A U.S. Army reservist sued the owners of an Oklahoma gun range that calls itself a "Muslim-free" establishment and turned him away when he identified himself as Muslim. It's the latest in a series of cases across the U.S. alleging anti-Islamic discrimination.
The lawsuit on behalf of 29-year-old Raja'ee Fatihah, an employee with the Oklahoma Department of Human Services, was filed Wednesday against the owners of Save Yourself Survival and Tactical Gun Range in the small town of Oktaha.
A sign posted on the business declared the range "Muslim-free," and is similar to signs that have been placed at businesses in Florida, Arkansas, Kentucky and New York, said Brady Henderson, legal director the Oklahoma chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed the suit.
Similar case dismissed in Florida
"Whether the sign in question says 'No Muslims' or whether it says `No coloreds' or whether it says 'No women' or 'No Christians' or 'No Buddhists' ... it is just as un-American and fundamentally it is just as wrong," Henderson said.
Fatihah, who is a board member with the Oklahoma chapters of Muslim advocacy group Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), said he went to the gun range after learning about the sign. He said the owners of the store were pleasant and welcoming until he told them he was Muslim.
"At that point, they started treating me with suspicion," Fatihah said.
A similar lawsuit was filed by CAIR last year against a gun shop in Florida, but that case was dismissed by a federal judge who determined CAIR could not prove its members were harmed by the store's Muslim-free policy, Henderson said.
Robert Muise, with the American Freedom Law Center, represented the Florida gun shop owner and now is working for Chad Neal, the owner of the Oklahoma gun range.
Sign is 'free speech'
Muise said Fatihah was denied service because he was belligerent, not because of his religion, and that the "Muslim-free" sign on the business is protected free speech.
"The only thing the law prohibits is if somebody denies services strictly on the basis of religion, and that didn't happen here," Muise said.
Fatihah denies that he acted belligerently.
Claims of discrimination by business owners against Muslims have been reported in numerous states, and formal complaints have been filed with the U.S. Department of Justice regarding incidents in Arkansas, Florida and New Hampshire, said CAIR's national director Ibrahim Hooper.
"It's one of those issues that's tied to the overall rise of anti-Muslim bigotry in our society," Hooper said.
Justice spokeswoman Dena Iverson declined to comment Wednesday on the status of the complaints.