UAE Man Mistaken for Terrorist in Ohio Spurs Diplomatic Incident

  • Nation advises citizens not to wear traditional dress abroad
  • U.S. diplomat in Abu Dhabi summoned for explanation of case

The handcuffing of a traditionally dressed United Arab Emirates citizen mistaken for a terrorist in Ohio last week spurred the nation’s government to take the unusual steps of summoning a U.S. diplomat for a meeting and advising its citizens not to wear such clothing while traveling abroad.

Harassment against Muslims in the U.S. has increased since presumptive Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump called in December for a ban on Muslim immigration. Deadly attacks in San Bernardino, California, and Orlando, Florida, and killings from Paris and Brussels to Bangladesh and Turkey tied to sympathizers of Islamic State have added to tensions.

The latest incident occurred on June 29 when the sister of a woman working as a hotel clerk in the Cleveland suburb of Avon, Ohio, called police to report that a man at the hotel in “full head dress” had pledged allegiance to Islamic State, according to WEWS, a local ABC affiliate. Police arrived and handcuffed businessman Ahmed al-Menhali, who had been visiting the area for medical treatment and was wearing a traditional headscarf and full-length white robe, WEWS reported.

Apology Given

Avon’s mayor and police chief apologized to al-Menhali on Saturday, the station said, broadcasting video of the meeting at the Cleveland office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Nations usually summon resident diplomats to express displeasure with their home countries or to protest policies. The UAE has done so occasionally in recent years, such as when it met with Qatar’s ambassador in 2014 to protest a Muslim cleric’s statement against the Arab state. The UAE generally has friendly relations with the U.S. yet is strongly protective of its citizens and their dignity.

The summoned diplomat, U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission Ethan Goldrich in Abu Dhabi, promised an official response from U.S. as soon as possible, and said the embassy would contact police in Ohio to clarify what happened, according to a UAE foreign ministry statement. The U.S. State Department did not immediately respond Sunday to a request for comment.

Wardrobe Advice

The UAE government on Saturday advised its citizens not to wear traditional clothing while out of the country. The foreign ministry resented the UAE citizen’s treatment in being arrested and searched, the official WAM news agency said, citing a statement issued by the ministry.

Some Americans recently have been quick to wrongfully report possible Muslim terrorists, especially on airplanes. In one case in May, the suspect was actually an Italian professor from an Ivy League university writing math equations. In another incident, a California college student and Iraqi refugee was removed from a flight after mentioning the jihadist group Islamic State during a phone conversation in Arabic.

Trump last week softened his position on Muslim immigration to suggest that he’d would focus on people from countries with a history of terrorist incidents.

    Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal. LEARN MORE