An online petition drive launched on behalf of a Muslim man from Oklahoma has garnered more than 6,000 signatures of people asking the U.S. government to take the man off its “no-fly” list.
Saddiq Long, a McAlester native, has been teaching English in the Middle East since 2000.
The U.S. Air Force veteran's attempts to board a plane to America have been thwarted twice since April, but he said no one has told him why.
Long is seeking to return to McAlester to see his terminally ill mother, who lives there.
Friday, Adam Soltani, executive director of the Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said his organization helped Long's sister, A.L. Anderson, create the online petition in an effort to get Long back to America.
Soltani said Long, 43, has booked a flight leaving Qatar on Monday, and his sister is hoping the online petition will help sway the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the FBI to allow him to board the plane bound for America.
“We're hoping the public support shown through the petition will affect hearts there,” Soltani said.
Anderson, who lives in Oklahoma City, shared her thoughts in a news release posted on Change.org.
“My brother has no criminal record and there is no reason for him to be barred from flying home,” she said in the statement. “This is a violation of his civil liberties.”
An FBI spokesman in Oklahoma City recently said he could not confirm or deny whether Long is on a government “no-fly” list.
Anderson said her hope is that her brother will be home for Thanksgiving on Thursday.
“Thanksgiving is not about what religion you are or the color of your skin,” she said. “It's about spending time with your family, and we want Saddiq home with us next week. My mother's failing heart makes this an even more urgent request, that our family be allowed to spend time together as soon as possible.”
Long first tried to board a flight bound for the U.S. in April but was turned away by airport officials who told him he needed to get in touch with the U.S. Embassy.
Long said embassy officials told him to contact the Transportation Security Administration to find out why he is being prevented from flying back to America.
He said his attempts to get information from the TSA were unsuccessful.
With CAIR Oklahoma's support, Long attempted to board a plane bound for the U.S. on Wednesday, but his efforts were again unsuccessful.
Soltani said CAIR will stand by Long.
“We're hopeful that he'll make it home for Thanksgiving,” Soltani said. “Nevertheless, if he doesn't get back home, CAIR will continue to stand by him and maybe we can get him home for Christmas.”