You could call it a Ramadan gift.
What began as a nightmare for Utah Muslim leader Yussuf Awadir Abdi ended with a joyous reunion on the tarmac of the Salt Lake City International Airport.
His community, members of the Refugee Justice League of Utah and a lawsuit by the Council on American-Islamic Relations had succeeded in bringing back the imam from Kenya after he was inexplicably barred from re-entry by a U.S. no-fly list.
Awadir Abdi and his wife and children were met by a crowd of about 100 supporters who cheered as the family walked into the baggage claim, the Salt Lake City Tribune reported. Many rushed forward to hug the imam, and a few held signs with greetings to the family and thanks to the lawyers.
According to media reports, the imam of the Madina Masjid Islam Center of Salt Lake City had recently traveled to Kenya to pick up his wife and five children. As his family boarded a plane back to Utah, officials at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International pulled Abdi aside.
He was told the U.S. would not allow his re-entry into the country. “The night they told me ‘You are not allowed to go,’ I thought I (might) never go,” he told the newspaper.
Now, “the first thing I am going to do is thank everyone. This is a gift from God,” Abdi said gratefully.
Abdi has been an American citizen since 2010, living in Utah for the past six years. Abdi’s wife and two of his children have visas; the other three kids are legal immigrants.
In 2005 Abdi left a Kenyan refugee camp with his sister and brother. His father was killed in the civil war there, and he has been working to bring his mother to the United States ever since.
His lawyers have filed a lawsuit in Salt Lake City’s U.S. District Court against five federal agencies. The suit says Abdi was put on the federal government’s no-fly list after he arrived in Kenya.
Lena F. Masri, CAIR National litigation director, called the no-fly list “a tool to attack the constitutional rights and liberties of innocent American Muslims around the country… The U.S. Government “wrongfully placed him on the list without notice or due process after he left the country, which effectively exiled him from returning to his home in Utah.”
The Refugee Justice League, which launched about four months ago, has lawyers in Utah who represent refugees and immigrants for free in cases of discrimination. w/pix of imam Yussuf Awadir Abdi and a well-wisher