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Monday, June 17, 2024 | Back issues
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Muslim Fights Placement on Watch List

MANHATTAN (CN) - A Muslim man says he has been unable to visit his ailing mother for over two years because he refused to spy for the FBI and is now on the no-fly list.

Muhammad Tanvir says he is not the only one who the FBI unlawfully placed on the no-fly list "in retaliation for their refusal to work as informants against their communities and submit to questioning."

The Queens man says his predicament has left him unable to visit his ailing mother in Pakistan for over two years, and that it has burdened his practice of Islam.

He notes that he is a lawful permanent resident employed at a 99-cent store in the Bronx who has "never been convicted of a crime nor does he pose any threat to aviation safety."

The FBI declined to comment.

Though the no-fly list is supposed to represent a list of suspected terrorists, the American Civil Liberties Union calls it "a draconian tool to coerce Americans into spying on their communities." In this case, Tanvir is represented by Shayana Kadidal with the Center for Constitutional Rights.

After refusing FBI agents' request that he serve as an informant in his predominantly Muslim community and landing on the no-fly list, Tanvir says he reached out to the FBI to clear things up. Instead of helping, FBI agents offered to take him off the list in exchange for information.

Tanvir, who has lived in the United States since 2002, again refused.

"Mr. Tanvir has been prevented from flying despite the fact that he does not present any threat to aviation security," the lawsuit states. "Instead, defendants sought to exploit the draconian burden posed by the No Fly List - including the inability to travel for work, or to visit family overseas - in order to coerce him into serving the FBI as a spy with American Muslim communities and places of worship."

Named as defendants are FBI Director James Comey; Terrorist Screening Center Director Christopher Piehota; Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Rand Beers; and Transportation Security Administration Administrator John Pistole.

The FBI agencies are responsible maintaining the Terrorist Screening Database, which includes the no-fly list.

Tanvir wants the court to declare as unconstitutional the FBI's alleged practice of placing people on the no-fly list for not cooperating, then using an offer to remove them as a bribe for information.

He also wants off the list, along with damages.

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