Monday, September 25, 2023

Muslim mayor sues U.S. government following disinvitation to White House event

Mr Khairullah, who organised a press conference on Monday, recounted the events that led to his being placed on the terror list.

• September 18, 2023
Mohamed Khairullah
Mohamed Khairullah [Photo: northjersey]

Mohamed Khairullah, a Muslim American mayor, and 11 other Muslim faithful have filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government at a federal court in Boston, alleging that they are still being victimised despite having their names removed from the terror blacklist.

The lawsuit was filed just a few weeks after Mr Khairullah’s invitation to an Eid gathering at the White House was abruptly and unexplainably rescinded in May.

Mr. Khairullah, a two-term mayor of Prospect Park in New Jersey, claimed he learned of his exclusion from the White House Muslim celebration shortly before the event.

“As we stated in the past, we were not able to grant entry to the Mayor at the White House and we regret any inconvenience that may have caused,” the security agency told VOA.

Although the Secret Service did not say why they revoked his invitation, Mr Khairullah surmised he was disinvited because his name had previously appeared on the terror list between 2019 and 2022.

“After approximately August 2022, after Defendants removed Mr Khairullah from the watchlist, they continued — and continue, to this day — to retain records of his past watchlist status and use them to harm and stigmatise him,” reads the lawsuit filed by Muslim Advocacy group, Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and listed the mayor and 11 other Muslims as plaintiffs.

29 defendants, including the Secret Service, the FBI, Customs and Border Protection were named in the lawsuit which claimed the plaintiffs suffered victimisation because of their religion and said it was the sole reason they had been placed on the terror list.

“All of them have been placed on the federal watchlist even though they have never been investigated or convicted of a terrorism-related crime and even though the federal government has no reason to suspect that they’re terrorists except for their Muslim faith, their Muslim sounding names, their countries of origin from Muslim-majority countries and other markers of their identity as Muslims,” CAIR lawyer Hannah Mullen told VOA.

Mr Khairullah, who organised a press conference on Monday, recounted the events that led to his being placed on the terror list. He explained that his 2019 trip to his home country, Syria, to chronicle the horrifying maladministration of Bashar Assad who clung to power, earned him a spot on the terror list.

Even though his name was eventually taken off the list, the mayor claimed that life had not yet returned to normal for him and that if he remained silent, his children would probably suffer the same fate.

“If I don’t do something now, my children and their children will probably be second-class citizens based on their ethnic and religious background,” Mr Khairullah said on Monday.

The CAIR lawyer noted that Mr Khairullah “is certainly not the only person in this circumstance, and he’s certainly not the only person of which we’re aware who appears to have been harmed by past watchlist status.”

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