Workplace quip made Muslim a terror suspect, lawsuit alleges
MONTREAL - The Canadian Press
Last updated Thursday, Feb. 02, 2012 11:33PM EST
A casual text message to work colleagues encouraging them to ”blow away” the competition at a trade show allegedly plunged a Muslim man into a terrorism probe.
Telecommunications sales manager Saad Allami says the innocent message, aimed at pumping up his staff, has had devastating consequences on his life.
The Quebec man says he was arrested by provincial police while picking up his seven-year-old son at school. A team of police officers stormed into his home, telling his wife she was married to a terrorist. And his work colleagues were detained for hours at the U.S. border because of their connection to him.
Those are the allegations Mr. Allami makes in a lawsuit filed last month.
The Moroccan native is seeking $100,000 from the Quebec provincial police force, one of its sergeants, and the provincial government. The six-figure sum is being sought for unlawful detention, unlawful arrest, loss of income and damage to his reputation.
On Jan. 21, 2011, Mr. Allami sent a text message to colleagues urging them to “blow away” the competition at a trade show in New York City.
According to his lawsuit, he was arrested without warning by police three days later and detained for over a day while his house was searched. During his detention, a team of police officers allegedly conducted an “intrusive” four-hour search.
“The whole time, the officers kept repeating to the plaintiff's wife that her husband was a terrorist,” the filing reads.
“The treatment of the plaintiff and his wife was cavalier, illegal, aggressive, accusatory, and in violation of their most fundamental rights.”
Mr. Allami, who was 40 when he was arrested, says he has no links to terrorist organizations or the Islamic movement and that police acted without any evidence or research. He has never been charged in the affair. A search of Quebec's courthouse database finds no other references to him, either.
However, Mr. Allami says he hasn't been able to get a certificate of good conduct, which he would need in order to get a job working in finance.
His allegations have not been proven in court and the application is to be presented at the Montreal courthouse on March 5.
Provincial police spokesman Guy Lapointe says the force is aware of the case but will not comment as it is before the courts. A Justice Department spokesperson also declined to comment.
Police had in Laval, Que., where he applied for the certificate, found terrorism accusations and public mischief on his file, even though his public file shows no signs of the allegations.
“Without the certificate of good conduct, the plaintiff can no longer work in his profession,” the document states.
Mr. Allami is being represented by Julius Grey, a well-known Montreal lawyer.
Contacted earlier this week, Mr. Grey said neither he nor his client wished to speak about the facts.
“It presents interesting issues of law and profiling but I feel uncomfortable debating it outside the courtroom,” Mr. Grey said.
The motion he filed makes allusions to the profiling issue.
“Without any evidence, and without any follow-up, the [provincial police] just cannot go about arresting North Africans of Muslim persuasion, inferring they are terrorists, giving them a police record and destroying their reputation, credibility and livelihoods,” the motion reads.
Mr. Allami says he sent the text message in French and used the word “exploser,” a term he claims is commonly used in finance to mean grow or succeed.
His case has surfaced after another story about an unexpected national-security case triggered by what appeared to be a meaningless comment.
Two British tourists said they were banned from entering the United States, with one of them handcuffed, arrested and flagged as a threat by the Department of Homeland Security over Twitter tongue-in-cheek messages about going to ”destroy America” and dig up Marilyn Monroe's body.
The same story on CBC quoted the police spokes person as being unable to comment because the case (presumably the lawsuit?) was in court. What I want to know is, how did the police get the text message - was it a disgruntled employee, was it the cell phone service provider, or are they actually scanning people's communication for "key words". Are they completely incapable of differentiating between figures of speech or slang, and things they should actually be concerned about? (also, I tagged Islamophobia, and racial profiling, because I seriously doubt this would have happened if he'd been a white guy with an English/French name)