LOS ANGELES, CA – Today, in a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court of the United States refused to endorse the federal government’s attempt to win dismissal of the religious discrimination claims presented by Sheik Fazaga, Ali Malik, and Yasser AbdelRahim. Although the Supreme Court reversed the Ninth Circuit’s ruling that those claims should be governed by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the Supreme Court sent the case back for the Ninth Circuit to decide if the claims against the FBI can proceed. Its decision explicitly leaves open several paths to victory for Americans who practice the Muslim faith and have suffered unconstitutional surveillance because of their religion.
Statement from Sheik Yassir Fazaga, Plaintiff in FBI v. Fazaga:
Today the Supreme Court decided that we can continue to fight our case to hold the government accountable for illegally spying on the Muslim community. Fifteen years ago, the FBI looked us all in the eyes and assured us unequivocally that they were not spying on us. We trusted them. But they lied, and our sacred community was shaken to its core. Today, we live to fight another day in our struggle to ensure that Americans who practice Islam are protected by the sacred right to religious freedom that our Constitution guarantees.
Statement from Ali Malik, Plaintiff in FBI v. Fazaga:
I was in my early twenties when I learned that my own government was spying on me and attempting to entrap me because of my religion. I felt deeply betrayed and sad. I also did not understand how the U.S. government could get away with violating a right I knew was guaranteed to all of us by our Constitution. I decided to hold my government accountable and, today, over fifteen years later, I’m relieved that the Supreme Court will allow our case to continue. I believe the most patriotic thing someone can do is to fight for the Constitution, so that all Americans can be protected by it and the sacred rights it bestows. I will continue to fight on behalf of my family, community, and all Americans to ensure that all of us are protected by the US Constitution.
Statement from Yasser AbdelRahim, Plaintiff in FBI v. Fazaga:
When I found out that the FBI was spying on me because I worshipped at a mosque, I felt betrayed. I felt that the place of worship I once found peace in and connected with spiritually was no longer safe. The Supreme Court’s decision today makes me hopeful that we will, in fact be able to hold the government accountable for violating our religious freedoms. I will continue to fight to right the wrongs the US Government committed against me and my community and to hold them accountable for treating Muslim Americans as second-class citizens.
Statement from Ahilan Arulanantham, Counsel of Record in FBI v. Fazaga and Faculty Co-Director of the Center for Immigration Law and Policy:
Today, the Supreme Court found that the men I represent, Sheik Yassir Fazaga, Ali Malik, and Yasser AbdelRahim can continue to pursue their claims that the FBI spied on them because of their religious beliefs. It refused to endorse the government’s invitation to extinguish their religious discrimination claims because the Government claims they involve "state secrets." My clients and many other members of Southern California’s Muslim American communities have been waiting 15 years for justice. The Supreme Court’s decision today brings us one step closer to achieving it. We look forward to pursuing our clients’ claims, and to holding the FBI accountable for its long-standing unconstitutional practices discriminating against Americans who practice the Muslim faith.
Founded in 2020, the Center for Immigration Law and Policy (CILP) at the UCLA School of Law expands the law school's role as a national leader in immigration law and policy, generating innovative ideas at the intersection of immigration scholarship and practice and serving as a hub for transforming those ideas into meaningful changes in immigration policy.