Last updated on April 19, 2014 at 21:20 EDT

CAIR Asks Sec. Clinton to Allow U.S. Citizen to Return from Libya

February 3, 2012

Oregon businessman barred from flight, questioned by FBI about religious beliefs

WASHINGTON, Feb. 3, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — A prominent national Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization today called on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to intervene in the case of a American citizen of Libyan origin barred from returning to the United States and interrogated by the FBI about his religious beliefs, including his belief in “Shariah” (Islamic principles).

The Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said Jamal Tarhuni, a 55-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen who lives in Portland, Ore., was denied boarding for a flight to the United States in January when he tried to return home from Libya. He was reportedly told that an “unspecified federal agency” wanted to interview him.

Tarhuni said he was questioned by the FBI on January 23 about his religious beliefs and about his work overseeing delivery of relief supplies sent to Libya by a Portland-based Christian non-profit group. His daughter told msnbc.com that FBI agents asked her father whether he practiced “Shariah law.”

The msnbc.com report noted: “The question about Shariah law was especially tricky. To Tarhuni, an observant Muslim, Shariah means a set of rules for praying, marrying, parenting and generally conducting a good life, which would be a subject for discussion at any mosque, but not — as some people interpret it — as a set of rigid and punitive rules that Muslims are obliged to impose on others.”

Tarhuni said he agreed to take a lie-detector test, but changed his mind when an FBI agent asked him to sign a waiver of his constitutional rights.

SEE: American Aid Worker in Libya: US Bars My Return (MSNBC)

It a letter sent today to Secretary Clinton, CAIR Staff Attorney Gadeir Abbas wrote in part:

“An inquiry into whether Mr. Tarhuni practices ‘Shariah Law’ — a term that refers to the religious traditions of Islam — is not relevant. Mr. Tarhuni’s religious beliefs and practices are simply not a lawful basis upon which to deny him his fundamental right to return to the United States.

“This incident raises broader concerns that the anti-Muslim training given to FBI agents and other law enforcement personnel in recent years is having an effect on the actions agents are taking in the field. It is counterproductive and unconstitutional for FBI agents to equate belief in Islam with a propensity to commit acts of violence — as they seem to have done with Mr. Tarhuni. . .

“Whatever questions American officials have for Mr. Tarhuni, no one should be barred from his or her country of citizenship without so much as a court hearing. It is immoral and unlawful for the United States to separate an American citizen from his children, his family and his country.”

Abbas noted that, following recent revelations that law enforcement and military personnel received biased training about Islam and Muslims, CAIR called for a “top to bottom” reform of that training.

CAIR: DOJ Analyst Claims Muslims Threaten ‘Our Values’

Last year, CAIR filed a lawsuit against the Department of Justice and the FBI seeking a court order that would allow a Virginia Muslim teenager detained in Kuwait and placed on a U.S. government “no-fly” list to return to the United States.

CAIR: Va. Muslim on No-Fly List Returning to U.S.

CAIR Complaint for Injunctive and Declaratory Relief

CAIR has assisted a number of other American Muslim citizens who have been stranded overseas by government actions.

CAIR: Embassy Returns Passport to U.S. Muslim Stuck in Kuwait

CAIR Video: FBI Prevents Va. Muslim from Returning to U.S.

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 Staff Attorney Gadeir Abbas, 720-251-0425, E-Mail: gabbas@cair.com; CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-744-7726, E-Mail: ihooper@cair.com; CAIR Communications Coordinator Amina Rubin, 202-488-8787, 202-341-4171, E-Mail: arubin@cair.com

SOURCE Council on American-Islamic Relations

Source: PR Newswire