A McAlester native who lives in the Middle East was prevented from returning there Wednesday.
Saadiq Long, a U.S. Air Force veteran, said he tried to check in for his flight to Qatar on Wednesday at Will Rogers World Airport but was told by a representative of the Transportation Security Administration that he was not cleared to board.
Long said the TSA official told him it was a matter of national security and that he should contact the FBI to straighten out the matter.
Long had been on the government's “no-fly” list and prevented from entering the U.S. from Qatar for many months. In November, after several unsuccessful attempts, he was allowed to fly to Oklahoma to see his mother, who has congestive heart failure.
Adam Soltani, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Oklahoma chapter, said he and Long do not understand why Long cannot leave the United States to return to his home in Qatar, where his wife and child are waiting, particularly because he was previously cleared to fly into the U.S.
“He's almost back to square one,” Soltani said Wednesday. “He was cleared to fly into the country. Why won't he be allowed to fly out?”
Soltani said a CAIR attorney contacted the FBI in Oklahoma City in late January to tell the agency that Long planned to return to Qatar on Wednesday.
Rick Rains, spokesman for the FBI in Oklahoma City, declined to comment.
Soltani said Council on American-Islamic Relations officials are concerned that Long's rights as a U.S. citizen are being violated.
“CAIR's concern is that Saadiq is an American citizen and he, like any other American citizen, should not be barred from leaving or entering the country without due process of law. If there's a reason, it should be communicated properly,” Soltani said. “We can only speculate that this has something to do with his faith.”
Long said he had to call his wife and child Wednesday to tell them he had been prevented from boarding his flight. Both were very upset, he said.
“They are crushed. It's been 2½ months,” he said.
Long said his mother also is extremely upset by the situation.
He said his job teaching English in Qatar allowed him to use his maximum 30 days of paid vacation to visit his ailing mother in McAlester. He said his paid vacation time ran out about six weeks ago, so he needs to get back to Qatar to continue to earn a living.
“It was an emotional hardship and now it is an economic hardship,” Long said of his thwarted efforts to return to home. “I can't believe this is happening.”
He said he plans to book another flight and attempt once again to return to Qatar.
Soltani said CAIR officials will continue to help Long as he seeks answers from the government about the reasons he is being prevented from returning to the Middle East.
“Our hope is that by supporting him, we'll be able to get him back,” Soltani said.