- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 14, 2007

The lawyer representing six imams who are suing an airline and unknown “John Doe” passengers should be removed from his position as a New York City commissioner on human rights, said a state assemblyman.

“When it comes to suspicious or potentially terrorist activity, New Yorkers are encouraged to say something if they see something,” said Rory I. Lancman, assemblyman from Queens.

“Before they do so, I think they have a right to know that they won’t be sued by their own human rights commissioner, Omar Mohammedi,” said Mr. Lancman.

Mr. Lancman has asked Mayor Michael Bloomberg to demand that Mr. Mohammedi to resign his seat.

Stu Loeser, Mr. Bloomberg’s spokesman, said Mr. Mohammedi is an unpaid employee on the commission and has the right to choose his clients.

Mr. Bloomberg in 2002 appointed Mr. Mohammedi to the commission, which enforces the city’s human rights laws, holds hearings and investigates complaints of racial, religious and ethnic discrimination. It also is empowered to make recommendations to the mayor.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Mohammedi declined to comment, saying, “We’ve already addressed that.”

Mr. Mohammedi told the New York Post on Wednesday that Mr. Lancman should quit “manipulating the emotions of the public to target a segment of the community.”

Mr. Mohammedi filed suit March 12 against U.S. Airways, a Minneapolis airport, and unnamed “John Doe” passengers who reported suspicious activity that lead to the imams’ removal from a November flight.

The imams say they were discriminated against because of their religion, and that bias prompted passengers to wrongly report the imams had asked for unneeded seat-belt extenders, moved about the cabin and made critical remarks about President Bush and the war in Iraq, or that they sat in a seating pattern that resembled the formation taken by September 11 hijackers.

Mr. Loeser said “the mayor supports protecting the people’s rights to report suspicious activities, including the bill sponsored by his good friend, Representative Pete King.”

Mr. King, New York Republican and ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee, is pushing legislation that has received initial House approval to protect people from being sued if they report suspicious behavior that might be linked to terrorism. Mr. Lancman said he will introduce similar legislation in the New York State House.

Although the lawsuit was filed March 12 in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis, an official with U.S. Airways said the airline is unable to respond because Mr. Mohammedi has not officially served the company with the legal papers.

Mr. Lancman, who is a lawyer, said failure to serve papers could result in a dismissal of the suit.

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