Lawsuit seeks equal access to public accommodations for Oklahomans of all faiths
(MUSKOGEE, OK, 2/17/2016) – The Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations Oklahoma (CAIR-OK), the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma (ACLU of OK) and the national ACLU today filed a lawsuit on behalf of an American Muslim U.S. Army Reserve member who was denied patronage at a recreational gun range near Tulsa as a result of the business's discriminatory â€œMuslim-Freeâ€ policy.
CAIR-OK and the ACLU of Oklahoma sued the owners of the Save Yourself Survival and Tactical Gun Range on behalf of Raja'ee Fatihah, who shoots to maintain proficiency in marksmanship and was refused service in October 2015 once he identified himself as a Muslim.
“For an establishment to ban someone based on their religion isn't just reprehensible – it's against the law,” said Veronica Laizure, Civil Rights Director for CAIR-OK. “We hope that these owners and others around the country will comply with civil rights law and stop refusing service to customers in this manner.”
The lawsuit claims that the policy violates Oklahoma's non-discrimination law as well as the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a landmark piece of federal legislation that forbids a place of business from denying service to customers based on their race, religion, or national origin.
“This case is not just about defending the rights of Muslim-Americans, it's about fundamental fairness and freedom,” said Brady Henderson, Legal Director at ACLU of Oklahoma. “Religious segregation no more belongs in today's America than racial segregation. Whether a sign reads â€˜No Muslimsâ€™ or â€˜No Coloreds,â€™ it is just as un-American, and just as wrong.”
Although the gun range uses commercial signage to advertise its service to the general public, owners posted a sign near the front entry in July 2015 announcing that Muslims are not permitted at the facility, and that the business is a “Muslim free establishment. We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone.”
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Upon his arrival at the business's main counter, the owners required Fatihah to fill out a liability form and provide his name, address and driver's license number – standard procedure for patrons seeking to use the gun range's facilities. Fatihah complied with these instructions and was not asked for any further information. It was not until identified himself as Muslim shortly thereafter that the owners armed themselves with handguns and asked if he was at the gun range to “commit an act of violence or as part of a 'jihad.'” He was then made to leave the gun range without receiving service.
“There is no justification for a business denying people service based on religion,” said Raja'ee Fatihah. “I am a servant of my community in every respect and as a proud American I have enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserve to protect this country. I should be afforded the same rights and privileges as anyone else.”
In the last year, CAIR has documented an increasing amount of anti-Muslim hate crimes targeting both individuals and institutions in the United States that come as a direct result of an increase in Islamophobic rhetoric.
In the last five years in Oklahoma, the Muslim community has been subjected to unconstitutional anti-Muslim legislation, witnessed a sharp uptick in Islamophobic rhetoric from some elected officials, and documented a vast increase in anti-Muslim discrimination.
Last year, CAIRâ€™s national office called on the U.S. Department of Justice to address the growing number of businesses nationwide that have been declared a â€œMuslim-free zone.â€ CAIR said that such declarations came from businesses in New York, Kentucky, Florida, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and New Hampshire.
CAIR is America's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.
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CONTACT: CAIR-OK Civil Rights Director Veronica Laziure, 405-430-9877, email@example.com; CAIR-OK Executive Director Adam Soltani, 405-248-5853, firstname.lastname@example.org; CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-744-7726, email@example.com; Crystal Cooper, ACLU national, 212-519-7894, firstname.lastname@example.org