SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah Muslim leader who is a U.S. citizen is unable to return from a trip to his native Kenya after airline workers there told him the U.S. had barred him, said his attorney Jim McConkie.
Imam Yussuf Abdi, who leads Madina Masjid mosque in Salt Lake, is unsure why he was not allowed to fly home, McConkie said, adding that he has been unable to get answers either.
"We just simply don't know at this point," McConkie said Thursday.
Abdi went to Kenya to accompany his wife and five children on their permanent move to Utah. McConkie said Abdi, his wife and five kids had the proper paperwork and visas.
His family was permitted to fly on Tuesday, but Abdi was not. They decided to stay in Kenya until they could fly together, McConkie said.
Meantime, Abdi's congregation in Utah is without its leader during the faith's holiest month.
"People are so worried about the imam and his situation," said Aden Batar, who attends prayers led by Abdi and is the refugee resettlement and immigration director for Catholic Community Services in Salt Lake City. "Especially this month of Ramadan, people are so anxious to see him back."
Noor Ul Hassan, who attends Abdi's mosque, said she fears the hangup will sow distrust and angst in Utah's Muslim community, especially among those who are citizens like Abdi.
The imam also is a software engineer and moved to the U.S. in 2005. He became a citizen in 2010, McConkie said.
McConkie said the airline, Qatar Airways, did not provide details. A handful of nations this week suspended the airline's service for political reasons; McConkie believes the suspensions are not at play in Abdi's case.
Abdi is seeking help from the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi; McConkie from the federal Department of Homeland Security. He said Sen. Orrin Hatch's office is also helping them to try to determine the reason behind the restriction.
McConkie said he is considering filing a court order asking a judge to allow his return.
Contributing: Ashley Moser