Lawsuit filed in US after Malaysian flag gets mistaken as ISIS symbol

The Malaysian flag had been used at an outdoor party in Kansas last September by Malaysian engineer Munir Zanial who was celebrating Hari Raya and Merdeka Day - Malaysia's independence day - with friends and family. Some people who saw the flag, howe
The Malaysian flag had been used at an outdoor party in Kansas last September by Malaysian engineer Munir Zanial who was celebrating Hari Raya and Merdeka Day - Malaysia's independence day - with friends and family. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
The Malaysian flag had been used at an outdoor party in Kansas last September by Malaysian engineer Munir Zanial who was celebrating Hari Raya and Merdeka Day - Malaysia's independence day - with friends and family. Some people who saw the flag, howe
Some people who saw the flag, however, thought it was a United States flag that had been desecrated with ISIS symbols. They also saw party-goers dressed in hijabs and reported Mr Zanial for holding an ISIS meeting.PHOTO: REUTERS

PETALING JAYA • The Kansas chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed a lawsuit on behalf of a Malaysian engineer after some Americans mistook the Malaysian flag as "an American flag desecrated with ISIS symbols".

The Malaysian flag had been used at a party organised by engineer Munir Zanial at a recreational lake in the city of Wichita in Kansas last September.

The owners of the property, the Spirit Boeing Employees' Association (SBEA), later filed a complaint with Mr Zanial's employers alleging that he and his guests were in possession of an Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) flag and that they were conducting an ISIS meeting on the property.

"Following the party, SBEA reported Mr Zanial to the Spirit Aerosystems security team based on a concern that Mr Zanial was affiliated with radical Islamic terrorism and alleged that he had used the SBEA lake to hold an ISIS meeting," the ACLU said in its suit.

"SBEA alleged that Mr Zanial and his guests had an American flag that had been 'desecrated by ISIS insignia' and were wearing 'Muslim garb'," it said.

Mr Zanial's employers, Spirit Aerosystems, subsequently filed a complaint with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Although the FBI cleared the aerospace engineer in October, the SBEA hired a private investigator to look into the incident and terminated Mr Zanial's rental benefits.

This led ACLU to file a federal lawsuit on Sunday against the SBEA for racial profiling and religious discrimination against Mr Zanial, a dues-paying member of the association.

"The ordeal has caused Zanial to experience a great deal of stress and anxiety," the ACLU said in a statement on its website.

Mr Zanial has been living in Wichita with his wife and two young children since 2011.

According to ACLU's filing, several of Mr Zanial's female guests, including his wife, were wearing hijabs at the party, which had been held to celebrate Hari Raya Aidiladha and Merdeka Day.

THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 22, 2018, with the headline 'Lawsuit filed in US after Malaysian flag gets mistaken as ISIS symbol'. Print Edition | Subscribe