Source: Religion News Service
VIRGINIA, USA, August 30, 2001: A Muslim man said today he is filing a lawsuit against America Online, charging the Virginia-based company has failed to protect Muslim members from anti-Muslim harassment in chat rooms. "For years Muslim members of AOL have been subjected to religious harassment in Muslim AOL chat rooms," said Kamran Memon, one of the attorneys who represents plaintiff Saad Noah. "Muslims have complained to AOL, they have asked AOL to enforce its terms of service which prohibit hate speech in chat rooms, but AOL has not done enough because the harassment continues and harassers keep coming back." The lawsuit claims that AOL has violated federal civil rights statutes that prohibit discrimination in a place of public accommodation, Memon said. "In light of the growing significance of chat rooms, and the fact that so many Americans use chat rooms to conduct business or entertainment, it makes sense that those people should be protected from discrimination in the same way that people are protected from discrimination elsewhere," said Memon, noting that courts have considered places of entertainment to be places of public accommodation. "Other laws apply both online and offline -- for example criminal laws, intellectual property laws. There's no reason why civil rights laws should be any different." Noah's lawsuit seeks unspecified damages and "an injunction ordering AOL to protect its Muslim members from harassment," Memon said. "For example, if AOL knows that a certain person using a certain screen name has been complained about several times for anti-Muslim bigotry, then AOL should terminate that person's account, and not let that person become a member of AOL again," Memon said. AOL should also include Muslims on its panel that responds to harassment complaints, Memon said.