A McAlester native who twice was prevented from leaving Oklahoma to return to the Middle East has made it to Qatar.
During a telephone interview Friday, Saadiq Long, a U.S. Air Force veteran who converted to Islam, said he took a bus from Oklahoma City to Mexico, then boarded flights in three different countries to return to Qatar.
Long said he got the idea for his unusual traveling itinerary from a newspaper article about a Hispanic woman who was prevented from boarding a flight out of the United States to return to another country.
“I didn't have any other choice after the FBI refused to take me off the ‘no-fly' list,” Long said.
“I have my family here. I have a job here. I had to get back.”
A spokesman for the FBI in Oklahoma City has said the agency does not comment on such matters.
In the fall of 2012, Long was prevented from leaving Qatar to return to Oklahoma to visit his mother, who has congestive heart failure.
Long tried twice to board a flight bound for the United States, but his attempts were thwarted at the gate.
Each time, he was told by Transportation Security Administration officials that he needed to find out why the Department of Homeland Security would not let him board any U.S.-bound flights. Long said he contacted Homeland Security but heard nothing back.
In November, Long was able to board a flight to Detroit, then another flight to Oklahoma City. He and his relatives reported being followed by FBI agents while he was in McAlester.
In February, Long tried twice to board a flight out of Oklahoma City's Will Rogers World Airport and was turned away at the gate.
Friday, Long and Adam Soltani, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations-Oklahoma City, said the thwarted attempts on the in- and outbound trips were frustrating.
“We are very happy that he made it home, but we are disappointed that the U.S. government didn't allow him to fly and didn't provide him with a reason,” Soltani said. “A citizen should not have to do extraordinary things to travel.”
Soltani said a CAIR attorney had recommended Long try to return to the Middle East without flying into U.S. air space.
Long said he is still puzzled that the government allowed him to fly into the United States but not out.
When asked if he would ever attempt to return to America, the Air Force vet said he would if another family situation such as illness arose.
“I would do it again. It's part of my faith to be there for my parents and for my family,” Long said.
“My family said they were more worried for my safety in the United States than they ever were the whole time I was here,” he said, referring to his Middle East home. “They were that concerned for my safety. They were saying ‘Don't come back — we'll visit you.'”
We are very happy that he made it home but we are disappointed that the U.S. government didn't allow him to fly and didn't provide him with a reason. A citizen should not have to do extraordinary things to travel.”
Executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations-Oklahoma City