A McAlester native returned from the Middle East to Oklahoma on Monday after being on the nation's “no-fly” list.
Saadiq Long, a 43-year-old Muslim and U.S. Air Force veteran, arrived at Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City about 6:30 p.m. Monday where he was greeted by his sister and officials from the Council on American-Islamic Relations-Oklahoma chapter.
Long declined to talk to the media, citing exhaustion from the 36-hour trip. However, CAIR-Oklahoma representatives said he was overjoyed to be home.
Hoping to visit his terminally ill mother who lives in McAlester, Long had made several attempts to return to the United States beginning in April.
The veteran has lived in the Middle East since 2000, where he teaches English in Qatar.
Long was prevented from boarding a flight to the U.S. in April and was told that he needed to get in touch with the U.S. Embassy. He has said embassy officials told him to contact the Transportation Security Administration, but he received no answers from that agency about why he was placed on the government's “no-fly” list.
“We're very thankful and very appreciative that the U.S. government has allowed him to come home to see his mother. This shows that the American justice system is something we can believe in,” Saad Mohammed, a CAIR-Oklahoma board member, said Monday.
Jenell Mapp-Maynard, operations coordinator for CAIR-Oklahoma, said Long flew from Qatar to Amsterdam to Detroit to Oklahoma City without incident. She said he still does not know why his name was placed on a “no-fly” list preventing him from returning to his native country.
“We don't know why this happened. We're grateful they did listen to our outcries,” Mapp-Maynard said, referring to the national Muslim civil rights group's repeated appeals for the government to allow Long to return to the U.S. Also, Long's sister, an Oklahoma City resident, created an online Change.org petition seeking the public's support for Long's plight.
Mapp-Maynard said Long's immediate plan was to travel to McAlester with his sister, Ava Anderson, to see his ailing mother Monday night.
“He's going straight home to McAlester. He was going to surprise her,” Mapp-Maynard said.
She said Long's monthslong wait is not something new for CAIR. Mapp-Maynard said other Muslims have encountered problems like Long's and, like the Air Force veteran, they were not told why they were on a “no-fly” list.