CAIRO - A US Muslim citizen from San Diego has returned home Thursday evening after being put on the US government no-fly list, accusing the FBI of employing the list as a tactic to intimidate Muslim Americans to become informants against their community.
I'm happy to be here finally in my own hometown, Kevin Iraniha, 27, told the Union Tribune of San Diego.
This is very disappointing to happen to anybody.
Iraniha, a San Diego State University graduate, was born and raised in San Diego to an Iranian-born US father and a native-born US mother.
A self-described peace activist, he is a known pro-Palestinian and anti-war activist
He graduated this week from a yearlong masters degree in International Law with a focus on the peaceful settlement of disputes from the United Nations-accredited University for Peace in Costa Rica.
Boarding on a flight home to San Diego this Tuesday, June 5, with his two brothers and father, he was informed that he is on the no-fly list.
Heading to the US embassy in Costa Rica to find out why he was put on the no fly list, Iraniha and his father endured 6 hours of interrogations during which Iraniha alone was asked "all sorts of ridiculous questions" by an FBI agent and a State Department official.
He was asked about Islam, his being Muslim and his views on and travels to Muslim countries, including specific questions about the full names of people he visited or stayed with.
Questions about his visits to mosques in Costa Rica and San Diego seemed focused on whether he had "noticed anything or anyone suspicious" and whether he was part of any "groups that incite violence."
The FBI agent then asked him whether he had ever wanted "to cause damage to a Jewish center in San Diego or a US official building," the question that struck Iraniha as "completely shocking" and "really ridiculous."
"It's discrimination," he said.
"I was shocked; it was really weird to have such questions being asked. First and foremost, I'm an American, and secondly, I don't believe in violence."
Trying to get back to his home, Iraniha learnt that what happened to him could in fact be an oft-used FBI tactic employed to encourage Muslim Americans to become informants against their community by intimidation.
"They put you on a no-fly list and then to get off of it they say, oh, we want you to be an informant," Iraniha told Huffington Post.
This idea was confirmed by the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR).
"At this moment we are trying to get him safely home, and we will look at the details and questions in coming days," said Hanif Mohebi, executive director of CAIR San Diego.
Established in 2003 and administrated by the FBI's Terrorist Screening Center, the no-fly list includes some 20,000 people deemed by the agency as known to have, or reasonably suspected of having, ties to terrorism.
About 500 of them are US citizens, according to an agency spokesman.
As in Iraniha's case, many discover they are on the list only when they are at an airport trying to check in for a flight.
The no-fly list does not bar American citizens from returning to the United States by land.
Since 9/11, Muslims, estimated between six to seven million, have become sensitized to an erosion of their civil rights, with a prevailing belief that America was stigmatizing their faith.
Last May 2012, a Muslim-American family was kicked off a JetBlue flight because their 18-month child was flagged as no-fly.
In 2009, nine members of a Muslim family were removed from a domestic AirTran Airways flight to Orlando, Florida, after they chatted about their seats in the plane.
Another incident occurred in 2006 when six imams were removed from a domestic flight for what passengers considered suspicious behavior.
They were removed from the flight, handcuffed and detained in the airport for questioning for over five hours.