COLUMBUS, Ohio (CN) – Ohio Homeland Security fired its Muslim liaison officer because he objected to its use of tax dollars to create programs “asserting that all Central Ohio Muslims and Arabs were terrorists or terrorism sympathizers … [and] included a picture of plaintiff as an example of a terrorist sympathizer,” the man says in Federal Court.
Omar Alomari was born in Jordan in 1950 and immigrated to the United States in 1978. He is Muslim and speaks seven languages, he says in his discrimination complaint against the Ohio Department of Public Safety, and three top officials or former officials.
He was hired on a contract basis in November 2005 as its “multicultural relations officer,” Alomari says.
His problems apparently began when OHS and ODPS began receiving public criticism about his work – or the fact that they had hired someone to do such a job at all. Alomari says letters and phone calls attacked a pamphlet he had written, called “Culture Guide to Arabic and Islamic Cultures,” “including one caller comparing the guide to Nazi propaganda and another caller questioning when a guide about Christianity would be produced.”
The complaint continues: “In November 2008, plaintiff conducted two presentations for OHS’s Terrorism Liaison Officers. After plaintiff’s presentation, another presented made blanket accusations that Central Ohio Muslims were linked with terrorist groups.”
OHS and ODPS used federal money for this training, Alomari says. He complained to OHS director William Vedra Jr., a defendant, about the inaccurate information being disseminated, and said such misrepresentations “undermined OHS’s outreach efforts to Ohio’s diverse communities.”
In 2009, Alomari says, “A member of the Central Ohio Terrorism Early Warning Group (TWEG) stated that, ‘No one knows what Omar does when he goes out and meets with the communities. He could be passing classified information to these people.’
“Central Ohio TWEG is responsible for information sharing and intelligence fusion and serves as the focal point for analyzing the strategic and operations information needed to respond to terrorism in Central Ohio. Central Ohio TWEG receives U.S. Department of Homeland Security funds through grants distributed by OHS,” according to the complaint.
It continues: “Beginning in 2009, U.S. Department of Homeland Security funds were being used to provide counterterrorism trainings that contained inaccurate and nonfactual information asserting that all Central Ohio Muslims and Arabs were terrorists or terrorism sympathizers that should be treated as suspects. In addition, the trainings included a picture of plaintiff as an example of a terrorist sympathizer.”
Alomari says he “regularly complained” to Vedra about this, and added that the “training” was undermining the work it was intended to do. He says he also contacted the DHS Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties to discuss his concerns.
To no avail, apparently. He says that when the Columbus Police Academy conducted three days of “anti-terrorist training” in early 2010, “the presenters attacked plaintiff and OHS, labeling plaintiff as a terrorist sympathizer. The presenters accused plaintiff of being a ‘suspect,’ alleged that plaintiff used his position within OHS to ‘connect with terrorists,’ and promised to ‘keep digging’ into plaintiff’s background to ‘expose’ him as a terrorist or terrorism sympathizer.”
After this, Alomari says, he requested a meeting with Vedra and the ODPS legal director, during which he complained again about the misrepresentations and the harm the “training” sessions were doing. Alomari adds that he “complained that the presenters at the trainings had perpetrated a two-year campaign to harass and destroy plaintiff’s reputation and character based on the simple reason that he is an Arab Muslim. Plaintiff again stressed that U.S. Department of Homeland Security funds should not be used for trainings that advocated for and attempted to legitimize ethnic, racial and religious profiling of Muslims and Arabs. Plaintiff requested that defendants stop these biased and inflammatory ‘counterterrorism’ trainings, as well as the personal attacks on plaintiff resulting therefrom.
“During the two-year campaign, the individuals involved with the ‘counterterrorism’ trainings of Ohio’s law enforcement personnel sought information from plaintiff’s personnel file and office via numerous public records requests to Defendant ODPS. Information obtained through the public records requests was published online and used to harass plaintiff and pressure defendants to terminate plaintiff’s employment.”
Alomari says Ohio fired him in late June 2010, to rid itself of the “perceived bad press that defendants received as a result of plaintiff’s race, national origin/ethnicity and religion.”
Alomari claims the reason Ohio gave for firing him was “that plaintiff purposefully omitted Columbus State Community College (‘CSSC’) and, therefore, lied on his employment application.”
Alomari claims that the defendants knew he had worked as a professor as CSSC from 1990 to 1996, that his work there was part of his background check, and that when he applied for a full-time position in 2006, for the job with OHS/ODPS, which he already had been doing as a consultant, “The HR representative advised plaintiff that he did not need to list every prior employment experience because the application was a ‘formality’ since he already held the position.”
Alomari says he filed a discrimination complaint with the EEOC in September 2010 and received a right-to-sue letter in April.
He seeks punitive damages for religious and racial discrimination, retaliation, and civil rights and constitutional violations.
Defendants include the Ohio Department of Public Safety, its Director Thomas Charles, its former Director Thomas Stickrath and former Director of Ohio Homeland Security William Vedra.
Alomari is represented by Laren Knoll of Columbus.