When I went to the Save Yourself Survival and Tactical Gun Range last October, I wasn’t looking for any trouble. As an active Army reservist, I shoot regularly to maintain my proficiency in marksmanship. Like the proud Oklahomans of various faiths, I also enjoy it as a hobby that has nothing to do with my religion. When I got to the counter, I signed the waiver and was preparing to pay my fee as part of standard procedure. But the transaction was never completed because as soon as I identified myself as Muslim, things took a frightening turn.
He explained to them that he was not there to do any harm, but because they learned he believes in Islam, they denied him entry into the gun range.
The ACLU of Oklahoma, the National ACLU, and the OK chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations has filed a lawsuit:
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.”
I’m glad that these three groups are supporting Fatihah and the rights of American Muslims. I’m especially happy that the American Civil Liberties Union is taking this case. Similar organizations might have been hesitant to fight a legal battle for anything related to guns. But this is the right thing to do. Regardless of one’s personal opinions on guns and shooting ranges, if it’s a legal business and open to customers, it’s unfair and illogical to deny someone entry for identifying as Muslim. I’m no fan of Islam, but that doesn’t mean I believe that anyone who believes in it is automatically dangerous. I do not assume to know one’s personality simply based on that label.
This incident is Islamophobia. We hear people throw that term out against people who criticize the religion so much that some people start thinking the word has no meaning. When it’s used against someone criticizing a belief, that’s unfounded. But this is a case where a person was assumed to be dangerous simply because he is Muslim. That is Islamophobia. Or was Save Yourself Survival and Tactical Gun Range really scared? If they believe all Muslims to be dangerous, would putting a “Muslim free establishment” sign be a smart idea? Perhaps they want to show their hate to those with a different belief system than their own and use their power to punish them. Either way, it’s bigoted and it’s illegal.