Malaysian flag mistaken for Islamic State symbols in the US leads to lawsuit
Petaling Jaya, Malaysia - A Malaysian engineer has sued an employee’s association in Kansas city for what he described as racial profiling and blatant religious discrimination after Americans thought Malaysian flag was an American flag desecrated with Islamic State (IS) symbols.
Munir Zanial had the Kansas chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), a civil advocacy organisation, filed a lawsuit on his behalf. The organisation described it as “an act of egregious racial profiling and blatant religious discrimination”.
The Malaysian flag in question was used at a party at a lake in the city of Wichita in Kansas last September.
The owners of the property, the Spirit Boeing Employees’ Association (SBEA), had filed a complaint with the employers of engineer Munir, who organised the party.
They alleged that Munir and his guests were in possession of an IS flag and were conducting an IS meeting on SBEA property.
“On September 2, 2017, Mr Zanial [Munir] hosted a party to celebrate Eid al-Adha at the SBEA Recreational Lake in Wichita, Kansas,” the ACLU said in its suit.
“Following the party, SBEA reported Mr Zanial to the Spirit Aerosystems security team based on a concern that Mr Zanial was affiliated with radical Islamic terrorism and alleged that he had used the SBEA lake to hold an ISIS meeting.
“SBEA alleged that Mr Zanial and his guests had an American flag that had been ‘desecrated by ISIS insignia’ and were wearing ‘Muslim garb’,” it said.
Munir’s own employers, Spirit Aerosystems, subsequently filed a complaint with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
While the FBI cleared the aerospace engineer in October 2017, SBEA hired a private investigator to continue looking into the incident and terminated Munir’s rental benefits.
That action led to the ACLU filing a federal lawsuit on March 18 against the SBEA for racial profiling and religious discrimination against Munir, a duesขpaying member of the association.
“At no point in time did the SBEA personally discuss the allegations with Zanial before terminating those benefits, and he was not notified of the termination until he again tried to reserve the recreational facilities at a later date.
“The ordeal has caused Zanial to experience a great deal of stress and anxiety.
“He is concerned that the investigation could affect his lawful permanent resident status and feels distress and humiliation based on this experience of being singled out because of his ethnicity, race and religion,” the ACLU said in a statement on its website.
Munir has resided in Wichita, Kansas with his wife and two young children since 2011.
Local media in the state of Kansas as well as The New York Times have reported on the lawsuit.
According to the statement of facts in the ACLU’s filing, the party was attended by approximately 45 guests, the majority of whom were Malaysians of Indian ancestry.
Several of Munir’s female guests, including his wife, wore hijab. The party was held to celebrate a Muslim celebration and Malaysian independence day.
Munir earned a master’s degree in aerospace engineering from Wichita State University and completed a work-study programme at the National Institute for Aviation Research.