A Muslim man from Malaysia whose celebration of his country’s independence was reported to the FBI as an ISIS meeting has filed a discrimination lawsuit.
Munir Zanial, an aerospace engineer at Spirit Aerosystems, rented a recreational lake operated by the Spirit Boeing Employees’ Association (SBEA) in September to celebrate Malaysia’s Independence Day and the end of Ramadan.
As such, most of the 45 guests during the party in Wichita, Kansas, were Muslims, with women wearing hijabs. They also took photos with a Malaysian flag.
However, an SBEA employee described as a ranger complained about the gathering, telling the association of a “group dressed in Muslim garb” and “an American flag desecrated with ISIS symbols.”
SBEA reported the information to Spirit, which then reported to the FBI, according to The Kansas City Star.
By October, Zanial received a Facebook notification informing that authorities were seeking information from his account. Soon, he received a call from an FBI agent.
As it turned out, the agent determined that the “American flag desecrated with ISIS symbols” was, in fact, a Malaysian flag. The investigation was closed.
However, Zanial learned in January that his membership had been restricted. He was specifically banned from renting the same facility due to the previous function.
Zanial, a Malaysian national of Indian ancestry, started worrying about other ramifications.
On March 16, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a federal lawsuit against SBEA on his behalf, alleging that he was discriminated based on race, ethnicity and religion.
“Mr. Zanial continues to experience stress and anxiety relating to the FBI investigation. He is concerned that the investigation could affect his lawful permanent resident status. He also feels distress and humiliation based on this experience of being singled-out because of his ethnicity, race, and religion,” the lawsuit stated.
“He was in a situation where he was celebrating the end of Ramadan and the 60th anniversary of Malaysian independence, there was absolutely no basis for assuming anything negative was going on in broad daylight at the SBEA’s lake,” Lauren Bonds, legal director at ACLU, said, according to The Wichita Eagle.
“It’s just illogical how something so small snowballed into this and the only way you can explain this is prejudice and discrimination.”