The federal government is suing NCL America on behalf of six Muslim men who worked aboard a cruise ship in Hawaii and were fired apparently because their ethnicity gave rise to suspicions they were terrorists.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Honolulu by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, is the first case in Hawaii of what is sometimes known as “9/11 backlash” but is one of more than 1,000 cases nationwide in which employers are accused of discriminating against people who are or believed to be Muslim, Arab, Afghani, Middle Eastern or South Asian descent.

“These cases are important because they show that Hawaii employers are not immune from some of same issues that we see on the Mainland with respect to fears and stereotypes of certain communities and certain groups of people, in this case Muslims and those of Middle Eastern descent, after Sept. 11,” said Timothy Riera, director of the EEOC’s Honolulu office. “This is a huge impact case, not just here, but nationally.”

The men, who were fired from their jobs on the Pride of Aloha in July 2004 when it was docked at Maui, took their case to the EEOC. The agency investigated and found that NCL had violated their civil rights, as well as the rights of a seventh Muslim crew member who quit. The agency filed suit against the cruise line last Aug. 22.

According to the EEOC, the incident that triggered the firings occurred when one of the Muslim men asked another crew member about the location of the ship’s security office, engine room and bridge.


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