the majority is, a gun to the head and a bullet to the brain is what has happened in pictures of those who fell to the weight of oppression, communism, fascism state. So sit back and let this topic be discussed.

        • There are no “contracts” in dealings with customs agents, only laws. The customs agent may have breached the law, or violated policies, but he certainly did not have a contract with Boujemaa Razgui.

          • I’m not referring to contracts with with the victim but contracts with the employer; contracts of employment with US Customs, in other words. The fact that the victim cannot sue for that as he is not the employer does not mean that the employees are not in breach of their contracts.

          • ed says:

            Charles- there are any number of civil actions that may have involved a violation of a statute, or a tort that could be considered.

          • Michael R Harvey says:

            Mr. Hinton has a great deal of difficulty accepting his error. Mr. Boyer is correct in asserting that no “contract” is at issue here. If the Customs agent was wrong, he/she, as an individual is subject to discipline and perhaps termination by his employer. Mr. Hinton can explain what he meant all he wants, however, rest assured that contracts and breaches thereof will never be an issue in this case.

          • Not between US Customs and/or its agents and the victim, no (as I’m now getting rather tired of repeating), as there was never any suggestion that a contract existed between the victim and US Customs or its agents, but there may be a breach of contract issue if – and I do say only “if” – US Customs finds that its agents have breached their contracts by acting as they are alleged to have acted.

        • Vicki Ormsby says:

          I seem to be the only one here who understand what Alistair is trying to say. I agree with Alistair 100%. In ANY case, what Customs did was wrong, full stop, irregardless. Especially since we have been led to believe that no reason for the destruction was given. I personally have no use for TSA or customs agents, after they confiscated a gift from my son (that can never be replaced) Their comment?? Oh, look what we have here! Well, it belongs to us now. Granted, it was a lighter. No fluid in it, harmless. Now, they let me keep my Bic lighter, but took my Mother’s Day gift from my mentally ill son, because it was a work of art, so don’t give me that ‘dangerous’ bullshit.

  • Erik O says:

    I am so sorry to hear of your ordeal.

    Please make sure to document it, write it down while it is fresh in your memory. I don’t know what can be done yet, but maybe a petition on Change.org could do something?

    Wishing you a happier and healthy 2014.

    • With every sympathy for the victim and all due respect for your contribution here, I don’t think that petitioning is really the most effective way forward in this case. Customs officials are as subject to accusations of criminal damage as anyone else and, whilst we do not yet know if these ones could be successfully prosecuted for that, the facts of the case that have been reported here so far do point strongly to the likelihood of successful prosecution for something. I hope that this will be the case and that due compensation be ordered by the Court (not that any compensation can really cover the damage in full, of course).

      • I agree–there needs to be compensation from Customs and the US Government, but these thugs working for Customs need to see some jail time plus fines for malicious, felony destruction of property.

        • M N Viswanathan says:

          Exactly so.Then only they will exercise their powers judiciously

          • I’m not defending the customs agents — what they did was indefensible — but I’m wondering how many Americans posting here will, if a parasite gets into the country and destroys a large segment of our agriculture industry, scream that the government didn’t do enough to protect us.

            It’s rarely all black or all white.

      • Michael R Harvey says:

        Mr. Hinton should quit pretending to be an attorney.

        • One cannot quit pretending to be something that one hasn’t pretended to be in the first place; I am not a lawyer and have merely recommend that

          (a) the victim seek legal advice without delay and instigate legal proceedings if so he chooses in accordance with the advice that he receives and

          (b) US Customs conducts its own internal investigation and acts in accordance with its entitlement to exercise powers in respect of breach of employemnt contracts if it finds that any have indeed occurred.


  • Beaumont says:

    That’s what happens when you give dangerously incompetent people positions of power.

    Kurt Tucholsky once said that the Germans’ fate was to stand in front of a desk and the Germans’ ideal was to sit behind one.

    Seems this is another thing Germany has successfully exported.

    And a happy new year to all of us.

    We’re all safe.

  • Lance the Librarian says:

    I could say that I feel your pain, having had instruments of my own purloined or destroyed in the past by agents of the state, but I guess it would not be true – what I lost was not of my own making and was fairly easily replaced, and I rather suspect that the loss / destruction was accidental. Aah!, I cannot express how much I sympathise with you.

  • Louis Blois says:

    My stomach turns at this outrage! This is the fraudulent stupidly misplaced “war on terrorism” carried to fascistic extremes. May the two-bit sadists who perpetrated this hate crime be prosecuted to the fullest. Very sad to see these Gestapo tactics by enforcement authorities becoming more and more common across the American landscape. This incident casts into sharp relief what is happening to this country.

  • ALBERT LANDA says:

    Devil’s Advocate? Is it possible that the instruments were made of wood? i think that in Australian Customs there can be problems associated with bringing in certain items of wood.E.G, Wooden artifacts and masks, native flutes etc from places like Papua New Guinea

    • Carol J says:

      I read that he was returning to the US, so I cannot see that being a problem.

      • Mark Horning says:

        Unless he filled out customs forms before leaving, then Customs has no way of knowing when and where the instruments were made. Under the Lacey Act anything imported from wood must have proper documentation or it is subject to seizure and destruction. Since these thugs are acting as agents of the government they probably have protection under color of law, so they can’t even be sued individually. And yes, they will do this to a guitar as well.

        • Anonymesque says:

          In another article related to this incident, it says the nays (flutes) were made of bamboo which is technically a grass. But, since he’s “New York based” and “returning to home base” he should have had some sort of documentation of his outbound trip.

          All-in-all, I think this is a tragic case of less-than-competent people adhering to the letter of the law without regard for its spirit. Mr. Razgui has my sympathy and condolences.

    • Peter says:

      Most instruments are made of wood. Do you think they would do this to a violin, a bassoon, or a clarinet?

      • Bert says:

        If the species of wood is on the endangered list, yes they would, and would put you in jail too! I am a guitarist and have ben afraid to take any old instruments that might have Brazilian rosewood in them because they could be confiscated. You have to have documentation that the wood in question is from an old stand that existed before the ban. There is nearly no way to do this.

    • Edward says:

      Australia (and New Zealand) have incredibly stringent custom requirements – but if you declare the items and they are determined to be a risk, they are likely to be fumigated rather than destroyed.. From my understanding, Australia customs tends to only destroy or impound items which are either illegal (explosives, drugs, etc) or unable to be treated.

      See also: http://www.smartraveller.gov.au/tips/returning-to-australia.html

    • Jam says:

      I brought a wooden flute back from Vietnam recently. If it’s something like an instrument that is polished or sealed, they don’t seem to care. I’ve also brought in unsealed banjos and other weird wood instruments, unsealed.

    • Skypp says:

      I have carried my guitar, (made of wood), all over the world and successfully back in the USA many times, no problem. What we have in this case are really stupid, over-zealous and most likely racist and self-hating customs “officials” who should be fired and sued. End of story. Unfortunately, scenarios like this are repeating in one form or another throughout our country by local police forces and TSA thugs. It’s gotten completely out-of-hand and needs to be stopped by a very concerned and active public intervention.

  • Kate shortt says:

    A disgusting barbaric neandethal reaction born of ignorance, stupidity and hatred.

    The poor guy must be in mourning. God I hope these people get their come uppance!

  • This needs to become a global cause célèbe. It’s criminal vandalism and U.S. Customs officials should be prosecuted immediately. I’ll post the article on social media, as a start. I offer my sincere condolences to Mr. Razgui.

    • Skypp says:

      SO agree with you. We need to step in, en masse and say “no”, this is not okay and cannot ever happen again. Passivity is tacit permission.

  • Oliver Preece says:

    Why am I no longer surprised at the seemingly daily apalling ignorance of US bureaucrats?

    I sincerely hope they are shamed publicly for their actions.

    All best wishes to Boujemaa

  • Susan Bradley says:

    Could someone with more technical skills than I, perhaps set up a crowdsourced fund to help support Mr Razgui? I know money won’t directly heal the wound to his art and heart, but it could help pay legal fees, not to mention help with living costs, if he has limited access to quality instruments now.

  • Alberto Martinez says:

    Given that Boujemaa Razgui have not done anything wrong and that US officials are not authorized to destroy anything they want based only in suspicious thoughts and not proof guess he have to press charges through a lawyer and if possible new instruments should be given to him .It´s an injustice really,

  • ashokdmistry says:

    jackbooted bigotry of things they don’t understand. I expect their only comment was ugg when they completed their heinous act.

  • Nick Shields says:

    I am so very sorry that you have, on this occasion, been overwhelmed by members of the common unintelligentsia.

    I hope that you will quickly and painlessly recoup your losses.

  • sylvia says:

    how barbaric. it shows with what ignorance and arrogance officials can act. what a terrible loss, almost like losing one’s life. sending sympathy can do little to make up for this loss, of the instruments – the love and work that went into making them – the music that would have been played on them, and the loss of humanity that is seen every day now in one context or another

  • I am so sorry that this man has suffered this act of mindless vandalism at the hand of US government officials. This is bureaucracy gone mad. It has denied him of the tools of his trade.

    I hope that someone sees fit to replace them at their cost. Especially if he has to turn work down as a result. One would think that in an age where one is encouraged to work, luddite like behaviour that denies a person the ability to support themself in the way that they are trained would be a thing of the past. Or is it a case that Mr Razgui is perceived as a “mere musician” and hence not worth such consideration. I only state things in this manner as it is an attitude that I have encountered myself.

  • another orchestra musician says:

    Presumably the Customs officers believed that dutiable items had been molded into, or otherwise concealed within Mr. Razgui’s instruments. Presumably as well the Customs officers, upon breaking the instruments into bits, found no such items. It will be interesting to learn why the Customs officers were either motivated to mistrust the evidence of their x-ray machines or, on the contrary, were misled by the x-ray images that they saw. Interesting as well will be to learn whether the Customs officers in fact offered Mr. Razgui an alternative to the destruction of his instruments, and, if they did, what his response was to their offer. In the event the instruments themselves, in the estimation of the Customs officers, constituted a form contraband – e.g., perhaps they were made of ivory, or of woods whose import is forbidden? – why were they destroyed rather than seized?

    Dutiable items can be molded into or otherwise concealed within many kinds of goods commonly carried by travelers. Surely there must exist protocol for the handling of goods suspected of serving as concealment – and also for restitution in the case of goods damaged in the course of non-productive inspection. Doubtless as well there exist protocol for the handling of goods fabricated of materials whose import is forbidden. It could be very helpful, for traveling musicians carrying instruments made of such materials, to know what these protocol are.

    • ed says:

      If the agents were not able to rely on all of the sophisticated multimillion dollar imaging equipment hawked by Michael Chertoff and John Ashcroft, why could they not have temporarily impounded the musical instruments until someone higher up with a clearer head and half a brain was able to resolve whatever problem the agents may have imagined. It smells too much like cruel political bias and a hate crime.

      So, yes, criminal prosecution is also warranted, and on the civil side, if one sues the agents, go after their pensions.

      • Jdiemer says:

        I think it has more to do with the wood types and where the wood is harvested. See Lacey Act, see Gibson guitars. never cross an international border with instruments that cannot readily be replaced.

        • Mark Horning says:

          This is exactly what happened. Customs decided they had a Lacey Act violation and acted like a bunch of thugs.

          • And does strict adherence to the provisions of the Lacey Act determine that US Customs officials must destroy rather than impound any items that they may believe to be in breach of it?

            And yes, whilst it may indeed not be possible to sue the individuals concerned if they are deemed to have acted as they are alleged to have done during working hours and in accordance with the requirements of their employer, Mr Razgui may well have to sue US Customs who, as that employer, is charged with responsibility for the actions of its employees.

          • James Cleymore says:

            That’s exactly how that acted, like thugs. There were better ways to handle this supposed issue, but chose otherwise. Sickening!

          • Jon Rudd says:

            I think it’s got a lot to do with entering the country with a name like Boujemaa Razgui,

        • @jdiemer – These instruments were made of either bamboo or arundo donax, a similar appearing grass family plant, not exotic, endangered woods. After years of use, they were obviously utilitarian items, not keepsakes that might harbor pests. In my view, this was a deliberate, malicious act performed because they could, and should be punished in some serious manner. Despite the squabble earlier in this thread, I think the only person qualified to determine how to accomplish this would be a customs attorney. I hope one has been engaged.

          After 50+ years as a performing musician I can tell you that you don’t simply replace instruments. Each instrument is different and you spend years sometimes learning the subtleties. This was not just outrageous behavior on the part of these cretins, it was an assault on the very life and livelihood of Mr. Razgui and should be punished severely.

  • Mongoose says:

    I am so very sorry to hear this, and I absolutely agree with Mr Hinton about litigation. This is flagrantly ultra vires and extraordinarily cruel.

  • Rania Abdullah says:

    What an ugly thing to do ! I can’t imagine the amount of work and love smashed away with your instruments . I can only say ignorance is the worst disease. I’m sorry for what happened to you… Don’t let them break your spirit… But they should be exposed and pay for what they did… Shame on them !

  • People love music. It’s the musicians which are the problem. For this reason, we in the “West” have been devoting a considerable portion of our vaunted sapience to the discovery of new methods of music-making which place the musician at ever greater remove from the music. Incidents like the above are an explicit expression of an anti-musical violence sublimated in our own music making, and directed at the thing which demonstrates the corporeality of “traditional” music making: the instrument, whose wooden body breathes the sweat, spittle, and oils of the the player’s own body.

    The beatings will continue until morale improves.

  • Fergus Johnston says:

    As a fellow player of wind instruments, and with an interest in kavals, shakuhachis and kenas, as well as fipple flutes of various kinds, I am dismayed by this report. There is no excuse for this. Boujemaa Razgui should take legal action against those concerned.

  • ed says:

    This is deeply saddening news. I hope Mr. Razgui can get himself the best lawyer- his friends in the industry could help him find one (he could also get free advice from the local ACLU chapter and some of the law clinics, e.g., at NYU or Columbia, as well as at the National Whistleblower Center that has experience fighting some of the worst governmental misconduct) to be positioned to sue the pants off Customs and each of the officials involved. He might also get help from the heavyweights who produce his records, i.e., for political leverage to force the issue, which could also include multiple articles about this travesty in the NYTimes and alternative media, and maybe a petition or two on the internet as Erik O has suggested. Expect that Customs will claim immunity and use some bogus enforcement and/or classification argument to try to cover it up.

    This was beyond egregious- it was venal and may well have been political in its intent, and, one imagines, another example of knee jerk, boot jack profiling in the Administration’s damnable ‘war on terra’ (or whatever they call it today) now extended to North and Central Africa. Customs is part of the Treasury Department, so the President, and Mr. Lew – putative ‘music lovers’ that they are- they just held the Kennedy Center Baloney Awards after all (where even Mr. Hot Air John Kerry was there to curry favor with Snoop Dog)- might be also informed directly to help this man get some justice and restitution to carry on with his livelihood. As for the musical instruments, it sounds like the collection Mr. Razgui assembled was very sophisticated and valuable, if not priceless, and that the music he and his ensemble have been making is important for anyone seeking to expand their understanding and appreciation of history and culture.

    Whatever is done needs to be well planned and coordinated after the initial grief and anger pass. I wish him the best.

  • David says:

    Very sad to hear this. It is idiotic. Hope something can be done about it & very sorry for the loss of such irreplaceable instruments.

  • I also am a professional musician – New Yorker who has lived in Paris for 30 years. I also had a bow seized taken out of it’s protective case at JFK on the way home to France and the customs officers started bending it! I said it was fragile – they didn’t care. I then quoted the price and that saved the bow but only barely. If these people are so barbaric and sadistic as to destroy art objects and also put working musicians out of work they should be sent to prison. This is a crime against humanity and should not be considered anything less!

    • David says:


    • Just interested by a possible answer says:

      I have a stupid question to ask: when musicians travel with instruments, don’t they send them on cargo planes? Wouldn’t that be a sensible thing to do?

      • Apart from any other consideration, can you not imagine the additional inconvenience and expense involved in having musical instruments (and why only them in any case?) carried on flights separate to those on which their owners fly; who would cover that? It;s not clear that this would make any difference to the Customs aspect of the case ibn any event, since I presume that the musicians would have to have them uplifted them from cargo planes before taking them through Customs.

      • annebeck58 says:

        Either way, it is a contract.

        And this man is a Canadian citizen, for whomever it was who’d said, “as an American citizen”. Who knows where he went, in between, as a musicial?

        Regardless; these nays/ neys cannot truly be replaced. As stated by a person who reposted this article, “the tales they could tell”. It is despicable that bamboo/wood wood-wind instruments would ever be taken and destroyed by jar-necked rent-a-cops, And if this is the policy of US Customs (of which I would be surprised, if so), then that policy needs to change.

        I don’t know this man would sue anyone for this. After all, suing will not replace the instruments. It is sad this is what our country and those who are paid to protect us have become. Despicable act, in my opinion.

  • Surely he has to sue US Customs? This is sheer hooliganism.

  • Deborah Hamilton says:

    The officials must give a reason……if they wrongly suspected drugs why couldn’t they have use sniffer dogs?? Your wonderful instruments should not have been destroyed. Peace to you this New Year. Hoping that the officials can be taken to court for extremely unreasonable behaviour and wanton destruction without cause!

  • Might I suggest a crowd-funded campaign so that Boujemaa Razgui may sue the backsides off US Customs?

  • Coralina Cattrell says:

    I hope the Museums and archive curators of The United States of America find instruments close to what you have lost …. It is the least they can do for the disgusting and racist behaviour of which you have been a victim. Your knowledge and skill is irreplacable. Please don’t let this destroy your love of humanity…. Not all humans are human. xxx Strength and fortitude for the future

  • chrisself says:

    Speechless and horrified at such crass stupidity. Whoever did this should be sacked immediately. Agree with Erik O. Write down absolutely every detail you can remember immediately.

  • Sheena Wellington says:

    Disgusting and I am so sorry, and shocked, that this has happened to Boujemaa. Money won’t replaces the time, skill and love that went into creating these instruments but substantial compensation, an explanation and a grovelling apology is the least he should get.

  • Josephine Finzi says:

    What a disgrace. My deepest sympathy to you for the loss of your instruments. Music is so important, and these thugs need to be punished for such an outrage.

  • David H. says:

    If the instruments were made with ivory or protected material recently, the customs might have been legally correct to destroy it in the stricter sense. Hooliganism nevertheless, but the blame would go to the law makers in the first place, not providing reasonable legislation for musical instruments.

  • Paul Dunbar says:

    All that everyone has said… plus these guys should be instantly sacked.

  • David Smith says:

    Presumably it is not just the instruments themselves, but his livelihood? I should have thought that litigation of some sort should include loss of earnings, especially if he has to spend a considerable amount of time making replacements. Might customs not also have some liability towards arts organisations that have booked him?

    Good luck with whatever you decide to do.

  • Outrageous in every conceivable sense. An official explanation is required, and full restitution must be made.

  • maccruiskeen says:

    One should say “unbelievable” but this is the USA!

    • LL from Qc says:

      And from reading more and more about the aberrances being made on a daily basis in the US, anything is possible.

  • Vonn New says:

    So sorry for you loss. If any of my bamboo or wooden flutes had been smashed like this my heart would be broken. There is plenty of outrage and advice to go around, but that’s not really the issue. The issue is that music is a source of beauty and healing and your musical voice is temporarily silenced. The most important thing is to find a way for that music to be heard again, and to answer the violence of destruction with even more beautiful music than before.

  • A crowd-funding campaign to help Mr Razgui instigate and progress litigation against US Customs would certainly have the effect of demonstrating to him, to the US government and to any other interested parties that he has strong public support but, good as that would be, such a campaign should not even be necessary. US Customs are public servants paid for by US taxpayers and electors and, as such, have a duty of care towards American citizens and others with whom it deals.

    When recommending litigation (from which I do not wish to step back), I was perhaps being a little hasty; what I really meant was that Mr Razgui should be prepared to throw the weight of the best legal representation that he can engage against US Customs for the consequences of their actions but, of course, his first course of action should be to make a formal written complaint against that organisation (for the drafting of which consultation with the best lawyers that he can find would be advisable).

    Government depertments all have their own complaints procedures and, were such a complaint to elicit a decision letter admitting unreservedly to wrongdoing, Mr Razgui would then be armed with the means to make an appropriate claim against US Customs (the value of which would again need to be assessed in advance by said lawyers). Only were US Customs to challenge such a claim or refuse to meet it at all would Mr Razgui need to instigate litigation and, at this point, he would have as part of his evidence the written admissions of US Customs to support his case.

    I imagine that, in such circumstances, US Customs would likely settle before such a case could come to Court, as it would otherwise only compound the damage to its trust and reputation.

    As I understand it, however, US Customs has yet to provide a written reason for its actions and there can be no doubt that the very least to which Mr Razgui is currently entitled is a letter setting this out; if US Customs cannot provide such a reason, it will become apparent that the officials concerned damaged these instruments criminally and outside the scope of terms and conditions of their employment contracts, for which they should in any case be internally disciplined or, better still, summarily dismissed by their employers quite separately from the conduct of any complaint or litigation that Mr Razgui might bring.

  • This is very dismaying. Egregious, ignorant behavior on the part of the customs officials should be punished!

  • Why am I not seeing this from any other news outlets?

  • Henri says:

    How is it possible that they destroyed his possessions and did not even bother to explain where he was wrong, or breaking the law, or inducing in any criminal activity? And this is in USA?

  • steveh says:

    Left speechless.

  • This is really horrible what has happened to Mr. Razgui. It reminded me of the incident few years back when US Customs destroyed the Steinway Piano of Krystian Zimerman. They thought the glue smelled strange… Apparently some real stupid ignorant people playing God there…

  • Tom says:

    Get the agents’ names, post them all over the internet, prosecute them, jail them, make them pay restitution (if that is even possible for these invaluable pieces of art) and FIRE them forever.

  • geoff says:

    Get a lawer ASAP and get the video tape of this. Take them to court.

    I get harass all the time when I fly with a trumpet. The last time, they wanted to take apart my entire horn because ‘the scan found something florin in the horn’. I told them I will take it part so they don’t break the horn, but they refused and detain me for ‘interfering’. At the end of the day, they found nothing in the horn and now I have to get the 3rd valve realigned because they bent the damn thing.

  • Deborah Rhine says:

    OMG. I am so sorry this happened. I just cannot imagine the pain. The person who did this needs to be held accountable.

  • Linda says:

    This is absolutely appalling.

  • David Cathcart says:

    I am so sorry for you Mr. Razgui. Add my voice to the crowd of your supporters.

  • Ralph Neiweem says:

    Really horrifying. This happened to Kristian Zimmerman, who had holes drilled into his Steinway by these idiots, and we have had pianos removed from the truck and searched when on tour, resulting in the cancellation of an engagement. Perhaps the lawsuit will help in making these petty officials come up with a “procedure” they can follow in these cases, and assign accountability. I don’t hold much hope when dealing with these neanderthals. Very, very sorry.

  • WOW just WOW, So Sorry for the victim.

  • Jez Dennis says:

    If the state won’t protect the arts what is the point of the state. Churchill’s defence of the war was the protection of British culture which includes all the art forms. Do these officials not realise that terrorism wins if one destroys ones own culture. My deepest sympathies to Boujimaa Razgui.

  • Absolutely devastating. I’m so sorry to hear this. I hope he is compensated fully. I have had my flutes mishandled in both Abu Dhabi and Brisbane airports, and was very upset about that. Fortunately in my situation, the instruments were not damaged. Feel so sad for this man and can imagine the pain.

  • Mark Campbell says:

    I am also a musician , sir , please sue the customs office , do it for all of us , Mr. Razgui . I’m so sorry that you had to endure this travesty of justice .

  • The excuse – such as it is – appears now to be something about the use of bamboo in the instruments on the grounds of some kind of “agricultural” input; leaving aside the as yet unanswered question as to whether or not all 11 instruments damaged beyond repair by US Customs actually included bamboo in their manufacture, how plausible does this “agricultural” nonsense sound? Someone’s trying to bamboo-zle, it would seem. Has it not occurred to these people that the materials used in the manufacture of pretty well all musical instruments are also used for other purposes? What utter rubbish! Go get a law firm! Quick!

  • It’s just too horrible.

  • I play the flute and am so sorry this happened to you…I hope they compensate you for your time lost making your flutes…

  • Jerrad Fenske says:

    Does anyone know of legal council that would be willing to take this cause up!!! This is an atrocity and what excuse could even begin to qualify for this behavior!

  • Cindy Casella says:

    So sorry to read about this. There is a diary about this that is at the top of the Daily Kos recommended list now: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/12/31/1266227/-Customs-Destroy-Musician-s-Instruments

  • Brian Riker says:

    So sorry to hear of this terrible thing. I think it is another exampl of the ineptitude of big government.

  • PB says:

    Somebody should give these idiots a dictionary so that they can aquaint themselves with the definition of “agriculture”………

  • Jason says:

    Varies types of woods are not aloud into the US hence why its agricultural , this was always a hassle importing guitars into the USA, so if he didn’t do his research its his own fault, people need to understand if a wood is banned it for a reason that protect the native vegetation of the USA. I have had guitars for customers be rejected coming into the USA cause of its inlay being a type of pearl that was banned.

    I find it funny how people are so quick to say sue not thinking maybe these guys are just doing there jobs and thats the protocol for restricted materials.

    • Casey says:

      “Allowed”, not “aloud”.

      Aside from that, I was under the impression that as a US citizen returning to the US with instruments he made himself over the course of many years, presumably in the US where he lives, his instruments were not imported nor made from banned species of wood that he wouldn’t have been able to obtain in the US in the first place.

      • Jennifer says:

        True, but you need to file a lot of paperwork before you leave, because the agents would have no way of knowing this. I personally don’t understand why the things had to be destroyed immediately, rather than some sort of quarantine, but all it takes is one invasive parasite and you risk a tremendous environmental disaster. I feel for the guy. I would be devastated beyond consolation, but if he didn’t check the rules before he left, it really is his own fault.

  • Heather says:

    Just commenting to saw that I’m following this story, and am hoping for a positive outcome for Mr. Razgui. I hope that the law is on his side in this situation (it certainly seems it should be!), and he gets the legal counsel he needs to see justice done.

  • Simon says:

    This doesn’t surprise me in the least. I have never encountered a greater troupe of uneducated, uncouth, ignorant mouth breathers than those of US Customs. I travel a lot because of my career, and I often have to transport some very unique, very strange looking tech. Even with reams of official paperwork to back me up, I have spent many collective hours attempting to explain what various “doo-dads” do to slope-foreheaded, brain cell deficient yokels who have no reason to ask but to flex their unearned authority. At least I’ve never had them smash something. Disassemble, drop and possibly drool on, but never smash.

  • I just submitted this as a news tip on CNN and Fox news. I hope some of you will do the same to get this covered.

  • Koose E Mack says:

    How many morons does it take to comment on an article? Just count the number of commenters in this forum. Did it ever occur to any of your geniuses that Mr. Razgui was not telling the truth???

    I have it on good word from friends that work in Customs at the airport, that flutes were not confiscated. Rather, Mr. Razgui imported raw green sticks of Bamboo which were seized because raw Bamboo is prohibited entry. Know why? Bamboo is a grass which can be infected with a few diseases that can infect other grasses. What other grasses does the government try to protect? Wheat, Rice, Oats, Corn, Oats, Barley….Are you geniuses getting the picture now???

    You condemn the officials who do their sworn duty to protect the food supply and you are so self righteous in this unjust condemnation.

    Which one of you commentators are an expert in Botany or Plant Pathology? You should all be ashamed of your ignorant selves!

    • mapreader says:

      And I have it from good friends who may or may not work there that his instruments were destroyed maliciously(you see I have as much proof as you)

      • If anyone is not telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about this case, that should emerge in Court provided that the case comes to Court in the first place. Whilst we may not yet have proof as to whether malice, carelessness or other motive may have been involved, US Customs officials have rules to which to adhere and, if found by a Court to have broken them, there will be consequences; US Customs also has a duty of care, adherence to which which would presumably likewise be considerd in Court.

        In the meantime, I imagine that Mr Razgui would be well aware of the risk that he would be taking by publicly accusing US Customs of damage to his personal property had the actions of which we have been reading here not actually taken place as described.

        • ” I imagine that Mr Razgui would be well aware of the risk that he would be taking by publicly accusing US Customs of damage to his personal property”

          What risks do you imagine those would be? The worst that could happen (over and above, of course, what’s *already* happened) is that he’d lose in court.

          • Not necessarily; he could risk being be sued for defamation.

            Let me nevertheless make it abundantly clear that my only reason to refer to this was and is to confirm the sheer unlikelihood that Mr Razgui is making any of this up.

  • beccafe says:

    Okay I do not swear ever nor am I a musician (I failed band class) but “HOLY FUCKING SHIT what kind of people are born into the world?! Are these men idiots? This angers me to bits and pieces I wish I had the means to go fight for him!

  • KMont says:

    I am so, so sorry and disheartened to hear of this event, and extend my sympathies to Mr. Razgui. I, too, am a musician and have occasionally encountered raised eyebrows and questions from security agents when I’ve brought my instrument on board. But never anything as awful as this. This is a new low. The Customs agents involved should be fired, prosecuted, and and jailed to give traveling peace of mind to the rest of us that bring instruments along for the ride.

    As his instruments were personally handmade, there is hardly a dollar amount that will sufficiently cover the loss. At a minimum, he should win the funds to replace the same wood type, cover the time it will take him to remake the instruments, and the loss of income he will receive since he can’t work until the project is complete. Whatever that amount is, he should get it, and then some.

    Mr. Razgui: if you are a member of the American Federation of Musicians, contact them immediately if you haven’t already. Reach out to both your local chapter and the national organization. They will be able to provide you with legal help. Even if you aren’t a member, they may still be able to point you in the right direction. Best of luck.

  • Has this been sent to the various news media? Sometimes outrage over something like this will actually get attention and positive action that way.

  • No need to ask why I never fly unless mandatory. I simply can’t stand the home-grown bullies. They “love” to bully and do little or nothing for our safety. This is so disgusting the video tapes should be analyzed and those responsible should be doing time for felony vandalism. I do believe the dollar value will warrant that level punishment.

  • flamingtaco says:

    Yes, he can. Breach of contract does not apply here.

  • great article, i like it

    dang tin rao vat mien phi http://raokhang.com

  • Sean says:

    I always thought highly of customs agents. I wonder if they

    can be trusted to police their own ranks better than other

    US LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES ? When did our first line supervisors

    get stripped of the power to supervise? This whole thing sucks. I build the

    flutes I perform and record with, from harvest to studio. I think I would briefly

    “come from together” under this circumstance. To the artist who suffered this loss

    I want you to know that those agents don’t represent us all. We are not ALL cowards.

    If this message reaches you contact me at http://Www.Warriorwindsmusic.com I have a flute

    For you my friend and I appreciate what you do.


  • Katy keenan says:

    I’m sorry but I need to know more. I want photographs and evidence that this really happened, what led up to it, how did it go down, what was the reasoning etc? Info is just to scant and not verified.

  • TOLDYOUSO says:

    This stems from the U.S. EPA regs regarding illegal wood, that the Customs department for SOME damn reason jerks off to enforce. This is what happens when we allow irrational idiots to write regulations.

  • Jarid says:

    The only thing for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. First there needs to be a appeals process if they say one thing and you say another. Instead of destroying the products they should be held until a proper decision can be made. Second he should have been offered to ship them back if they could not enter the US. How did these agents know that breaking them is the right thing to do? Third its not only his rights that were violated they are stopping on ALL of our rights.

  • knightomwd says:

    I believe that Mr. Razgui should sue for damages. I’m guessing, based on personal experience, that this isn’t the first time he’s been unjustly stopped. It was however the first time that the ignoramuses destroyed his personal property.

    My heart aches for him. I know what it is like to make something by hand. Something that has been created by your own two hands is irreplaceable. He has to sue them if only so that they would be more careful and not as eager to destroy something they know next to nothing about in the future.

  • Kristen says:

    I am so sorry. I am hoping your grief for what was stolen from you does not overwhelm you. May light and music hold you and carry you through.

  • ant says:

    Welcome to the socialistic facists police state you’ve all voted for. Stay tuned, many more offenses to come.

  • Pat Enery says:

    We should apply the Mosaic law; an eye for an eye. You get the picture. Illegal statutes enforced by mindless idiots should have a monetary consequence out of their own pockets. This should tell you the threshold criteria for hiring these idiots. Restitution & loss of job. Common sense to me.

  • Ally Burry says:

    Please pass my condolences to Boujemaa. This must have been a single most unpleasant assault. I hope this episode does not affect his desire to give pleasure to others with his music.

    And to those who bark and whine about ‘contracts’, shut up, and stop letting the machine control you.

  • Taly Almagor says:

    As a musician I can feel your pain and outrage Mr Boujemaa. It is a nightmare. Our instruments are like our children, we love an cherish them, they are part of our heart and our lives. Watching them being destroyed before our eyes is maddening. Once my friend’s accordion worth USD 15,000 was broken to pieces by Customs, it was a total loss. In this case insurance covered the damage but the pain about the loss, the anger at this barbaric cruelty, remains. When I am passing Customs with my violin it always gives me the creeps. You never know what will happen. I hope that insurance will cover the damage and that you wil find a way to cope, and last but not least, that these barbaric customs guys will get their appropriate punishments. One kind of punishment certainly is that a person who is able to do this to a musical instrument, can have no music in his heart and soul.

    • I’m pretty sure that Customs agents are not hired for their artistic sensibilities.

      • How stupid of the custom officials. They are expected to be more courteous towards common people and should not dare destroy these art objects which are beyond there understanding. They should only confiscate the objects in the worst case if they find something fishy and produce it in the local court. So, the guy can reclaim it from the court after paying the fine if applicapable.

  • Naji Hilal says:

    It is obvious that the officer was upset about working on new year eve and he reliefed his frustration over those precious instruments

    If we can bring in cooked or dried non dairy or none meat food then a dried bamboo shodu be no problem. It was a rage of anger and ignorance and lack of diversity concept which has to be a must in such kind of job.

    • I do not think that the obligation to work through the New Year festivities can be clamed or cited as any kind of putative excuse here, since the incident reported took place earlier than New Year’s Eve – before Christmas, indeed…

  • Hans B says:

    Sarcasm is totally unasked for. It is simply true that something like this could not happen in Germany, these days. I am a German ethnomusicologist and, in the course of 30 years of doing research in the Philippines, I brought around 500 musical instruments to Germany, some of which really look more like agricultural products than musical instruments… I never had ANY problems in bringing them in, neither as hand luggage, ordinary luggage or by sea. And, as a side remark regarding German history, it taught lessons that should be learned by the whole of mankind, including the US government, not just by the Germans. Anyway, in my view, this kind of hate and power games has nothing to do with “history”… it always depends on the individual people NOW living on this planet…

  • anon says:

    > This would never happen in Germany, only in good ol’ U.S. of A.

    The nations are effectively irrelevant, but this kind of thing can actually only happen in a place that proclaims itself as free.

    Germany pre-WWI was an imperial hereditary monarchy, an unfree society, so those that lived there could not expect accountability of the powerful. Pre-WWII the Nazis ran a political campaign where they said they would dismantle the Weimar Republic and remove democracy, as those that crave power generally hate democratic ideas, and much of the German public blamed democracy for economic and social problems. Another non-free society was set up. It was stated policy after ~1933 to persecute people of certain backgrounds, the USA is not meant to be like that at all, but to be realistic the instruments were likely smashed up because of a “funny name” or melanin levels. Or perhaps just general purpose anti-intellectualism and anti-expression?

  • Despicable. I have not read the extensive comments, but I don’t think a legal path should be decided here. He needs to see a lawyer! I sincerely hope he will.

  • Disturbed says:

    I think that a public outting of the perpetrators’ and their superiors’ names, along with a public shaming would be a great first step towards justice and rectification of these acts.

  • John Redman says:

    Every single person offended by these crimes, STOP paying taxes. Your voluntary slavery is harmful for your fellow humans, the thugs you have conveyed “authority” to as well because power corrupts (yes, I know that power attracts corrupt sociopaths/psychopaths). Please join wagingnonviolence.org and begin/continue to do your part.

  • Chandra Danelle says:

    It is sad to see all the bickering. Mr. Razgui has traveled all over the world with these instruments, and they were his lively hood. He did not try to conceal them he presented them as always and this particular shift of the Customs Agency decided to destroy them without a second thought. It was careless of them not to investigate further, not to ask questions and not to realize that their same agency had previously let them in and out of the country.

    Mr. Razgui I hope you can over come your loss and continue to share your gift. I am heart sick that this could happen to anyone in such an uncaring manner. I do not know you but that does not lessen the sadness I feel over the loss you have suffered.

  • Steve L says:

    It is increasingly nerve-wracking to tour abroad with instruments, particularly unusual ones. I and several of my colleagues have had issues with U.S. Customs with instruments that we left the country with and are simply returning with. I have performed, toured and recorded with Boujemaa and have two neys that he made for me. He’s a truly marvelous musician and I know he is really upset by this outrageous act. Moroccan neys are simply made out of bamboo! Nothing exotic. It’s not ivory or an endangered species. It’s a fast-growing grass. Do they break the reeds of clarinetists and oboists when they come into the country? They are made out of something very similar! What about all those baskets and bamboo furniture items that are imported from all over the world? No. I don’t want to try to speculate on any potential motives for this act, but it sure seems like a stretch to call these bamboo instruments agricultural products!

  • Clearly either the agents were in violation of agency protocols (and thus should be subjected to agency discipline) or the agency itself has insufficient protocols. An international law expert could tell us how violations of human rights treaties would come into effect here, A constitutional law expert could also tell us how freedom from unreasonable search and seizure

    requirements would come into play.

  • The Democrats nor the Republicans have been working on making our government fairer, plainer, easier or more transparent, or more respectful of private property.

    He is lucky to not have been beaten, disfigured, maced, Tased or murdered.

  • What has this country come to? Giving the ability to be judge, jury, and executioner to customs agents is atrocious. They could have at least set the suspect instruments aside and questioned him. I thought that jackboot barbaric tactics were the stuff of Nazis, not Americans. How sad. Time to straighten out these over zealous agents and their management. But who will do it? Does any one in authority really care? It seems hopeless. Government should serve the people, not the other way around.

  • The terrorists have won. They have managed to demonstrate what it means to have government controlling your lives in every fashion. This is what those who love government have wanted, whether they realized it or not. Now you’re getting it.

    • David H. says:

      Almost right. The “terrorists” are only useful idiots. Those who use the “terrorist” bogey men to take civil liberties away and steer the society slowly but steadily toward a totalitarian oligarchy have won.

  • I’m an American citizen, born in the United States and living in Germany. I’ve lived in Europe for nearly twenty-five years, and in all that time I have never once returned to the States. Germans that I talk to seem at a loss to understand this. However, people who suffer what Boujemaa Razgui suffered – and worse – have no trouble at all comprehending what sort of country the United States has become.

    • Marc Emory says:

      I am also an American citizen living in Germany. But most Germans I know can understand this perfectly. My wife is German and we speak German at home. This kind of thing is perfectly imaginable in Germany: http://rt.com/art-and-culture/customs-confiscated-stradivarius-violin-732/ . If one acknowledges that storing any violin, let alone a Strad, without paying to temperature and humidity controls is tantamount to willfully risking the instrument’s destruction. German Beamten enjoy harassing people in the guise of acting according to their civil (sic) “service” status as much as any of their US counterparts, and plenty of them either don’t care or even take actual delight in seeing people suffer when they exercise the power over others.

  • Jeff M says:

    That is outrageous. I know that nothing can replace what you lost, but I hope that proper action is taken. As a musician and music educator, I must say to those at JFK: is this really what you want us showing to the rest of the world, our own country, and the young musicians that we educate?

  • Franis Engel says:

    This person needs a crowd-funding site now.

    If everyone who commented here left some donation at a crowd funding site, (such as indigogo etc. there are many sites that give whatever is donated, not having to reach a certain number before funds are delivered) this musician could at least recover his livelihood sooner.

  • Personally I love the music a flute will produce if played by an expert. If Boujemaa Razgui crafts his own flutes, and is truly a flute virtuosos who is recognized internationally, then the destruction of the flutes he made himself must be viewed as a horrible violent crime against him, people who love music, and people who love craftsmanship, and people who love sharing. Nothing can justify the criminal actions of the people who destroyed the flutes Boujemaa Razgui crafted and used to produce music shared with everyone who could hear.

    If this horrible crime was committed by people working for the United States Customs Office at JFK airport, then they and their supervisors should be held responsible and should be severely punished. Furthermore, since the instruments cannot simply be repaired, and the crime has not only severely injured the reputation of the United States Customs Office at the JFK airport, and not only has the crime injured the reputation of the United States Customs Office, but the crime has injured the reputation of every single citizen of the United Sates from President Obama all the way to the most recently born citizen of the United States of America. The people who committed this crime have shamed every one of us down to the bone.

    Finally, if Boujemaa Razgui was importing green Bamboo sticks capable of being propagated as one person claims, then those sticks should have been destroyed after removal from the flutes. If the flutes themselves were the green bamboo sticks capable of being propagated then I firmly disagree with that person’s assumption that Boujemaa Razgui intended to help people enjoy generating bamboo from the “green bamboo sticks capable of being propagated’ rather than generating adorable music for everyone to hear. Indeed, I wonder how one could imagine that Boujemaa Razgui carving holes into the bamboo sticks would have been helping people to propagate the bamboo. It is a senseless excuse for the destruction of the flutes by people who I believe must have less common sense than a sand flea and less humanity than a speck of dust.

  • Steve L says:

    A couple comments on prior comments:

    – I have two neys that Boujemaa made for me and I’ve performed with him several times. They are NOT made of green bamboo any more than clarinet, oboe and bassoon reeds are made of green material. They are quite dry and must be in order to properly fashion an instrument that will be stable in pitch and intonation.

    – I fail to see how a bamboo flute with finger holes can be reasonably deemed an agricultural product by any reasonable person who should have been trained in their position. I know that agricultural products are seized all the time — and usually for very good reasons — but many products are made of bamboo and are imported all the time as is raw cane for the making of single and double woodwind reeds.

  • Candi Cane says:

    One ensemble director tells us: ‘I can’t think of an uglier, stupider thing for the U.S. government to do than to deprive this man of the tools of his art and a big piece of his livelihood.’

    I can think of something pretty ugly. Obamacare.

    The government is taking rights, liberty, and property from us in all sorts of ways. It’s time to make government a servant of the people and not the other way around.

    Change is truly needed. This is but one example of the government acting stupidly without any intelligent rational purpose.

  • Hello. I’m no ;lawyer, but I submit to you that once you physically modify an “agricultural product”, such as drilling evenly spaced holes in a stalk of bamboo to create a flute, it ceases to be an agricultural product, and is now an artifact.

  • Richard Black says:

    This is utterly outrageous. If anyone is launching a collection towards replacement costs (yes, I know it’s more than a question of money, of course) and/or costs of suing the bastards, I’m in.

  • Scott S says:

    Be sure to file a Freedom of Information request to find out what US Customs wrote about this incident. I’ve been trying to get reimbursed for fines I was forced to pay for over two years. Even the customs agent admitted he screwed up but I am still waiting on a response.

  • Barry L. Nix says:

    See the Boston Globe account (posted today) in the link below. The good thing is that this is national news, with a lot of support for Mr. Razgui. It’s not a story that will just disappear. Yes, the answer is that Customs thought they were agricultural products. And no, Mr. Razgui was not present when they destroyed his instruments. As the article states,

    “When his baggage arrived in Boston, the instruments were gone. He was instead given a number to call. “They told me they were destroyed,” he says. “Nobody talked to me. They said I have to write a letter to the Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C. This is horrible. I don’t know what to do. I’ve never written letters to people.””

    Given the last sentence, assuming it is an accurate quote, he needs some help fast. Hopefully, fellow musicians at the Boston Camerata will step up. I feel sure that someone close to him will.


  • V. F. says:

    A heinous and despicable act, carried out by ignorant, clueless people who are responsible for our protection!#? I am very sad for Mr. Razgui’s horrible experience, and for the embarrassing ignorance of these bozos.

    • Anna-Marie says:

      no customs isn’t about protection. They are to limit property from leaving one country and entering another. (stop smuggling and make sure uncle SAM gets taxes)

  • Charles Kulicke says:

    Our Maryland neighborhood is infested with masses of fast- spreading bamboo. Some groves are 25 feet in height. This infestation is a threat to our land and property. It is like a boa constrictor relative to other growths. Winter has no affect on this predator. I could furnish a half a ton of green bamboo to Razgui and no one here would see that it was gone. Where can we go to get assistance for our community in dealing with this menace? Others do not recognize the enormous danger bamboo represents.

    I become a bit suspicious when a number of posters suggest we set up a fund raising site.

    • Steve L says:

      Interesting. I fully support the USDA’s efforts at combating invasive species but I assure you that these instruments are NOT made of green bamboo and they look nothing like the green bamboo I’ve seen. I know and have performed with Boujemaa and I have seen many of his instruments and have two instruments that he made for me and they are dry, hollow and quite dead — except when Boujemaa plays them!

  • Shameful, to deprive a musician of his art form and for what? What excuse could they ever have, these fools should be doing full checks on people before they smash something of irreplaceable value. Boujemaa Razgui, forgive them and don’t be silenced, I await the sounds of your next flute.

  • theod says:

    Customs officials are oft time pathetic thugs who aren’t smart enough to pass the USPO exam. They belong to an agency run amuck with power over The Other.

  • Daryl says:

    Our TSA screeners and many US Customs officers do not really know the rules and examptions. I cannot tell you how many multitools have been thrown away/discarded from me where the agent decided instead of classifying my tool as such, with a folded blade less thant 2 1/2″ long exempt. When I asked for a supervisor to bring the book of exemptions down and make my exception I was told to keep going to the back of the security line and hopefully they would be there when I made my way through. Very passenger service responsive and proactive. Another trip I pulled my insulin pump loose to be hand inspected since scanning devices can and do damage them. I handed it in a little basket to the agent requesting a manual inspection since electronic and magnetic scanners would fry it. The agent promptly stuffed it in the machine saying if it didn’t get scanned, I couldn’t take it and it would be destroyed. Welllll, it was destroyed all right from the machine. It came close to me filing a lawsuit in order to force them to replace my $4500 insulin pump fried by the scanner.

  • Angus says:

    So we expect that all cotton and linen clothing from China and Mexico to be similarly impounded and destroyed. The wooden prefab boards for housing to be destroyed. Flour, dried and fresh fruits?

    It is obviously a massive mistake by the customs agent. Perhaps they need to ensure that not only are they properly trains, but that they are properly supervised. Disputed items should be able to be quarantined. Perhaps some massive punitive fines will make this indolent behemoth change its ways.

    • “So we expect that all cotton and linen clothing from China and Mexico to be similarly impounded and destroyed.”

      No, because the flutes were bamboo. Uncured bamboo can carry any number of very nasty parasites which could wreak havoc on our grasslands.

      Again, not defending the indefensible; I just want the discussion to be based upon fact and logic, and for people to realize that things are rarely all green or all purple.

  • ed says:

    No one is complaining about the raw bamboo that was also there. Under the Customs guidelines that sould have been impounded and destroyed. Yet under the same guidelines, it was clear that the aged flutes should not have been destroyed. So yes, fact and logic are what one needs to apply, and, as you’ve said some things are not green.

  • marc ribot says:

    A fellow musician has been attacked, the tools by which he earns a livelihood destroyed brutally.

    And, rather than a discussion on what action can be taken to support him, we get a parsing of the word ‘contract’?

    You can learn your congressperson’s contact info by googling your zip code + congressperson.

    here’s what i wrote mine. Plse do the same, and encourage everyone you know to follow suite.

    enough blah blah blah.

    Dear Ms Velazquez-

    Boujemaa Razgui- a professional musician- has just had all his flutes smashed by a US Customs official at JFK. He is apparently too demoralized right now to even try to fight.


    But as a fellow travelling musician, i can tell you that we are all sick of harassment in the name of so-called security.

    I suspect in Mr Razgui’s case, the attack was racially motivated as well.

    Please do something: this is just so ugly it makes me sick.

    sincerely, marc ribot

    ps: I don’t know whether Winston Churchill ever actually said, when asked to cut arts funding during WW2: “but if we give up the arts, then what are we fighting for?”. Some say he didn’t.

    But: I’m saying it now.

  • Adriaan says:

    I am not astonished that the main part of your comments seem to be on the legal part of this matter rather than on the human part. I have landed in New Jersey Airport in 1998. The way we were treated by the customs official was such that I would have gladly returned to the plane and flown back to Europe immediately. We stayed in NY for one week. We decided to never return to the US of A. There are really nicer places to visit with more courtious people. Even at the border.

    • What kind of “human” issue is involved here? We Americans understand that artists, by virtue of their “calling,” can do a lot of harm to humanity and should be treated accordingly. Intellectuals too. Especially any sort of provocateur. We can be very creative with the law when we need to stop the provocateurs! Most recently, we’ve learned to put people who engages in deadpan “satire” in jail.

      Our legal officials in New York are particularly adept at this. You think only the Russians do “Pussy Riot”? Our well-trained New York cops tracked down and arrested Essam Attia, who created fake “NYPD drone” ads; they’ll have him in jail soon enough after his “trial.” And our Internet authorities did an excellent job at prosecuting the Dead Sea Scrolls blogger, who sent out “Gmail confessions” in the “name” of a well-connected NYU department chairman. That case is documented here:


      So Mr. Razgui should count himself lucky. He’s not in jail (at least not yet), he just lost a few flutes. You think there’s something wrong with that? Come on, we’re talking about public order here.

  • carolyn says:


    Is bamboo allowed to be imported to the US?

    In general, bamboo that is not thoroughly dried and is therefore still capable of propagation is prohibited entry into the United States.

    Bamboo that is thoroughly dried and split or cut lengthwise (rendering it incapable of propagation) will be inspected upon entry and released.

    Unsplit dried bamboo canes/stakes/poles also are allowed entry into the United States after inspection: however, if the bamboo canes/stakes/poles are intended for garden or nursery use, the shipment must be fumigated (T404-d treatment extended to 24 hours) upon arrival at the U.S. port of entry.

    Bamboo furniture, bamboo cloth, and other manufactured products made of bamboo do not require fumigation and will be released upon inspection.

    For more information on Bamboo products, see Table 3-22 in the APHIS Miscellaneous and Processed Products Manual.

  • Does anyone think that discrimination has gotten out of hand? It seems like anyone with a last name that in the least bit sounds ethnic is subject to scrutiny above and beyond.All this talk of contracts is inane. The man deserves some redress and I imagine that some customs and immigration attorneys are already on it.

    My heart bleeds for this man. It is tantamount to cutting off an artists hands.

  • One would have to be a desperate ideologue to assume that this is in any way the product of political affiliation.

    I suspect we’ll find that this was the act of an officious customs officer who didn’t bother to fully acquaint himself with the law, much the way the electrical inspectors and fire marshals often do not realize that there’s an entire section of the National Electrical Code that applies to theatres.

  • Robert L Johnson says:

    This is exactly what the Tyrants want. Abuse civil liberties until the masses get used to it. They own the media and most of the politicians and they set us to fighting one another. Racially motivated or not the fact is quite simple. A Person had his Private Property rights violated not to mention his civil liberties during this incident. This is nothing more then an act of tyranny pure and simple.

    The creative community of the entire free world needs to be outraged and LOUD. Strike a low for Liberty as an injury to one is an injury to ALL

  • John, the Retired Lawyer says:

    I would assume that Mr. Alistair Hinton knows an awful lot about music. He knows absolutely nothing about the law and his speculations about what legal actions might apply would be humorous if they were not so ignorant. Why not just confine yourself, Mr. Hinton, to offer your moral and monetary support and let the lawyers sort out the legal redress. Or so I would imagine.

    • That’s just it – they are speculations and not intended to be read as anything more. I have clarified that the US Customs actions are so far “alleged”, that Mr Razgui is entitled to file an official written complaint to US Customs, that he is entitled to seek and act upon bona fide legal advice and that he might contemplate taking US Customs to Court over allegedly unwarranted damage to his property; I have also put forward the possibility that, “if” the officials concerned did indeed act as they are alleged to have done and “if” such actions are deemed to be in breach of their contracts of employment, then breach of contract between those agents and their employer will have occurred.

      I do offer my sympathy and moral support. I would of course leavee it to the lawyers to sort out any legal redress; that’s what they – and not I – are paid to do.

      • Virgil Segal says:

        What is your profession Mr. Hinton (not that you must answer).

        Do you advise for hire ?

        Just curious.

        • In answer to your first question, composer / founder and caretaker of The Sorabji Archive.

          In answer to your second, do I advise for hire on what? While I await your clarification on that, it should be clear that the only advice I would give to Mr Razgui in this instance (if this is what you’re asking about) is broadly analogous to that which many other posters here have done, which is to collate all evidence and seek appropriate legal advice as soon as possible with a view to ascertaining whether and how to issue a formal written complaint to US Customs and/or to issue Court proceedings against that organisation.

  • Eja says:

    WWhaatt aan eevil act!!

  • Vann I hear ze vord [agri-]culture I reach for my Browning.

  • Jodell says:

    I am so sorry for the loss suffered by Boujemaa Razgui. I was only made aware of this virtuoso when a friend sent me this article. Secondarily, it is a loss to people like me who have never heard him play those wonderful instruments. While he can make more, that takes time. I also suspect each on had a unique quality which cannot easily be replicated. The US Customs owes Mr. Razgui an apology along with a generous compensation for the loss. While the original instruments can’t be replaced, restitution can help rebuild. From the heart of one would be musician to Mr. Razgui (who has the skill to share his music) I wish you healing and continued opportunities to make music in the world.

    While the possibility for legal recourse is obvious, I find the ego involved thread of comments a distraction from the issue of consoling and supporting this musician. I suspect Mr. Razgui will get guidance on that without faux advice from others. If this “discussion” comes out of a need to feel empowered and do something, perhaps people can follow their hearts….write a letter to your representative, start a petition, pass this article on to others who might be moved to join the cause…..please don’t condemn me for not thinking of all possibilities….and do what feels right to them.

  • Renee Marie Jones says:

    This is the kind of insanity when you give minor officials unlimited power to make and enforce their own laws with no possibility of appeal.

    I understand now that custom’s is claiming that they are protecting the US from invasion by bugs and/or disease. This is obviously a LIE. If you wanted to protect the US you would SEAL the bamboo in some sort of plastic container. Breaking it up just makes it MORE LIKELY that something bad will be released into the environment. Why do we have officials who are so willing to lie like this and why do we let them get away with it?

  • Blissex says:

    Most of the outraged comments above are based what I think is a vast misunderstanding: that people at the USA border have rights, whether arising from contract or other law or the USA constitution.

    Well, without entering in legal details, my undeestanding is that non-USA citizens have essentially no rights at the USA border, and USA citizens perhaps have the right of entry, if they can prove their citizenship after their travel documents proving it have been confiscated and “lost”. People can simply be “disappeared” at the border. If you get in trouble at the USA border in the end the only really effective thing you can do is to get a congressman to intervene on your behalf, if somehow they can be contacted and bothered.

    The status of someone at a USA border post is AFAIK similar to that of someone in Gitmo; any action or inaction by an USA customs official at the border is a concession to the traveller. I think that USA customs officials owe no explanation and need have no rationale for any of their actions or inactions with respect to travellers. Probably USA customs officials know this very well, and overall they are fairly restrained in what they do.

    Please remember that the USA has government that can legally assassinate citizens and non-citizens by executive order, a fact that has likely resulted in hundreds or thousands of assassinations per year, fully endorsed by convincing majorities of voters.

    If it matters to you, ensure you have the advice of specialized licensed lawyers in what your rights are when entering the USA.

    Probably they will tell you that every USA border crossing puts you and anything you have with you in in absolute jeopardy to customs officials with no enforceable right of appeal or redress. If you don’t like that, just don’t cross the border.

    • summitflyer says:

      Blissex ,I try as much as possible not to enter the USA.You are absolutely right,the USA has become a police state,no longer what it was when I was a young man ,living close to the American border.I say this in full knowledge that we ,in Canada , are following in your tracks,especially with our Harper conservatives ,which are close cousins to the neocons in your country.

      “When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty”

    • annebeck58 says:

      Sadly, Blissex, I agree.

      People thought Bush and Cheney were just awful for spying on Americans. But, even Bush knew he could only take it SO FAR. (No, I do not like Bush, either one; knew W when I was in West Texas,and thought him an piggish idiot that long ago, too.)

      So they believed OBAMA when he said life would go back to what it had been, for us, should they (s)elect him. Some of us knew that wasn’t true. But a lot of Americans really thought it would happen.

      I wonder how that’s working for them, now. Some must like it or just not understand it all, because they did (or did they?) re(s)elect him in 12. I’d truly like to live anywhere else at this point.

  • summitflyer says:

    I have just come across this terrible treatment of Mr.Boujemaa Razgui’s treatment and his musical instruments.

    As a Canadian citizen,I have immediately sent an e-mail of protest and concern to the US consulate in Ottawa ,Canada.

    There is an extremely long list of concerned individuals in this forum and if each and every one of us would contact their consulate in their respective countries,this possibly could go a long way in making sure that ,at the very least ,this would not happen again and possibly provide restitution although the instruments could not be easily returned or replicated.

    Best regards to all.

  • Andrew says:

    As a student of music who just lost two of my instruments to a car crash, fault of the other driver, my heart goes out to Razgui. To lose an instrument is to lose a dear, dear friend as well as the means of your livelihood. To lose eleven… must feel like losing a family. And that they were deliberately taken from him in a way that was even remotely ignorant or malicious is far more painful than the freak accident I suffered. To a performer an instrument is a living, breathing companion (in the case of wood, almost literally) who as the channel for our creative energies knows all of our most intimate thoughts, our deepest pains and our highest joys; our search to find or make the instrument that suits our individual in all the necessary ways is so painstaking as to feel like a quest for the Holy Grail. I had just bought one instrument (upright basses, for the record) a week before my crash and was taking the other, my old one, to sell. I was lucky that I found the newer one after 3 months of searching and 10,000 miles of driving – then I had to start all over again. I suspect for Razgui it will be much more difficult finding or making his flutes. Condolences, and good luck!