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US: San Jose police officer awarded $400K in anti-Muslim harassment lawsuit

According to court documents, Nabil Haidar was once referred to as being a member of ISIS
A San Jose Police Department vehicle at the San Jose rail yard, on 26 May 2021 (AFP)

A former police officer from San Jose, California, will receive a $400,000 settlement for a lawsuit claiming he faced harassment due to his Muslim faith.

In 2018, Nabil Haidar, a Lebanese-American police officer, filed a lawsuit against the San Jose Police Department, claiming he was subjected to anti-Muslim comments, particularly after the 9/11 attacks.

The lawsuit says that in November 2017 during a police briefing, a captain was acknowledging police veterans, and a sergeant reportedly made derogatory remarks about Haidar: “Captain, you forgot to mention Nabil. He is an ISIS veteran. He was with ISIS for two years,” referring to the Islamic State militant group, which swept through vast swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq before being territorially defeated in 2019. 

"After the 9/11 attacks, he started to be targeted and attacked because he was a Muslim from the Middle East. What I mean is almost a daily basis. He was called names, really disgusting names, like terrorist, suicide bomber, member of ISIS," said Haidar’s attorney, Randall Strauss, Fox KTVU reported.

According to court records, both the sergeant and another officer whom Haidar alleged made anti-Muslim comments were suspended for a week due to their statements.

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Court documents reveal that Haidar took medical leave in 2019 and came back to light duty in 2021 before applying for retirement the following year. 

On Tuesday, the San Jose City Council approved Haidar's pre-trial settlement. 

“Officer Haidar is a hero for taking on powers that be within the department, including the top command staff, in order to expose racism and Islamophobia,” Strauss said in a statement. 

“He fought this case for years in the face of intense pressure that ultimately cost him his career in order to seek justice for himself, his family and all victims of discrimination by police officers, his family and all victims of discrimination by police officers.”

The city countered Haidar's claims, asserting in legal documents that he willingly engaged and reciprocated the remarks. They argued that Haidar retorted with crude comments about the sergeant’s spouse and made jokes about his Italian heritage.

"It is deeply concerning that the city and San Jose Police Department did not acknowledge any wrongdoing, instead choosing to trivialize his claims by suggesting he was a willing participant," said the Bay Area chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

"We urge the San Jose Police Department to use this settlement as an opportunity for meaningful reform and as a foundation for rebuilding trust with the community it serves.” 

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