A lawsuit against a Muskogee County store and gun range has been dismissed after it removed an anti-Muslim sign.
Raja’ee Fatihah, who works for the Oklahoma Department of Human Services and serves in the U.S. Army Reserves, brought the suit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma in Muskogee in 2016, along with the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Oklahoma and the Council on American-Islamic Relations Oklahoma Chapter.
The Oktaha business in July 2015 posted a sign that read: “This privately owned business is a Muslim-free establishment. We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone.”
Fatihah went to the business in October 2015 and was asked to leave after he identified himself as a Muslim, according to the lawsuit.
The defendants, Chad Neal and Nicole Mayhorn Neal, who do business as Save Yourself Survival and Tactical Gun Range, said they removed the sign Dec. 21, 2018. It has been replaced by a sign saying the business is a “terrorist-free establishment” with “the right to refuse service to anyone for safety.” The Neals directed questions Tuesday to their attorney at the American Freedom Law Center.
“We believe that part of the agenda driving this lawsuit is to silence our right to free speech because Mr. Fatihah, CAIR and the ACLU dislike our views on Islam,” the Neals said, according to their attorney, Robert Muise. “We refuse to be gagged, so we did not remove (the “Muslim-free” sign) while this case was proceeding to summary judgment. Our plan was to keep it up past a ruling on summary judgment and then take it down on our terms, which we did.”
Summary judgment was denied Dec. 19, 2018, Muise said.
Fatihah said he was aware of the “Muslim-free” sign before going to the gun range, adding that it was one of the reasons he chose to take his weapons to the business.
Muise said Fatihah identified himself as a member of CAIR and “threatened people, came in with an agenda to create a controversy. … That’s why he specifically was denied in 2015, and that’s why he’s denied today,” Muise said of Fatihah not being welcome at Save Yourself Survival.
The lawsuit was dismissed with prejudice, Muise said, which means it cannot be refiled.
“They knew CAIR would be put on trial, and they knew they were gonna lose that trial,” Muise told the Tulsa World on Tuesday. “(Fatihah’s) association with CAIR and CAIR’s association with terrorism was the basis for declining service.”
CAIR is considered by the United Arab Emirates as a terrorist organization, but the U.S. government has not issued such a declaration. In 2008, the FBI ended contacts with CAIR because of concern about its continuing terrorist ties. In 2013, the U.S. Department of Justice issued a memo stating the FBI policy was not being followed consistently.
“Once the gun range agreed that they were no longer going to discriminate based on religion, we felt like we got the outcome we were looking for. It was about religious discrimination,” Veronica Laizure of CAIR Oklahoma said of the decision to dismiss the lawsuit.
“If they feel that CAIR is a terrorist organization, they’re allowed to feel that way. We’re going to keep doing what we’re doing,” Laizure said. “The reputation of CAIR Oklahoma is standing for religious freedom and religious rights. Our work speaks for itself.”