UAE protests US arrest of Emirati national in Ohio

Advisory comes after Ahmed al-Menhali was wrestled to ground by police in Ohio after being mistaken for ISIL suspect.

The United Arab Emirates has advised its citizens to avoid wearing the national attire abroad after an Emirati man was wrestled to the ground in the US state of Ohio and held as an Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) suspect.

The UAE has also summoned a senior American diplomat to protest against the “abusive treatment” of Ahmed al-Menhali, in the US for a medical check-up, who was arrested at a hotel in the suburb of Cleveland.

UAE’s foreign ministry said on Sunday that it expressed “discontent” to US embassy deputy chief of mission Ethan Goldrich, and demanded clarifications over the detention of Menhali, wearing a white robe and Arab headdress, on Wednesday.

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A video of the incident posted on YouTube showed several policemen armed with rifles take down Menhali and then handcuff and search him.

A hotel employee had suspected Menhali had pledged allegiance to ISIL (also known as ISIS), while speaking Arabic on the phone.

“She [the employee] went off and texted her sister and said I pledged my allegiance to ISIS,” Menhali told Al Jazeera, speaking through a friend because of his inability to speak properly following a previous stroke.

“They told the police that I was pledging allegiance to ISIS, but [said] nothing about weapons. The police responded as if there were weapons.

“We are consulting with lawyers and will decide where to go from there.”

The foreign ministry said it expressed “discontent over the abusive treatment by the Ohio police of a UAE citizen” as well as the posting of a video showing his arrest, which contained “defamation of the UAE national”.

Goldrich “apologised” for the incident, pledging to get clarifications from authorities, the statement carried by WAM state news agency added.

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After confirming that Menhali posed no danger, the policemen let him go.

Menhali told media that he got “several injuries” from the arrest.

The Emirati foreign ministry, in a statement posted on Twitter, urged citizens “not to wear the national dress during their travel, especially in public areas, to ensure their own safety”.

‘100 percent blameless’

Officials from the Cleveland suburb of Avon, where the incident happened, had also apologised to Menhali, according to Julia Shearson, executive director of the Cleveland Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

“They told him that he was 100 percent blameless in this matter, and that the incident absolutely should never have happened,” Shearson said in a statement sent to Al Jazeera. 

Shearson also cited the police chief as saying “he would welcome training about understanding Islam and Muslims for law enforcement to help break down barriers and stereotypes”.

Anti-Muslim incidents have spiked in the US after deadly ISIL attacks in the West.

A Muslim doctor in the US state of Texas was shot and stabbed while on his way to a mosque for morning prayers on Sunday.

On Saturday, a Muslim man was also attacked near a mosque in Florida. 

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has called for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the US.

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Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies