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Malaysian flag mistaken for ISIS symbol at Kansas lake leads to discrimination suit

A ranger or groundskeeper at a recreational lake operated by the Spirit Boeing Employees' Association reported that a group "dressed in Muslim garb" had an American flag "desecrated with ISIS symbols." It was actually a Malaysian flag. (Dreamstime/TNS)

A Muslim man from Malaysia has filed a discrimination lawsuit after his celebration of Malaysian independence was reported to the FBI as an Islamic State meeting.

The FBI quickly ended its investigation after it determined that what had been described as an American flag desecrated with Islamic State, or ISIS, symbols was in fact a Malaysian flag.

Munir Zanial, an engineer for Spirit Aerosystems, was reported to the FBI last September after he rented a recreational lake operated by the Spirit Boeing Employees’ Association, according to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kan.

Most of the 45 guests at the gathering were Muslim and some female guests wore hijabs.

There was also a Malaysian flag to mark the 60th anniversary of that country’s independence, according to the suit, filed by the ACLU of Kansas.

But someone described in the lawsuit as a ranger or groundskeeper reported to the employees’ association that a group “dressed in Muslim garb” had an American flag “desecrated with ISIS symbols.”

The association reported the information to Spirit, which in turn contacted the FBI, according to the suit.

Several weeks later, Zanial received notice from Facebook that law enforcement was seeking information about his account.

And shortly afterward, he received a call from an FBI agent.

The agent told Zanial that he had determined that it was a Malaysian flag and that he would recommend that the investigation be closed.

But in January, Zanial was told he was barred from again renting the facility because of the previous party.

The whole situation has left him feeling stress and anxiety.

The suit alleges that he was discriminated against based on race, ethnicity or religion.

“He is concerned that the investigation could affect his lawful permanent residence status,” according to the suit. “He also feels distress and humiliation based on this experience of being singled-out because of his ethnicity, race and religion.”


© 2018 The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.)

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.