A Muslim college professor was recently blocked from playing online games because his name was similar to one that is on the US terror watch list. Muhammad Zakir Khan is an assistant professor at Florida’s Broward College and he was recently banned from playing a game called Paragon because his name was allegedly on the terror watch list.
According to Khan, he received a message that said, “Your account creation has been blocked as a result of a match against the Specially Designated Nationals list maintained by the United States of America’s Office of Foreign Assets Control.”
After seeing the message, Khan tweeted a complaint to Epic Games, the company that makes Paragon, with the hashtag #iamnotaterrorist. Epic Games was forced to apologize for the mistake and claimed that the ban had occurred because of multiple errors.
Epic Games founder Tim Sweeney said that usernames should not be cross-referenced with US terror databases in the first place, and a simple match should not have caused a user to lose their account. Sweeney explained that this was a system that was intended to ivestigate potential employees or business clients.
Khan responded that he was grateful for the apology, but was upset that the issue happened in the first place.
“First, the fact that the problem existed in the first place frustrates me. Someone designed Epic’s system without thinking of its impacts. Second, someone overseeing said system being put into place didn’t provide oversight of said system. Thus, they were careless and sloppy. Third, if they had just taken a moment to think about what they had done they could realise how hurtful it could be for someone. It’s not a good feeling for someone to feel like their freedoms are being limited because of their religion, race, or even their name. Incidents of discrimination lead to trauma even if you do not understand them as an outsider. That pain is real and hard to cope with,” Khan said.
According to the ACLU, there are millions of names on US terror watch lists and many of them are actually innocent. In many cases, small children who could not have possibly committed a crime end up on the watch list by mistake. Many politicians have also called for activists to be put on watch lists if they are spotted at protests.
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John Vibes is an author and researcher who organizes a number of large events including the Free Your Mind Conference. He also has a publishing company where he offers a censorship free platform for both fiction and non-fiction writers. You can contact him and stay connected to his work at his Facebook page. You can purchase his books, or get your own book published at his website www.JohnVibes.com.