BY: Elise Hanks Billing | DATE: Dec 10, 2020
CLEAR client Muhammad Tanvir smiles with his hand over his heart in this snap

CLEAR client Muhammad Tanvir

Today the United States Supreme Court ruled unanimously in Tanzin v. Tanvir that three Muslim men placed or kept on the No-Fly List in retaliation for refusing to spy on their religious communities may sue individual FBI agents for interfering with their freedom to practice their religion.

The ruling comes after seven years of advocacy from CUNY Law’s CLEAR (Creating Law Enforcement Accountability & Responsibility), which began working with the men at the center of the case after they contacted CUNY Law to aid their removal from the No-Fly List. The years-long effort was driven by dozens of CUNY Law students and multiple CUNY Law faculty members, in partnership with the Center for Constitutional Rights, and co-counsel Debevoise & Plimpton LLP.

“It is a soaring feeling,” said lead plaintiff Muhammad Tanvir. “I made my life in this country, so this is important not just for me, but for everybody. I don’t want the same thing that the FBI did to me to happen to others.”


“The Supreme Court today vindicated our clients’ courageous stand for their religious freedom as Muslims who would not spy on their own faith community,” said Ramzi Kassem, Professor of Law and Founding Director of CLEAR, who argued the case before the Court on October 6, 2020, as the Law School community tuned in. “The Court’s unanimous decision also sends a clear message to FBI agents who should think twice now before abusing the power to put people on the No-Fly List.”

Tanvir, along with Jameel Algibhah, Naveed Shinwari, and a fourth man, repeatedly refused FBI requests to spy on their Muslim communities — among other things, to visit online Islamic forums or attend certain mosques and “act extremist” — and after years of flying without incident, discovered they were not permitted to board flights. FBI agents told each man he would be able to get off the No-Fly List if he agreed to work for the FBI.

As a result of their placement on the No-Fly List, for years the men were unable to see spouses, children, sick parents, and elderly grandparents who are overseas. They lost jobs, were stigmatized within their communities, and suffered severe financial and emotional distress.

Advocates say the FBI’s abusive behavior in this case is just one example of the profiling, targeting, and harassment of Muslims by law enforcement and other government officials, which also includes extensive surveillance and infiltration of their religious communities and spaces, including mosques; holds on immigration status and other benefits; and the Muslim Ban.

CUNY Law expresses its gratitude and congratulations to the students, faculty, and staff who pursued justice so zealously for so many years on Tanzin v. Tanvir. The outcome is a true community victory.



About CLEAR (Creating Law Enforcement Accountability & Responsibility)

Based out of Main Street Legal Services, Inc., the clinical arm of CUNY School of Law, CLEAR’s mandate is to serve Muslim and all other clients, communities, and movements in the New York City area and beyond that are targeted by local, state, or federal government agencies under the guise of national security and counterterrorism.

About the City University of New York School of Law
The nation’s premier public interest law school is driven by a mission to enhance the diversity of the legal profession and graduate outstanding public interest advocates. Founded in 1983, the public school offers full and part-time programs.