Paralyzed Arab American put on ‘No Fly List’ without explanation
By Natasha Dado
Friday, 11.16.2012, 06:42pm
DEARBORN — The law firm of Ayad and Associates has brought a federal lawsuit against the FBI, U.S. Department of Justice and the Terrorist Screening Center in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan on behalf of an Arab American who’s a U.S. citizen, and being denied access to leave the country by plane.
Jamal Rizk of Dearborn Heights is the father of five children, and while he says his background is void of any criminal history, the U.S. Terrorist Screening Center has placed him on the ‘No Fly List’ without providing him with any explanation of why he’s a threat to national security.
Rizk’s case is similar to countless of other Arab and Muslim Americans’ who say they have no connection to terrorist groups and have never violated the law, but are placed on the ‘No Fly List’, or have been stopped and interrogated while trying to travel without reasonable explanation.
Rizk has made an attempt to fly to his native country of Lebanon for surgery addressing his paralysis, but was prevented from flying by federal authorities creating great personal hardship that has left him without the chance to receive the medical procedure he was going to get in Lebanon. Rizk’s doctor told him the procedure couldn’t be conducted in the United States.
On Thursday a press conference took place at the Arab American Civil Rights League office here with Rizk’s attorneys present. Rizk is 54-years-old, paralyzed from the chest down and is permanently confined to a wheel chair, which already makes traveling difficult.
The lawsuit is challenging the government’s no fly policy, and the obstacles Arab and Muslim Americans are often subjected to while traveling. Attorney Nabih Ayad, the founder and chairman of the ACRL says there are about 400,000 people on the ‘No Fly List’ and a significant number of them may be Arab Americans.
Perhaps the most troubling aspect of Rizk’s case and others similar to it, is that too often people stopped by federal agents while traveling aren’t provided with a sufficient reason why.
“This is kind of a blueprint of what’s been going on in the Arab American community…What’s happening to individuals such as Mr. Rizk is very prevalent around the entire region. Mr. Rizk is not the only client we have that’s had to deal with this kind of situation,” Ayad said.
Dawud Walid, executive Director of the Council on American Islamic Relations of Michigan says the group is urging the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama to take action in order to stop the racial profiling of minorities and discriminatory practices brought against them in recent years.
Walid says since Obama took office racial profiling has increased drastically in the country.
Rizk and other Arab and Muslim Americans have been asked the following questions by agents of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security while traveling: whether they are Sunni or Shia Muslims?; what Mosque they pray at; if they love the United States; who is the Imam of their mosque, whether they’ve contributed to political groups and who they’re affiliated with in Dearborn.
Ayad joined Rizk as he went to the airport earlier this month, and says he witnessed the “discrimination and hostility” he had to endure there. Ayad says law enforcement officials were called without Rizk being notified of what was wrong.
Rizk has been in the United States since 1978. He was working at a gas station and was shot, and later became paralyzed as a result of that tragic incident.
“We have concerns about this. There are prominent businesspeople and members of our community who’re being subjected to this. It’s very concerning and upsetting to this community. We will not be treated as second-class citizens and we refuse to be treated as second-class citizens,” Ayad said.
The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) filed earlier this year a federal lawsuit against U.S. CBP, and the FBI over the repeated detention of Muslims for their religious beliefs and practices by federal agents inside the U.S. and at border crossing with Canada, a concern that continue to be ignored by the agencies that so far hasn’t responded to the complaint. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of American citizens who reported that CBP and FBI agents detained and handcuffed them without evidence of wrongdoing and questioned them about their religious beliefs and worship habits. The suit claims that the four plaintiffs first amendment rights were violated.
Mohamed Rizk, (Jamal’s son) says his dad has done nothing to be considered a threat to national security and prevented from flying.
He says his father was also asked whether he’s received military training, and that the whole incident has taken a toll on his family. “It saddens me to see my own government doing this,” Mohamed said.