Owners of an Oklahoma gun range turned away a Muslim man, who is now suing to protest what he says is a rise in anti-Muslim sentiment in America.
The gun range's attorney, Robert Muise, has said the owner of Save Yourself Survival and Tactical Gun Range turned away Raja'ee Fatihah, a US army reservist from Tulsa, because of his belligerent attitude and not his faith. If the case filed Wednesday in Oktaha, Okla., proceeds, it could hinge on whether he can prove this is true.
The gun range had a sign declaring it to be a "Muslim-free zone," as do several others in Florida, Arkansas, Kentucky, and New York, so the case could become a significant legal challenge toward what the owners are characterizing as a counter-cultural stand against political correctness, and what Mr. Fatihah has describes as rising Islamophobia.
The gun range has been in business for less than two years but attracted controversy in August when the sign appeared on the door, Ashton Edwards reported for Fox News 13.
"This privately owned business is a Muslim free establishment, we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone," it read, according to Fox News 13.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations in Oklahoma urged the Department of Justice to prosecute a case against the gun range owners at the time.
"It is sad to see an Oklahoma business join the clearly illegal movement to deny service to American Muslims, and it is equally sad to note the silence of our government on this denial of religious freedom and equal access to public accommodations,” Veronica Laizure said, civil rights director of CAIR’s Oklahoma chapter, according to Fox.
A range owner and Iraq war veteran, Chad Neal, called the store a "mom-and-pop shop," in a community of less than 400 people. He said he hung the sign in response to two shootings on July 16 at military establishments in Chattanooga, Tenn., where six people – including shooter Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez – died, reported Samantha Vicent for the Tulsa World.
"We do not want to have any jihadis training on our gun range and then going down to our local armed services office and having better marksmanship than they showed up with,” Mr. Neal told the Tulsa World in August. “I’ve seen what Muslims and jihadis do to people. It’s just not going to happen in my store."
It was a controversial move even within the small community, as the reviews for the business show at least 25 different debates around Islam and the legality of the "Muslim-free establishment."
"I just wanted to say I support you, and if you don't have a gofundme account, set one up and I will help donate for legal fees. I'm on disability and don't make a lot, but I will give what I can because I SUPPORT YOU!" the post reads.
The lawsuit will take the debate to the level of federal court. During a similar case in Florida, the executive director of CAIR in Tampa, Fla., Hassan Shibly, said those who post such signs likely know very little about the American Muslim community and said he hoped to use the "Muslim-free zone" debate to improve relations.
"I hope we can use this an opportunity," Mr. Shibly told Fox 13. "I think we'll change some minds and hearts through conversation and not allow our enemies to divide us."
This report contains material from the Associated Press.