An Oklahoma gun range has ignited outrage for a sign that states the business is "Muslim free" posted in the window, which the owner said Thursday was in response to the July 16 shootings at two military bases in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The alleged gunman, Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez, shot and killed six people, including himself, and was believed to be Muslim.
Chad Neal, who is one of the owners of the Save Yourself Survival and Tactical Gear store, told the Tulsa World site that he consulted cases of other businesses in the country that displayed similar signs before posting an announcement that reads in capital letters, "This privately owned business is a Muslim free establishment, we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone."
— Imraan Siddiqi (@imraansiddiqi) August 13, 2015
The Oktaha, Oklahoma business owner said his decision was prompted by his belief that Muslims should not have access to any gun range -- not just his own.
"We do not want to have any jihadis training on our gun range and then going down to our local armed services office and having better marksmanship than they showed up with," said Neal. "I've seen what Muslims and jihads do to people. It's just not going to happen in my store."
A state Muslim civil rights advocacy group has criticized Neal's decision and questioned the legality of his business practice. Veronica Laizure, civil rights director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Oklahoma, pointed to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which says that if a business is open to the public, prohibiting people based on race is illegal.
"Obviously there's a lot of stereotypes specifically associated with Muslims, specifically the threat of terrorism and extremism," Laizure said. "It puts [Muslims] in the 'other' category and makes them seem like they're not a part of their community. The Oklahoma Muslim community is proud to be citizens of this state and proud to be in America, and these stereotypes are very damaging because they feel like they can't take part fully in American life and American society."
The Council on American-Islamic Relations has called for an investigation to be conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice.
“Segregation was shameful then, and it’s shameful now,” Nihad Anwad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, told the Religious News Service.
Neal, who is a Iraq war veteran, said that he has received mostly support from the public with the exception of one person who left a negative review on the business Facebook page.
"We're part of the community down here, and they love us," he said. "I don't want to have a bad range day and have someone wearing full Muslim robes and such making someone feel uncomfortable. It's a free country and we reserve the right to refuse anyone."
Last year, another gun range was attacked by critics after the owner declared the Arkansas establishment in September 2014 to be a "Muslim-free zone." Many predicted that the business would be sued, but Fox News reported that five months later, that was not the case and the business was thriving.
Both The Council on American-Islamic Relations and the American Civil Liberties Union wrote complaints to the Department of Justice about the gun range owner Jan Morgan's decision to ban Muslims. However, she has maintained her policy.