ALBUQUERQUE, NM -- Today, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico filed a complaint with the New Mexico Human Rights Bureau on behalf of Muhammad “Nadeem” Kahn, a Pakistani Muslim man who was subjected to harassment, threats, and discrimination while praying at his son’s grave at Fairview Memorial Park. In the complaint, Kahn alleges Noah Tucker, a security guard employed with Mesa Detection Agency, verbally assaulted him and threatened him with physical violence after Kahn refused to cave to his demands to leave the cemetery before closing time. Kahn, who has lived in the United States for 34 years, lost his 24-year-old son to suicide five days prior to the incident.
“It should go without saying that people have a right to mourn the loss of their loved ones in public cemeteries without fear that they will be endangered because of the color of their skin, their religion, or the language in which they pray,” said ACLU of New Mexico Senior Staff Attorney María Martínez Sánchez. “People in the highest echelons of our federal government are giving rise to hate and racism and emboldening individuals such as Mr. Tucker to behave in unfathomable ways. We are committed to pushing back on that vitriol at every level and will do everything in our power to obtain justice for Mr. Kahn.”
On June 24, 2019 at approximately 7:15p.m., Kahn was reciting traditional prayers in Arabic from the Qur’an using videos on his smartphone for reference when Tucker approached him and told him it was closing time and he must leave. Although the cemetery was supposed to be open until 8:30p.m., Kahn complied to avoid an altercation. The next day, he called the administration of Fairview Memorial Park to report the incident and was told he would be allowed to stay until closing time. When he returned later that evening, however, Tucker once again demanded he leave early. After Kahn refused, Tucker stomped on his son’s gravesite, told him to “go back to where he came from,” and then blocked the cemetery exit with his car before threatening him with physical violence.
“It was a living nightmare," said Kahn. “I just lost my son. And then to be treated so poorly because of my religion and the color of my skin was devastating. I don’t want any other human to go through such a traumatic experience. I want this discrimination to be stopped.”
Under the New Mexico Human Rights Act, it is illegal for a company that provides services to the public, as Mesa Detection Agency does for Fairview Memorial Park, to discriminate against or deny service to a person because of their race, religion, or ethnicity.
Attorneys Maureen Sanders and Duff Westbrook of Sanders & Westbrook are partnering with the ACLU to represent Mr. Khan. A copy of the complaint can be viewed below.