Gun range with Muslim ban changes sign

April 29, 2019 GMT

Well before Donald Trump’s so-called Muslim ban, an Oklahoma gun range tried a similar policy by posting a sign calling itself a “Muslim free establishment.”

Nearly four years later and after intense legal pressure, it has agreed to take down that sign but is trying a different tactic. The gun range now calls itself a “terrorist free establishment” that reserves the right to refuse access to anyone.

For good measure, a second sign lays out exactly who is unwelcome at the Save Yourself Survival and Tactical Gun Range in Oktaha, Oklahoma.

Hamas and al Qaeda make the list, as does the antifa movement. So do the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis and white supremacists, as well as the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

The American Civil Liberties Union claimed victory saying the removal of the “Muslim free” sign was what they were seeking.

But the gun range says it won because it never meant to impose a ban but rather wanted to keep out troublesome folks.

That still includes Raja’ee Fatihah, a board member for the local chapter of CAIR, an Army reservist and the man whose lawsuit challenged the no-Muslims sign in 2015.

“He’s not allowed to shoot there. We won’t allow him in there. He shows up at the door, we are going to call the sheriff’s department and treat him as a trespasser and have him removed if he doesn’t leave on his own,” said Robert Muise of the American Freedom Law Center, which represented the range and its owners, Nicole and Chad Neal.

The Neals came up with their idea for the sign after the 2015 terrorist attack in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where a radicalized Muslim man targeted two military facilities, killing four Marines and a Navy sailor.

According to media reports, the shooter had visited a local gun range roughly a month before the attack.

Soon afterward, Mr. Fatihah came to shoot at the range and took objection to the sign. He informed the Neals of his faith and, according to Mr. Muise, doing so while holding a loaded weapon.

The couple asked Mr. Fatihah to fill out an application for their range’s gun club and then to leave as they do others who they feel are acting in a suspicious manner. Mr. Muise said the process gives them time to research people entering their facility.

“They just want to have the ability to do background checks,” he said.

According to the Neals, Mr. Fatihah entered the range with a loaded gun and a recording device.

“This was a setup,” said Mr. Muise. “They wanted to pound the owners of this gun range.”

CAIR and the ACLU sued on behalf of Mr. Fatiha, saying the Neals violated the state’s public accommodation law and discriminated against their client in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The groups say getting the range to take down the original sign is a victory, though Heather Weaver, an ACLU lawyer, said the couple’s attempt to discredit CAIR by labeling it a terrorist organization is “misguided and wrong.”

“Unfortunately, defendants and their counsel have succumbed to Islamophobic conspiracy theories,” Ms. Weaver said.

CAIR was identified as an unindicted co-conspirator in a terrorism funding court case involving Hamas and the now-defunct Holy Land Foundation. But the organization has disputed that characterization.

Veronica Laizure, civil rights director at CAIR’s Oklahoma chapter, said her group has won a number of awards and recognition from elected officials.

“Our reputation as civil rights advocates and community servants stands for itself,” Ms. Laizure said.

Both women said the lawsuit was focused on making sure the Neals aren’t discriminating against Muslims.

“The only reason the defendants backtracked from their blatantly illegal policy was because our client was brave enough to stand up to them on behalf of all Muslims,” Ms. Weaver said.