A US Army veteran and reservist is suing a gun range in Oklahoma that declared itself "Muslim-free" last summer, after the owners refused to allow him to use the facility and accused him of planning to murder them as an act of "jihad," according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday.
The news of the lawsuit against Save Yourself Survival and Tactical Gun Range in the town of Oktaha was first reported by the local Fox affiliate. Plaintiff Tulsan Raja'ee Fatihah is joined in the suit by the Oklahoma chapters of the American Civil Liberties Union and the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Fatihah is a member of CAIR Oklahoma's board.
Fatihah alleges in the suit that he visited the gun range in October of 2015, three months after owners Chad and Nicole Neal posted a sign saying they would not serve any Muslim customers.
According to the lawsuit, Fatihah entered the gun range and was asked to sign a liability form before he could begin shooting. After filling out the paperwork, Fatihah told Nicole Neal that he was a Muslim, at which point she called her husband over. The suit alleges that both Neals then "armed themselves with handguns" and asked whether he was there to commit violence or murder them under "Sharia law."
The lawsuit goes on to say that the Neals then told Fatihah that he would have to fill out a membership application and get approval — a process his attorneys say was not required "of non-Muslim patrons" — before being asked to leave.
Just a month later, the Save Yourself Survival and Tactical Gun Range posted this to their Facebook page:
Reached Wednesday, Chad Neal said that he was not going to make any comment on the lawsuit but referred VICE News to his lawyer Robert Muise, an attorney with the American Freedom Law Center. The AFLC is described on its website as a "nonprofit Judeo-Christian law firm that fights for faith and freedom through litigation, education, and public policy initiatives."
Reached by phone Wednesday, Muise told VICE News that the Neals' refusal to serve Fatihah had "nothing to do with religious discrimination, it has everything to do with public safety." Muise said that Fatihah showed up to the outdoor gun range with an AK-47 and a side arm and asked to be allowed to shoot in the "pouring rain" when "nobody in their right mind would be shooting."
"He was confrontational with my client," Muise said, adding that he was retained by the Neals on Tuesday and that he has not yet had a chance to review the complaint filed this afternoon.
Muise noted that the Neals discovered Fatihah's affiliation with CAIR after conducting a background check on him, and accused the group of helping to fund terrorism. CAIR has previously been accused of having ties to terrorist organizations, but neither the George W. Bush nor Obama administrations have brought charges against the council. CAIR categorically denies those allegations.
Asked about the allegation that Fatihah was carrying an AK-47 and a sidearm when he approached the Neals, Veronica Laizure, CAIR Oklahoma's civil rights director, declined to comment, pointing to VICE News to the lawsuit filed Wednesday, which does not make reference to any weapons Fatihah might have been carrying. Any additional facts of the case will have to be brought up in court, she added.
Other state chapters for CAIR have targeted gun ranges across the country with similar anti-Islamic policies, including one in Florida last year. In that case, CAIR sued the owner of Florida Gun Supply, who was also represented by Muise, after he declared his business a "Muslim-free zone". The Florida suit was dismissed by a judge in November who argued that CAIR had failed to prove that any individuals had been harmed by the policy.
This case is different, however, Laizure said Wednesday, given that CAIR now has a complaining plaintiff in Fatihah, who is a board member of the group's Oklahoma chapter.
"[Fatihah] obviously showed up there with an agenda," Muise said, noting his ties to CAIR.
Asked whether Fatihah had intentionally gone to the gun range in order to bolster potential legal action against the Neals, Laizure said that Fatihah went there of his own volition.
Fatihah told CAIR in advance that he planned to go to the gun range to try to open up a dialogue with the owners as a Muslim man.
"His intention in going to the gun range was to introduce himself to the owner," Laizure said, adding that the group told him that they "were prepared to support him" should the introduction end poorly.
"Really, you know he's a brave young man — he took it upon himself," she added.
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