The U.S. Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates issued an apology on Independence Day after a Muslim man was wrongfully arrested and accused at gunpoint of supporting the Islamic State at a hotel in Avon, a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio.
Forty-one-year-old Ahmed al-Menhali was visiting the United States from the UAE for medical treatments after having a stroke, according to CBS News. He was in the lobby of the Fairfield Inn and Suites in Avon looking for a room when a hotel clerk he had asked for help claimed he pledged allegiance to ISIS and texted her family members asking them to call police. Police arrived at the scene, drew their weapons, ordered Al-Menhali to the ground, and handcuffed him before finding out that the clerk had fabricated the story. He collapsed and was re-hospitalized with minor injuries during his arrest.
The hotel clerk, whose name has not been released, could face criminal charges for making the false accusations, according to local news station ABC Newsnet 5.
The arrest was caught on one of the officers' body cameras:
"She [the clerk] went off and texted her sister and said I pledged my allegiance to ISIS," Menhali told Al Jazeera. "There was nothing to give you cause to think [I'm] a 'terrorist'," he said. "They told the police that I was pledging allegiance to ISIS, but [said] nothing about weapons. The police responded as if there were weapons."
Al-Menhali was wearing a traditional white robe and headdress and speaking on his phone in Arabic at the time of the arrest–the UAE Foreign Ministry has since issued a warning to its citizens that they could be putting themselves in danger if they wear traditional clothing while traveling.
In a statement to Al Jazeera, the Avon Police Department repeatedly referred to Al-Menhali's traditional attire in explaining their arrest. The Council on American-Islamic Relations says that's indicative of the kinds of Islamophobic attitudes that Muslims in America face in many parts of the country.
"The fact that the police referred to his clothing in their report as a criminal indicator is very concerning," Julia Shearson, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations told The Independent. "Police need more diversity training. This is shocking to have happened in Avon, one of the most affluent and suburban nieghbourhoods outside of Cleveland."
Barbara Leaf, the U.S. Ambassador to the UAE, issued an apology to Al-Menhali and the UAE on Monday via Facebook. "The unfortunate incident that Mr. al-Menhali endured in the US is deeply regrettable," she wrote.
The Mayor of Avon, Brian Jensen, and the town's police chief, Richard Bosley, met with al-Menhali and apologized for the incident Saturday:
"No one from the police department (wanted) to disrespect you,” said Avon Police Chief Richard Bosley. “That was not the intent of any of our officers. It is a very regrettable circumstance that occurred for you. You should not have been put in that situation like you were.”