A Muslim leader filed a federal lawsuit Monday claiming the Illinois State Police relieved him of his duties as its first Muslim chaplain after he failed a second background check prompted by a defamatory Internet article.
Kifah Mustapha claims he was not allowed to be the ISP’s first Muslim chaplain because of a defamatory article published Jan. 5 by the Investigative Project on Terrorism, according to a suit filed in U.S. District Court.
Mustapha is a Muslim of Middle Eastern origin living in Burbank, according to the suit. He has more than 15 years experience providing Islamic clergy service and has been the leader and associate director of the Mosque Foundation in Bridgeview since 2002, the suit said.
The suit claims he applied in November 2009 to become the first Muslim chaplain for the state police, and the agency approved his background check and application in December 2009. He was then admitted to a training program, which he completed, according to the suit.
Mustapha received an ISP identification card and was assigned to the Chicago area, according to the suit.
But on Jan. 5, the Investigative Project on Terrorism published a defamatory Internet article claiming Mustapha was a “radical fundraiser” and security threat, according to the suit. National media watch group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting confirmed the not-for-profit website regularly makes false assertions of anti-American and terrorist activities, the suit said.
On Feb. 1, ISP Deputy Director Patrick Keen said all seven people who received chaplain training would be required to undergo another background check, according to the suit. Mustapha received a letter June 15 from acting director Jonathon Moken that said he did not pass and his chaplain appointment was denied, the suit said.
All other chaplains were accepted, but none were Muslim, Arab or Middle Easter, the suit said.
Mustapha claims the ISP actions harmed his professional reputation and falsely equated him with a security threat.
“Imam Kifah [Mustapha] is an upstanding citizen who has served this country and his community time and again,” Christina Abraham, civil rights director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations-Chicago, said in a release.
“It is time to put an end to the fear-mongering and anti-Muslim rhetoric that has senselessly engulfed our nation,” she said.
The three-count suit seeks an injunction ordering Keen and Moken to reinstate Mustapha as chaplain and award him compensatory and punitive damages, plus costs of the suit.
“The ISP’s actions are reminiscent of the Red Scare in the 1950s, when our nation smeared individuals based on suspicion and paranoia rather than evidence of wrongdoing,” CAIR-Chicago attorney Kevin Vodak said in the release. “The McCarthy era taught us that our government cannot engage in guilt by association.”
An ISP spokesperson was not immediately available for comment Monday evening.