What's in a Name?

Qusair Mohamedbhai just wanted to open a bank account. Instead, he was labeled a terrorist.

Babcock-Elder did admit to using the term "camel jockey" during depositions. "The plaintiff is not seeking any damages from that encounter, so it is irrelevant," Ross-Shannon says. "It's a red herring. It's something they want to use to inflame the jury, but it has no relevance."

Mohamedbhai's attorneys feel otherwise.

"When Babcock-Elder spewed that 'camel jockey' comment, her true motivations were immediately revealed," says Mari Newman. "There is no doubt that she racially profiled Mr. Mohamedbhai."

Identity crisis: Qusair Mohamedbhai had a new job as 
a lawyer, not a terrorist.
Jim J. Narcy
Identity crisis: Qusair Mohamedbhai had a new job as a lawyer, not a terrorist.
Credit rating: Dan Heidel heard terrorizing news about 
his friend at a business meeting
Jim J. Narcy
Credit rating: Dan Heidel heard terrorizing news about his friend at a business meeting

In June, a California jury awarded $61 million to a pair of Lebanese-American FedEx drivers who claimed they were continually harassed by a manager who called them "camel jockeys" and "terrorists." That award was recently whittled down to $12.4 million, and the figure is still under appeal.

"This is a lawsuit about money," says Ross-Shannon. "He's seeking money. And I think it's interesting to note that Mohamedbhai has actively publicized the case. When the lawsuit was filed, he went on TV, there were articles in the paper. I think that's of note."

The story got far more play in Canada, where it ran in papers across the country, than it did in Colorado, where Mohamedbhai's case is now set for a July trial.

"I'm not looking for my payday for this, but I know how the law works," Mohamedbhai says. "The bank and Colorado Cheque Connection don't think that what happened in this case is a big deal because there's no real quantifiable damage. I wasn't fired from my job, nothing bad happened to me economically. But say someone was sexually harassed at work just up to the point where they are not actually fired. Are there no damages there? When Rosa Parks was asked to move to the back of the bus and refused, were there damages there? No. None. But yet her actions changed the way the law perceives racism, how we gauge discrimination."

"It's just really disappointing to me that in this day and age, someone like Ms. Babcock-Elder can hold to such archaic values, judge someone purely by their name and turn them into a criminal," says Heidel, who now works in Colorado Springs and no longer catches the bus in Capitol Hill. "The real troubling thought is that this is just one instance. It makes you wonder how many other people this has happened to."

"The funny thing about all this is my life is a complete open book to the Department of Homeland Security," Mohamedbhai concludes, pointing out that he has to renew his visa every year. "If I was a terrorist, they would know about it. The government of Canada and the U.S. allow for professional exchanges like mine, labor traded freely. The Department of Homeland Security, they swipe my passport and my whole life comes up for them to see."

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