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Case: Hyath vs. City of Decatur

Posted by Kathy Harrington-Sullivan | Aug 14, 2004 | 0 Comments

From the time he was a child, Mohamed “Abdul” Hyath dreamed of being a police officer. Abdul felt the strong sense of duty drawing him to serve and to protect. To Abdul, becoming a police officer was a calling. Abdul survived the rigorous training and the testing it took to become a police and became on officer with the City of Decatur Police Department.

Abdul began work believing that he had finally achieved his dream. That he was among people like him – caring, protective, accepting. But his coworkers did not feel the same way. From the very beginning, while they rode together in the City's patrol cars, Abdul's coworkers taunted him about his Mauritian background. As they drove by Muslim women in the street, the other officers would ridicule the coverings the women wore. They taunted him about his choice not to eat pork. Abdul, an American citizen, tried to fit in. He let the comments roll off of him as a he fought to fulfill his dream and to protect the people of Decatur. But it did not stop.

During a training session, Abdul was sprayed with pepper spray. His eyes burning, he groped his way to wash his eyes from the stinging, as his supervisors yelled after him, “that is what you get for bombing us, you Taliban” – In front of his coworkers, his supervisors and the Captain of the City of Decatur. And they laughed. No one stopped them.

But Abdul continued to fight – to stand up for the people he has sworn to protect – but the officers would not stop. One day, at roll call, while two shifts of officers met, Abdul entered a room of snickering police officers. The supervisor passed a piece of paper out to each officer and as they received it, they started to laugh. Abdul did not know what was happening, and he sat down at the table. At that time, his supervisor handed him one of the sheets. Abdul stared it – stunned into silence.

That sheet of paper was a copy of a Most Wanted poster. On that Most Wanted poster, it stated that the individual whose picture was shown was wanted in relation to the attacks of 9/11, was a known terrorist and an Al Qaeda member. But instead of a picture of a terrorist, Abdul's supervisor had superimposed a picture of Abdul's face. Where the terrorist's name had been, it now said Mohammad Hyath, a.k.a., Abdul.

Abdul met with the Director of Public Safety and the Chief of Police, showing them the poster and telling them what the other officers were saying. What the City told him shocked Abdul. “Abdul, that is what you can expect around here. This is just good natured fun.” Abdul knew then that he could not continue to work at the City and resigned.

When the Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR) found out about Abdul's case, they organized a rally onAugust 14, 2004 in the City of Decatur Town Square against racial and religious profiling and in support of Abdul's case. CAIR was joined by the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union). The event was televised and drew a large crowd of protestors and speakers to affirm the position that hate hurts America.

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About the Author

Kathy Harrington-Sullivan

Kathy Harrington Sullivan is a Partner at Barrett & Farahany who helps potential clients understand the law, clarify their rights, and determine which steps they can take to protect themselves and their jobs.


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