Muslim American Ahmad Chebli is 32 years old and resides in Michigan — and is suing the United States government. According to Chebli, he was approached by an FBI agent who attempted to recruit his help to track other Muslim Americans who might wish to attack or betray the United States. The agent was apparently interested in his Lebanese ethnicity and language skills. Chebli denied each request.
According to the lawsuit Chebli filed, he was wrongly placed on a no-fly list because of these interactions. The American Civil Liberties Union represents his interests.
This isn’t the first time that a Muslim American citizen has been placed on a restricted or no-fly list simply for refusing to help the FBI. A 2020 Supreme Court case resulted in a ruling that allowed three other men to sue the FBI after the same thing happened to them — and notably, the verdict was unanimous.
Director of ACLU National Security Project Hina Shamsi said, “The no-fly list is a particularly problematic part of a vast watchlisting system that can unfairly stigmatize people as terrorism suspects. Ahmad’s story and what happened to him shows how the government uses the no-fly list abusively, especially against Muslims in violation of due process and in Ahmad’s case, also in violation of the First Amendment and his religious freedom rights.”
After the meeting with FBI agents, Chebli became fearful for retaliation and put his family on a plane to Lebanon. What followed was nothing short of harassment. The FBI routinely asked for more information on his beliefs and whereabouts.
Chebli wrote, “It’s hard to fully describe my inner turmoil after that meeting. As a Muslim in America, I know from firsthand experience that our government too often views us with discriminatory suspicion. But it’s different when FBI agents sit across a table from you, with all the power of the government behind them, accusing you of things you have never done and would never do. I was scared, and I was especially scared for my family’s safety.”