UAE Citizen Held At Gunpoint in Ohio, Triggers Travel Warning Against 'Traditional Dress'
Photo via YouTube
The United Arab Emirates has issued a warning for its citizens traveling overseas advising them against wearing traditional dress following a profiling incident in the state of Ohio.
Ahmed al-Menhali is a 41-year-old Emirati businessman and father of three, who was in the Cleveland, Ohio area for a medical checkup. While attempting to find a hotel in a city booked solid due to the upcoming Republican National Convention, Menhali tried to check into a local Fairfield Inn and Suites in nearby Avon. From there, things went about as badly as humanly possible.
The clerk—whose name is as-of-yet unreleased—informed the man that this hotel, too, was booked solid for the night, but then texted her sister when Menhali attempted to ask for her assistance in finding another hotel. The sister and the clerk’s father then called 911, claiming that the man was “pledging his allegiance to ISIS” when he had been heard speaking Arabic over the phone.
From there, local police responded as to any terror threat, and the incident (which was captured on body camera) is as jarring as it is unfortunate.
The Avon Police Department is reviewing the incident, and city officials have apologized personally to Menhali—while noting that he was not, in any way, at fault. Nonetheless, the incident spurred the UAE to issue a travel warning to its citizens traveling abroad.
The travel warning, issued via the UAE’s official government Twitter account, advised against “traditional dress,” especially in public areas.
At the time of the incident, Menhali was wearing a kandura, a traditional white robe.
It would be easy to dismiss this as a perfect storm of mistakes leading to an unfortunate end. Menhali has some speech difficulties having previously suffered a stroke, so the hotel clerk would have found it hard to understand him. The tenor of the Cleveland area—both in law enforcement and travel industries—is guarded because of the upcoming convention.
The UAE foreign ministry has officially expressed their discontent to U.S. diplomatic personnel over the abuse as well as the posting of the body camera video showing his arrest. Menhali is exploring legal avenues with a lawyer and though charges have not been filed against the clerk, that is still a possibility.
Anti-Muslim attacks have spiked recently in the U.S., due to violence in San Bernadino, Paris and now Orlando, as has anti-Muslim rhetoric throughout the current election cycle both on national and state levels.
U.S. travelers are familiar with travel warnings to various other countries as issues by our State Department, but it is a stark contrast in reality when America has become unsafe—in any way, shape or form—for foreign travelers.
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