There is a bizarre twist to the most recent bombing in New York and the wounding of alleged terrorist Ahmad Rahami. The Rahami family filed a federal lawsuit in April 2011 that claimed that they were being targeted solely due to discrimination against Muslims and profiled by the government. The 11 count lawsuit named the City of Elizabeth, the Elizabeth Police Department, six Elizabeth police officers, chief of police Ronald Simon and police director James Cosgrove. Given the real prejudices that Muslim families face today, there is reason to fear that the situation could become far worse. Donald Trump has called for profiling while Hillary Clinton has called for tougher Visa rules. Notably, a news report indicates that his father actually contacted police two years ago to say that he believed that his son was a terrorist. Thus, the family appears to have rejected his extreme views — precisely the type of tip that the government has sought to generate by working closely with the Muslim community.
Rahami was outspoken in his hatred of gays and Western values, particularly after returning from a visit in Afghanistan with a wife. The trip to both Afghanistan and Pakistan nine years ago appears to have radicalized Rahami. Rahami’s values however did not appear to include supporting his children. Notably, Rahami’s current wife left the United States just days before his attack — raising concerns that she was aware of his plans or activities. Her whereabouts are unknown but the government is trying to locate and contact her abroad.
The Rahami family alleged “selective enforcement” that was “solely based on an animus against plaintiff’s religion, creed, race and national origin.” The cause for the lawsuit was a police order to shut down their chicken restaurant “First American” at 10 pm. They insisted that other businesses were allowed to stay open at that time.
The complaint was dismissed with prejudice in 2012. It is not clear why the case was dismissed with prejudice. Settlements often result in unopposed motion for such dismissal but it can also occur in a party fails to satisfy court orders or establish a basis for the lawsuit.
The lawsuit is likely to play into calls for increased profiling. Ironically, some are likely to see any targeting of the family (which the city no doubt denied) as a good thing. What is clear is that Rahami’s actions (including his shooting of police in his capture) will worsen the situation for millions of lawful Muslims in this country. Indeed, part of the desire of ISIS and terrorists is to create a religious divide in other countries to attract followers and support. The question of profiling is likely to become a central issue in the election. The line between reasonable suspicion and profiling has long been debated in legal circles. Such subtleties are likely to be lost in the wake of the bombing and this shooting.