Muslim American Held in Cairo on No-Fly List

By Daisy Hernandez Jun 16, 2010

Yahya Wehelie, from Fairfax, Virginia, US, displays his US passport in Cairo, Egypt. Wehelie has been stuck in Egypt for the last six weeks because his name was on a U.S. no-fly list due to people he met during a trip to Yemen. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

It used to be that a worried, immigrant mother could ship her wayward American-born son back to the homeland in the hopes that some time among his people would straighten him out and, more importantly, land him a good wife. Those days are over. 

Shamsa Noor, a Somali immigrant mom in Virginia, tells the New York Times that she and her husband insisted in 2008 that their son, Yahya Wehelie, go abroad after he was arrested for reckless driving and carrying pot. Wehelie, 26, headed to Yemen where apparently it’s cheap to study Arabic and find a good wife. It’s also where Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the so-called "Dec. 25 bomber," was allegedly trained. Fast-forward and today Wehelie is in transit limbo in Cairo. The F.B.I. has questioned him for connections to a New Jersey man accused of joining Al Qaeda but they haven’t arrested Wehelie. Still, he remains on the no-fly list.

The Times reports that the number of names on the no-fly list has doubled to 8,000 since the Dec. 25 attempted bombing. It’s a disturbing finding considering, as Channing Kennedy pointed out recently, that Obama’s new security strategy focuses on the threat posed by brown, U.S.-born terrorists.

So far, Wehelie seems to be having an easier time than his younger brother, Yusuf, 19, who was questioned by the F.B.I., then turned over to Egyptian security forces. The executive director of the Council of American-Islamic Relations told the Times that Yusuf was blindfolded, then chained to a wall and "roughed up" before being put on a plane back home.

Wehelie, who did marry a Somali woman during his time in Yemen, remains in Cairo.