Ohio Police Apologize to Muslim Tourist After Mistaking Him as Terrorist
Ahmed al-Menhali came to the U.S. from the United Arab Emirates for a medical procedure. What he didn’t expect was police officers approaching him, guns in the lobby of his hotel, forcing him to the ground. Now officials in Avon, Ohio, where the incident took place, have apologized.
A hotel clerk saw Menhali and thought he was a terrorist because he was wearing traditional clothing and talking on the phone in Arabic. She texted her sister and father that she was panicking, and both of them called 911. In a phone call that is posted on YouTube, the sister says the man was “pledging his allegiance or something to ISIS.”
The officers were wearing body cameras, and in one of the videos they are heard yelling aggressively to Menhali to lie down, before approaching and handcuffing him. However, when they searched Menhali and found nothing, it was brushed off as a misunderstanding. But the shock of being held at gunpoint and accused of being a terrorist caused the man to suffer a light stroke. A paramedic was at the scene to treat the hotel clerk for a “panic attack,” and made sure Menhali got to the hospital.
Xenophobia and racism have reached new levels if a tourist can’t even wear his own clothes and speak in his own language without being forced to the ground at gunpoint. The event caught the attention of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR).
“This near hysteria [against Muslims] has been created by political candidates. It’s irresponsible and dangerous,” said Julia Shearson, director of the Cleveland chapter of CAIR to Al-Jazeera.
The incident caused many reactions on social media.
The ignorant worker and her sister should have apologized to Ahmed Al Menhali and the desk clerk should be terminated. @MarriottIntl
— Shea (@Sheaa_) July 5, 2016
Can the world advise Americans not to wear white socks in black sandals? Asking for a friend https://t.co/DP80LXOQOG
— Lexi Alexander (@Lexialex) July 4, 2016
The United Arab Emirates demanded an apology and even warned their citizens to not wear traditional clothing if they visit the United States. The police chief and Avon Mayor Bryan K. Jensen met with Menhali to apologize on Saturday and said in a statement that there might be criminal charges against the clerk that notified 911.
Menhali told Arabic newspaper Al Arabiya that the police hurt his back and threw his phone on the ground. He also pointed out: “The policemen who humiliated and insulted me arrived at [the hotel] without explosives experts or counter-terrorism forces because they knew I’m not a terrorist.”
Menhali said that he appreciated the apology, but also wants the people who called 911 to be held responsible, and that the authorities should use this experience for cross-cultural education purposes. That is a high-minded response from someone who was treated wrongly, and is educational itself.