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Lawsuit Targets US Government Officials Over Alleged Discriminatory Watchlist

Twelve Muslim Americans, including Prospect Park, New Jersey Mayor Mohamed Khairullah, haveiled a lawsuit against top government officials, including Attorney General Merrick Garland and FBI Director Christopher Wray. The suit alleges that they have been wrongfully placed on a secretive FBI watchlist, which they argue effectively functions as a "de facto Muslim registry."

Photo COurtesy: TRT World

Addressing reporters at the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) advocacy group's headquarters in Washington, D.C., staff attorney Hannah Mullen stated that the plaintiffs believe they were included in the watchlist due to vague and discriminatory criteria. Mullen emphasized that over 98 percent of the leaked watchlist names in 2019 were identifiable as Muslim, suggesting intentional bias.

"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. None of our clients have ever been indicted or convicted of a terrorism-related crime," Mullen added.

According to CAIR, the remaining 1-2 percent of names on the list are individuals convicted of terrorist acts, including the 1995 sarin bombing in Tokyo, Colombian revolutionaries, and an Irish Republican Army bomber.

The plaintiffs argue that being on this watchlist has led to a range of negative consequences, including public humiliation, increased surveillance, travel harassment, job denials, and even virtual exclusion from the United States. Mayor Khairullah, who was disinvited from a White House Eid celebration in May, stated that he has not received official notification regarding his inclusion or removal from the list. He emphasized the wider impact, stating, "It violates my constitutional right as an American to due process because there are people out there who think I'm a bad person."

The plaintiffs seek to challenge the practices surrounding this watchlist, contending that the standards for inclusion are overly broad and discriminatory. They maintain that individuals are targeted based on their Muslim identity and practices, as well as travel history to Muslim-majority countries.

This lawsuit highlights significant concerns about civil liberties, due process, and potential discrimination based on religious and ethnic identity. The plaintiffs are pushing for a reevaluation of the procedures surrounding this watchlist and are calling for the government to clear their names and address the alleged harassment and intimidation they have faced.

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