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Western Union discriminates against Muslims, says civil rights group

Western Union accused of discrimination against Muslim customers

The Arab American Civil Rights League claims Western Union is discriminating against customers based on their religion and country of origin.

Director Rula Aoun says the company refused service to Dearborn resident and long-time Western Union customer Haidar Abdallah. 

He wanted to send money to the West Bank in Palestine.  Aoun says the amount was not suspicious.

"This was just a couple hundred dollars, just to support his wife and children," says Aoun.

Aoun says when Abdallah complained, the company told him he could submit documents, including his place of employment and his marriage certificate, among numerous others.  She says the amount of documentation was burdensome, and in the end, Western Union stuck with its decision, giving Abdallah no reason.

Aoun says she could find no evidence that Abdallah is on any federal watch list.

In addition, Western Union told Abdallah he could never use the company's services again. 

Aoun says this is just one case among many.  She says the common denominators for Western Union refusing customers appears to be a Muslim name and transfers of money to the Middle East.

Western Union did not agree to an interview, but provided the following statement late Wednesday night:

"Western Union provides services in over 200 countries and territories around the world, enabling the movement of money in a fast, reliable and convenient way. Serving consumers is our number one priority. 

Consumers use our services to support education, health and home related expenses, including humanitarian situations. 

As a regulated business, Western Union maintains strict controls to comply with regulations in each country it operates. This includes customer verification, when sending and receiving money. 

While we can not provide specific information on any one customer, due to privacy rules, we are looking into the matter. At Western Union we value our customers and the diversity they represent."

This story was updated at 10:45 pm on 12.21.16 to include a written statement from Western Union.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.