MLFA Protects Halil Demir CEO of Leading Muslim Humanitarian Organization

MLFA’s Fight for Transparency and Justice

Halil Demir, the Executive Director of the Zakat Foundation of America, a multi-million dollar humanitarian aid organization has been targeted by multiple government agencies including DHS, TSC, TSA, and FBI, through placement on the terrorist watchlist. Despite his successful humanitarian efforts and impeccable record, Mr. Demir faces unwarranted scrutiny every time he travels, experiencing severe delays and missed opportunities due to being flagged with “SSSS” on his boarding passes. Mr. Demir experiences more than a second run through a screener or additional wand at a checkpoint — he regularly faces additional screening at the gate, and often gets pulled off the plane in front of other passengers for yet more, by this point duplicative, screening questions and searches. 

Muslim Legal Fund of America (MLFA) took up his case, filing two lawsuits to demand transparency from these agencies regarding their targeting practices and answers for Mr. Demir.

In one lawsuit, MLFA challenges the FBI’s refusal to release records it requested about Mr. Demir. The FBI cited an “ongoing investigation” as its reason for failing to provide records, though there is evidence of any wrongdoing on Mr. Demir’s part and he’s never been charged with or even accused of any crimes. Despite Mr. Demir’s appeals, the FBI continues to withhold the records. So, MLFA filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. This legal action aims to compel the FBI to justify its decision or release the requested documents, emphasizing the importance of transparency and due process. 

The second lawsuit attacks the scrutiny Mr. Demir consistently experiences when he travels. This isn’t normal screening: he knows he will need hours to get a boarding pass, that invariably has SSSS on it, and undergo lengthy screening of up to several hours and finally reach his gate. But it’s not done then. He also regularly sees agents come to the gate to search him again, and any luggage he has, at the gate in front of other passengers. And sometimes, it keeps going: he’s been pulled off airplanes after boarding, while all those on the plane must wait and join in his delays, just to be asked the same questions again. He cooperates and answers respectfully each time, and agents have never found any threat or contraband in all of these searches. Yet they continue. Our lawsuit asks the agencies to explain this, and at the very least provide him a reason that he receives treatment so different from other passengers, with such consistency. That is his right as a U.S. citizen, and under the Constitution.

By defending Mr. Demir’s rights, MLFA not only protects Zakat Foundation of America’s vital humanitarian work but also sets the precedent to safeguard other Muslim individuals and organizations from similar unwarranted targeting and harassment by government agencies. Through its relentless advocacy, MLFA underscores the critical need for accountability and fairness by government agencies in their treatment of Muslim Americans and Musilm organizations, ensuring that justice prevails in the face of discrimination and bias.

We are proud to represent Mr. Demir so that he can continue his valuable work with Zakat Foundation of America, serving vulnerable communities and doing impactful humanitarian work.  Muslim Legal Fund of America’s Civil Litigation department provides Mr. Demir with the unwavering legal defense he deserves. 

Give you Zakat & Sadaqah to ensure we can continue to build a legal force for Muslim organizations like Zakat Foundation of America and others.