ACLU of Oklahoma and CAIR-OK Sue 'Muslim Free' Business on Behalf of U.S. Army Reserve Member Denied Service
Lawsuit Seeks Equal Access to Public Accommodations for Oklahomans of All Faiths
MUSKOGEE, Okla. - The American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma, the national ACLU, and the Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations filed a federal lawsuit today on behalf of a Muslim American U.S. Army Reserve member who was denied patronage at a recreational gun range near Tulsa as a result of the business’s discriminatory anti-Muslim policy.
The ACLU of Oklahoma, ACLU and CAIR-OK 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 after he identified himself as Muslim.
“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 “No Muslims” or “No Coloreds,” it is just as un-American, and just as wrong.”
The lawsuit alleges that the policy violates Oklahoma’s non-discrimination law as well as the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which forbids certain places of business from denying service to customers based on their race, color, religion, or national origin. Although the business is open to the general public, in July 2015, the owners posted a sign near the front entrance announcing that Muslims are not permitted at the facility and that the business is a “Muslim free establishment.”
“There is no justification for a business denying people service based on religion,” said 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.”
When Fatihah arrived at the business’s main counter, owners required him 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. However, after Fatihah identified himself as a Muslim, the owners armed themselves with handguns and demanded to know whether he was there to “commit an act of violence or as part of a ‘jihad.’” Fatihah was then made to leave the gun range without receiving service.
“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 business’s decision to deny service to Muslims is just the latest in a series of incidents in which Muslims in Oklahoma and across the country have been the targets of discrimination and violence. 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 hateful rhetoric from some elected officials, and documented a vast increase in anti-Muslim discrimination.
“Turning away customers simply because of their faith is blatantly unlawful and dishonors our nation’s grand commitment to religious freedom and equality,” said Daniel Mach, director of the ACLU’s Program on the Freedom of Religion and Belief.
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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.