A Porter County Muslim couple is suing a Lake County police officer and his department, claiming defamation and harassment.

Basit and Ayesha Syed contend the officer called them “terrorists” and spied on their home.

In a federal civil lawsuit filed Wednesday, the Syeds say Lake County police Officer Michael Hamady sullied their names in the community and intentionally caused them emotional distress.

Sheriff’s Department attorney John Kopack said the Syeds’ claims do not appear to be justified, based on his first look at the lawsuit.

The couple made local headlines in 2005 after Ayesha Syed gave a presentation about the Muslim faith at Porter Lakes Elementary School in Hebron that provoked an angry public response.

The Syeds said the presentation was intended to educate the public about their customs, including the wearing of traditional head scarves. Critics complained that Islamic faith seemed to be seeping into the public school system.

At the time, Hamady warned that the Syeds’ license plates raised a “red flag” in an FBI database, though the FBI eventually said the warning was a database error stemming from someone else with a similar name, news articles said.

The lawsuit says Hamady continued his surveillance of the Syeds. Although they complained to the county, Hamady was subsequently promoted. Kopack said the surveillance was done off duty.

“Because of their culture and ethnicity, these folks have suffered quite a bit of derision in the community because Hamady made them out to be terrorists,” attorney Janice Gambill said Thursday.


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