A Muslim family who “silently knelt in an isolated area of the Empire State Building's observation deck” to say their evening prayers has filed a lawsuit against officials there, claiming that they were humiliated when guards interrupted their prayers and forcibly escorted them from the top of the Empire State Building on July 2 around 11 p.m.
CNN reported on March 20 that the lawsuit was filed in Manhattan District Court on Tuesday.
According to the suit:
Fahad Tirmizi, his wife, Amina, and their two young children were at the skyscraper's observation deck at a time when the family's "religious beliefs require them to recite the evening prayers wherever they may be at the time."
Court papers state that the family situated themselves in an isolated area of the observation deck that had very little foot traffic at the time.
The couple was "shamed, humiliated and embarrassed in front of each other, their children, and the general public," according to the lawsuit.
Guards didn't bother the wife, but "menacingly poked" Fahad Tirmizi "with his hands and feet several times in various parts of his body," according to the suit.
The guard informed Tirmizi he was not allowed to pray while at the observatory and then "forcibly" escorted his family to the ground floor exit of the building, according to the court document.
Parties named in the lawsuit include the Empire State Building management company and the security firm charged with protecting the building. Also named were the two unidentified security guards who forcibly escorted the family from the observation deck, “alleging that they violated the first and 14th Amendments as well as multiple state and city civil rights laws.”
The family is seeking unspecified monetary damages.
Brandy Bergman, spokesperson for Empire State Realty Trust, responded to the lawsuit by saying that it was “totally without merit,” and that the management company would respond to the lawsuit in court.
The family released a statement through their attorney that stated in part:
"We weren't doing anything wrong, we just wanted to enjoy the view like everyone else."
Other religious groups, including the Catholic League, quickly came to the family’s defense saying that the family had the right to pray in public, even atop the Empire State Building, and were simply exercising their constitutional rights.
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