(/sites/default/files/uploads/2015/01/14328429_BG11.gif)The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the California Department of Corrections on behalf of Elsiddig Elhindi, a prison guard who claims to have suffered anti-Muslim harassment for 12 years.
Elhindi, 56, told the Huffington Post he had been subjected to “very very severe harassment” from co-workers and supervisors “as high as the warden’s office at some times.” He said he had been ridiculed because of his accent and “referred to as a terrorist” and a “suicide bomber.” This amounted to “emotional torture, for years and years” and it was “so severe, so frequent, it has affected my life in many ways.” Elhindi said co-workers called him a “rat and a snitch” and the prison administration was “dismissive of my cries for help” and suggested he retire.
Elhindi, who left Sudan at age 19, allegedly suffered this abuse while working a California State Prison, Sacramento. He told Steve Magagnini of the Sacramento Bee “My accent was joked about, my color was joked about, and the use of the N word was unbelievable, It’s scary.” The stress level, he told the Bee, “amounts to emotional torture” and “never stopped.” He declined to retire because “I have a family to support and have invested 27 years of my life into state service and cannot just walk away.” But it wasn’t just about him.
“I think it’s a systemic issue,” Elhindi told the Bee. “There are other Muslim officers that have complained of similar treatment, but the majority are scared to report it.” In 2011 Elhindi filed a complaint with Equal Opportunity Commission, which found reasonable cause to believe the California Department of Corrections may have violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. The U.S. Department of Justice, however, declined to pursue the case.
Elhindi’s lawyer, Brice Hamack, Civil Rights Coordinator for CAIR in northern California, told the Huffington Post that the DOJ had redacted part of their report, so he did not know why they declined to pursue the case. It was based on employment harassment, Hamack explained, “but at the end of the day it’s really about being able to exercise your right to practice whatever religion you see fit, without fear of having your livelihood affected by it.”
Hamack told Reuters that “while we understand most work environments come with some level of joking and personal banter, employers must protect employees who become subjected to severe and pervasive harassment by their co-workers.” Hamack charged that “When the State of California and the CDCR failed to protect Mr. Elhindi from harassment based on his religion, race and national origin, as well as from retaliation for seeking protection against such harassment, they violated his civil rights.”
When the Huffington Post asked Hamack why CAIR got involved, Hamack said that CAIR was a civil-rights organization that “fights for the rights of American Muslims to be safe in the workplace, to take on jobs that they believe in, take on causes they believe in, without fear of retaliation and harassment due to their Islamic beliefs.”
None of the reporters included background on CAIR, which as Joe Kaufman has noted, was “established as being a part of the American Palestine Committee, an umbrella organization run by then-global Hamas leader Mousa Abu Marzook, who was based in the U.S. at the time and who now operates out of Egypt as a spokesman for Hamas.” CAIR’s November 8, 2014, 20th anniversary banquet at the Santa Clara Convention featured speakers Nihad Awad, who worked for the propaganda wing of Hamas, and Siraj Wahhaj, the imam of the At-Taqwa Mosque, and a character witness for “Blind Sheikh” Omar Abdel Rahman, prosecuted for the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center.
On its own website, CAIR linked to the Sacramento Bee piece by Steve Magagnini, in which Elsiddig Elhindi claimed “emotional torture” and charged that anti-Muslim harassment was a “systemic issue.” The article also provides some clue as to how pervasive anti-Muslim harassment might be in California’s prison system, and why the U.S. Department of Justice declined to pursue the case. Elhindi, in fact, “has been promoted to sergeant, and since September has worked at California State Prison, Solano, where he has not experienced harassment.” The Bee reporter offers further enlightenment as to what the CAIR legal action may really be about.
“The suit asks the federal court to hold a jury trial and seeks special damages covering wages and benefits, general damages of pain, suffering, mental injury and emotional distress, past and future, reasonable legal fees and protection against future harassment. It also asks that the Corrections Department increase anti-discriminatory training for supervisors and employees.”
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