The Council on American–Islamic Relations (CAIR) is suing the FBI, in an attempt to put an end to the use of a secret watchlist that almost exclusively targets Muslims for scrutiny when they travel.
The lawsuit was filed by CAIR, a Muslim advocacy group, against 29 federal agencies, including the Justice Department, the FBI, the Secret Service, Customs and Border Protection, and the Transportation Security Administration.
During a press conference held at the CAIR’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., Hannah Mullen, a staff attorney, asserted that the watchlist is used to target and discriminate against Muslims.
“The federal government considers the very fact of being Muslim to be suspicious and puts people on the watchlist as a result of their Muslim identity, Islamic religious beliefs, Islamic religious practices, travel to Muslim majority countries, and other discriminatory factors,” Mullen said.
“None of our clients have ever been indicted or convicted of a terrorism-related crime,” she added.
The so-called terror watchlist, which was placed online by a Swiss hacker in January, includes more than 1.5 million entries the government calls “known or suspected terrorists.”
The list, which was from 2019 showed that the FBI was disproportionately targeting the Muslim community as it contained mostly Muslim and Arab names.
Dina Sayedahmed, the communications manager at the New Jersey chapter of CAIR, said at the press conference in Newark, New Jersey, on Monday that Muslims in the US are treated as “second-class citizens.”
“The result [of such a list] is that innocent people can languish on the watchlist indefinitely without real recourse. Muslims are told over and over that they need to integrate into American society, which they have been doing,” she said.
“But at the end of the day, they are still regarded in some ways as second-class citizens and denied due process. Muslims are a growing presence here in the US, but they still face negative consequences and they still face negative views from the public.”
A longtime New Jersey mayor is also among a dozen Muslim Americans who have sued the United States Justice Department in an attempt to terminate its use of the covert FBI watchlist.
Khairullah had been extended an invitation to attend a White House Eid celebration with President Joe Biden, yet was subsequently denied entry by the Secret Service.
No explanation was provided for this decision. It was later discovered that Khairullah’s name had been added to the no-fly list.
“I call upon federal agencies to get rid of this racist list that contains mostly Arabic and Muslim names,” he said at a press conference on Monday.
“Let’s eliminate the hunches and for sure let’s eliminate the profiling. Let’s create a system that truly guarantees for all Americans that they are indeed living in one nation.”
Muslims have long fought against the use of the no-fly list, as it deprives people of their ability to travel while also being denied jobs, security clearance, US citizenship, and other government benefits.
Muslims who contested the constitutionality of the “no-fly list” were subsequently eliminated from it following their legal action against the government. This has raised apprehensions that the program wants to evade legal scrutiny.