Our Malaysian flag does bear some similarities to the flag of the United States. It bears most of the same colour, red white and blue which are the primary colours of the US flag. The only difference though is that the symbol of our flag is that of the crescent moon and a 14 point star which is in yellow while the US flag has 50 white stars on it.
From a distance, if our Malaysian flag isn’t unfurled properly, it could easily be mistaken for the US flag. However, in this case, the mistaken identity of our flag got a Malaysian living in the US to be labelled a terrorist. This piece of news comes in from a report by KMUW that says the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Kansas has filed a complaint in federal court on behalf of Munir Zanial, a Malaysian living and working in Wichita.
In the suit, Zainal said he was targeted because he is Muslim and was falsely accused of flying a terrorist flag. That flag in question was actually our Malaysian flag.
Zainal is a senior stress engineer at Spirit and has lived in the US as a permanent resident since 2011. According to him, he had rented the Spirit/Boeing Employees’ Association’s (SBEA), which he is a member of, recreational lake to celebrate Hari Raya Haji and Malaysia’s 60th Independence day on 2, September 2017.
There were 45 guests that attended the celebration and of course, it being a celebration of our country’s independence, the Malaysian flag would obviously be flown. An SBEA employee that saw the celebration, however, reported the gathering to Spirit’s security team, saying Zanial may be affiliated with radical Islamic terrorism and used the property to hold an ISIS meeting.
He even said that the American flag had been “desecrated by ISIS insignia” and that people at the property were wearing “Muslim garb.”
To make things worse, Spirit forwarded the report to the FBI because, well, anything that has a whiff of relation to ISIS has obviously need to be told to the FBI. Fortunately for Zainal, after the FBI had a talk with him, they realised that the flag was just the Malaysian flag and they closed their investigation shortly after.
While Zainal had managed to escape what could have been a very difficult situation, his woes did not end there. As he was still a member of the SBEA, he continued paying his US$ a month membership. However, in January this year, when he attempted to rent a pavilion at SBEA premises, something that his membership would have allowed him to, it seems that his membership rights had been restricted.
It seems despite the complaint being discredited by the FBI themselves, the SBEA was still not comfortable with Zainal using their premises.
And that’s where the suit by the ACLU comes in. In it, Zanial is seeking to have his membership restored. He also is seeking damages from SBEA and payment of his attorneys’ fees.
“To label someone a terrorist due to their appearance and their celebration of their heritage is shameful, but to continue to use that mislabel as grounds for blatant discrimination — even after it had been discredited by the FBI — is downright reprehensible,” Micah Kubic, executive director of the ACLU of Kansas, said in a statement.
We hope the suit goes well for Zainal and hopefully more Americans are aware that there’s a country that actually has a similar flag as their and no, it’s no terrorist flag.