The family of a 20-year-old Muslim Marine recruit from Michigan who died in a fall at boot camp in South Carolina last year after allegedly being hazed and abused is suing the government for $100 million for his death.
In a lawsuit filed with the U.S. District Court in Detroit, the family’s lawyer, Shiraz Khan, alleges that Raheel Siddiqui’s death was due to “negligence on multiple levels of his command,” according to the Detroit Free Press. The suit also claims the Marine Corps was well aware of Siddiqui’s Muslim faith and failed to inform him there already was an investigation for acts committed against another Muslim recruit at Parris Island. The U.S. government failed to “adequately oversee and protect” Siddiqui or reassign him to another battalion, the suit claims.
Moreover, Siddiqui allegedly threatened to commit suicide at the boot camp, was physically abused by a drill instructor and had pain in his neck on the day of his death. On that day — March 18, 2016 — Siddiqui allegedly told his superiors he needed medical treatment, that he had a swollen throat for three days, lost his voice and could barely speak, and was “in a lot of pain.”
According to the Free Press, parts of a preliminary investigation made public last year indicated that Siddiqui had been abused, hazed, and called a “terrorist” during his time at Parris Island. This report asserted that on the morning Siddiqui died, a few days after he recanted his threat of suicide, Siddiqui complained of a “sore, bleeding throat but was refused medical attention.” Instead, Siddiqui was forced to run laps. While running, he collapsed, and his drill instructor allegedly slapped him. At this point, according to the report, Siddiqui leapt up, ran through a door and flung himself over an exterior stairwell. He died in a hospital several hours later.
The Siddiqui family does not believe that their son’s death resulted from mental instability or lack of preparedness. Instead, they allege that Gunnery Sgt. Felix hazed and abused him, and that the discriminatory mistreatment drove their son to the point of suicide.
Drill instructor Joseph Felix faces charges of maltreatment for allegedly slapping Siddiqui. Before Siddiqui, Felix allegedly abused another Muslim recruit by ordering him into an industrial-sized dryer, turning it on and making anti-Muslim remarks to him. After Siddiqui’s death, the Marines launched two investigations into misconduct by drill instructors. A third investigation, which was ongoing at the time of Siddiqui’s death, looked into allegations of hazing in 2015. It was ultimately combined with the other two.
The Marine Corps said it has ordered those leaders relieved, if they haven’t already been removed from their positions. The service said the 20 have been identified for potential administrative or judicial punishment, which could include courts-martial for some.
Dawud Walid, the executive director of the Council on American Islamic Relations in Michigan, said he was told by Siddiqui’s family and friends that the late Marines recruit was a top student who showed no signs of depression.
“Moreover, he voluntarily joined the military with hopes to go back to school to be an FBI agent,” Walid told MEE.
CAIR is not involved in the lawsuit. Walid, a Navy veteran, said he had faced anti-Muslim bigotry in the military himself.
“We believe there was injustice done against Mr Siddiqui,” Walid said.
“I can say as an American Muslim who formerly served in the military that there is a very deep-seated hazing problem in general in the United States military, especially when it comes to people who are different, especially people of colour.”
Read a copy of the lawsuit below: