An Oklahoma Muslim civil rights group is trying to help an Oklahoma native return from the Middle East to visit his terminally ill mother.
Adam Soltani, executive director of the Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said Monday his organization and the national CAIR office is working to get Saddiq Long on a flight from Qatar to the United States so he can visit his mother in Oklahoma.
Soltani said CAIR has surmised that Long is on a U.S. government “no-fly” list, but he has been unable to find out why so that he can respond to any allegations or mistaken information.
Soltani said Long, 43, learned earlier this year that his mother, who lives in McAlester, has congestive heart failure.
He said Long was born and raised in McAlester, lived on the East Coast as a young adult and served in the U.S. Air Force for 10 years.
Soltani said Long, who is black, converted to Islam about 16 years ago and has lived in the Middle East since 2000, teaching English in Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt.
Soltani said Long tried to board a flight leaving Doha, Qatar, in April only to be informed by airport security that U.S. Customs and Border Patrol had denied him a chance to board the plane.
Soltani said Long was told to contact the U.S. Embassy in Qatar and that organization told him to make inquiries with the Transportation Security Administration.
Soltani said Long, a U.S. citizen born in McAlester, filed a complaint with the TSA in May to find out why he was not able to fly back to America, but he has heard nothing from the agency. Soltani said Long reached out to Gov. Mary Fallin and several congressional leaders to see if they could help him get answers from the TSA or another government agency.
Soltani said only U.S. Rep. Dan Boren, D-Muskogee, responded, with a representative of that agency telling him that the office could do nothing because he needed to resolve the matter directly with the TSA.
The TSA did not return a call from The Oklahoman seeking comment.
Soltani said the matter is frustrating because Long has had no response to his repeated inquiries, and his mother is awaiting his return.
“It's not as if he's trying to come home to go to Disneyland,” Soltani said.
“If he doesn't get home, he may not be able to see his mother again.”
Tuesday, Rick Rains, spokesman for the FBI in Oklahoma City, said he could not confirm or deny whether someone is on the government's no-fly list. He said that information is not released to the public.
Meanwhile, William Tabbernee, executive director of Oklahoma Conference of Churches, said he agreed with Soltani and CAIR that Long should be told why he has not been allowed to visit his ailing mother.
“We obviously understand the need to safeguard society from a potential terrorist threat, and we understand that the Department of Homeland Security has an obligation to keep our country safe, but they shouldn't do it without telling a person if they are on a no-fly list, and if they are asking about it, they should respond,” Tabbernee said.
“It's a tension between safeguarding society and a person's civil liberties.”
Soltani said Long has purchased a ticket to board a flight from Qatar later this week.
Soltani said the frustrated man is hoping that he will be allowed to return to America at that time.
“He's trying to get back for the holidays,” Soltani said of Long.
“He wants to come back so he can take care of his mother. He's hoping her condition will improve with his presence.”